The 1860s brought settlers into the Prineville Valley, with many building small, individual irrigation systems on Ochoco Creek, McKay Creek and the Crooked River to water their land.
These resourceful farmers and livestock operators quickly learned that summertime flows of the local waterways was not reliable enough to sustain a profitable agricultural outfit. A 1915 report (The Ochoco Project, State of Orgon and US Reclamation Service) backed that notion and concluded that a storage reservoir should be build on Ochoco Creek, with the existing irrigation ditches of the valley organized into an integrated system.
Ochoco Irrigation District (OID)was organized in 1916, with the immediate goal of building a reservoir and canal system to provide irrigation to the valley. Ochoco Dam, which was completed in 1921, was built using unique hydraulic fill methods. Fill material was transported and placed by a system of flumes, using water to move the material.
Despite a capacity of 44,330 acre-feet of water, Ochoco Reservoir could not always sufficiently irrigate all lands within the project. As a result, the Arthur Bowman Dam was completed in 1961. With a capacity of 150,216 acre-feet, the dam allows OID to irrigate all 20,062 district acres and provides flood control during the winter and spring.
In 1967, the Crooked River Extension Project began, allowing OID to deliver water to land lying above the main canals.