Spokane History Timeline

Spokane Aquifer and First Well - 1907

How was the Aquifer made? Well, let me tell you. Glaciers advancing from Canada into Washington made ice dams that filled up with rainwater and other sources. This created Lake Missoula. The glacier wall was between 2550 feet and 2500 feet high. The deepest part of Lake Missoula was 1100 feet deep. It was about half the volume of present-day Lake Michigan. There was a great flood when the ice dam collapsed. High pressured water, unable to freeze, seeped thru the glacier wall creating friction which melted the glacier. The glacier was not strong enough to hold back the water in the lake. It suddenly burst with a maximum flood discharge that was estimated as ten times the combined flow of all the rivers in the world today. The aquifer was created with the leftover sediment deposited from the great floods that occurred about 22,000 years ago. There were about 40 of these great floods.

First Well builiding at Upriver Dam


When and how the Aquifer was found? The water people first used for drinking and irrigation was from the Spokane River. The people built a town pump on Howard and Main, because nobody had indoor plumbing. Around 1905 people were getting very sick from drinking the River water. There were diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, and dysentery. This was during the time when doctors were discovering where sicknesses were coming from. They were finding bacteria in the river water. The first well to the aquifer was dug in 1907. It was dug next to the Upriver dam. They found that the aquifer water was pure. There were no bacteria because there were no minerals, or dead organisms for any single-celled organisms to live on.



First Well Plaque

Various parts of the aquifer are at different depths of the ground. The first well, Well #1, was dug only 40 feet deep. In some other places they have to dig up to 250 feet deep to find water. The water level in Well #1 is not static, which means the level of the water varies with the seasons. The water depth is the most shallow in the Summer months. The first well was not dug by machines. It was all hand dug. They dug it during the summer when the water level was the lowest, because the yearly temperature of the water is a constant 48 degrees. A person could only stay in that water for about 5 minutes at a time. To prevent a cave-in of the well, they used wooden cribbing. It is a wooden framing that supports the walls. On the bottom of the well they put four iron rings. They encircled the entire well. They were to support the prevention of the cave-in of the well as well.

copyright (c) 2007, Discovery School.
All rights reserved.
Report created May, 2007.
Revised 0/4/2009
Last Modified on August 1, 2011