Trona Mountain Water System

When you take a drink from the Trona Mountain Water System did you ever wonder where the this water came from or how it was brought into Trona or what an undertaking it was to bring good drinking water here so that people could live here and this Company could build a plant?

Very few people realize the magnitude of such an undertaking as is involved in supplying drinking water to a population of 600 or more people and an additional supply for emergency should it be needed in the plant steam boilers on account of salt getting into the supply of water ordinarily used in the boilers which is recovered from the evaporators through the method of condensing [steam].

Securing the water in the first, involved the slow and arduous task of locating and analyzing all seepage found in the mountains and valleys for miles around. Then if the water proved good, there was the problem of trying to find the source of supply to the seepage which sometimes proved to be a surface spring and again a tunnel which had to be dug into the mountain ninety or a hundred feet.

Let use first go to the Great Falls Canyon via the County Road to the old stage station located 68 years ago and now known as The Tanks on account of the watering trough. From here we turn to the left and head for the mountains past some old mill sites which have left some old arrastras for their skeletons. As we near the mammoth granite entrance we bear off to the left (west) and start climbing the old Indian trail which leads us around the mountain into what is known as the Argus Basin, the location of our oldest and most reliable source of water supply. Here we find two springs in the side of the mountain known as Twin Springs. Both were developed by tunneling into the mountain under a heavy growth of bull grass nettles, wild flowers and other strange desert shrubs. Here water drops from the roof of the tunnels into a concrete basin from which it piped down the mountain to what in know as Stonewall Jackson Spring, which derived its name from the stone wall above it and its discovery by a man named Jackson.  In this basin there are three more springs. Arrastra Spring so-called from its being the scene of and old arrastra mill; Tunnel Springs, getting its name from the one hundred foot tunnel from which it gets its source of supply and Meadow Spring which was developed in a big meadow.

The water from all of these springs is piped into an inch and a half pipe from which it runs down trough mammoth rocks and gorges and what is known as Great Falls Canyon, the scene of many Trona parties and wiener bakes and also famed foe the first Piute Indian Snake Dance. As this pipeline had to drop sometimes 90 to 100 feet over sheer precipices it involved a lot of time, labor and expense for the pipe pipe had to be hauled to the bottom of the canyon on wagons and then by hand up into the the canyon, holes drilled into the rock to hold it and ladders placed from one level to another to insure safe travel through the canyon.

To the north of the lower entrance to the canyon is another spring called Austin Spring for Mr. S.W. Austin of the California Trona Company. In the next canyon to the north known as Homewood Canyon though its proper name is Wibbets Canyon, we have the Ten-spot Spring, so called for the ten dollar deposit placed in the hands of the original owner for an option. From there we travel down the canyon to the home of the late Mr. Wibbet who lived on this property for over forty years. His twin brother was shoot here in the early seventies [1870s] and buried here.

As this is the only spring belonging to this company in the canyon, we will now travel to the next one north which is know as Orondo Canyon, named after the once famous Orondo Mine. The owners of the Orondo Mine at one time controlled the water derived from the springs in the Bruce Canyon, now owned by this company. There is now water supply in Orondo Canyon. Bruce Canyon is named after its locator Harrison Henderson Bruce, who prospected this immediate vicinity for a number of years.

Our furthermost spring in this canyon is known as Rock Cabin Spring and is located 28 miles from Trona. It was originally owned by William Booth who mined and prospected the canyon for over fifty years. This spring was bought and developed by this company about fifteen years [1909] ago. The pipe line runs down to Middle Spring which was developed from a dry wash.

The pipe continues down the canyon to to Peach Tree Spring, so-called from several peach trees which used to grow there. This spring was also the site of a mine for several years.

The water lines from these springs all run into one pipe down the valley picking up the line from from Wibbet’s Canyon the across the flat and around the hill to the Mountain Water Storage Tank onle half to the rear of the plant whence it is distributed to the plant and the village.

As it took a number of years to get all the water collected at great expense, considering the mode of transportation for timbers for the tunnels, cement and sand for the basins and approximately 43 miles of pipeline, all of which has to be maintained, it can readily be seen that such a small thing as drinking water is by far one of the largest things we have on this desert, as without it this part of the desert would be isolated as it was one hundred years ago.

by Fred L. AustinTrona POT-ASH, Volume 1, Number 1, June 28, 1924.


  • There used to be a beautiful engineering drawing showing the ‘Mountain Springs Water System’ in the engineering files at APCC – KMCC. The drawing showed all the spring sources, the collector line, the pipelines, and tanks. I recall encountering it when I was working on the TREP and searching the files for drawings to aid in the tie-in between the Argus and Trona Plants. My recollection of the drawing is that it was pen and ink – some color – on a rather long and narrow linen or vellum sheet.

    Jeff WhiteMarch 15, 2014

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