South of Alamo, about 15 miles on U.S. 93 is a place known to locals as The Narrows. It’s also a place where the highway goes along a dry lakebed once known as Maynard Lake.
Anyone going to and from Las Vegas has to pass right by it as you come into the southern end of the Pahranagat Valley. Even if you don’t know what the name of the place is, or was, one can easily see along with rock face on the far side where the water level was.
Local historian Brad Walch wrote a story about the lake in the May 2000 issue of a former local publication called Our Valley Voice.
He said Maynard Lake was once used as part of an irrigation company. “It was probably the first big business in this area next to the mining industry.”
Founded about 1920, the Maynard Irrigation Company president was F.J. Sylvester. Newel Call was secretary and George K. Riding served as treasurer.
Back in the early ‘20s, Walch notes, “Maynard Lake was full to capacity and a few old boys thought they could make a bundle by digging a ditch from Maynard Lake to the Greasewood Flats that are about four miles south. They could then flood irrigate some fields with Maynard Lake water.”
Ben Grainger, a brother of Walch’s grandmother, Charlotte Lamb, got involved as well. “He took a team of horses down to the where they were to plant fields, and using handmade farm equipment, started digging and gathering rocks so as to prepare the virgin fields for planting,” writes Walch.
Grainger built some corrals for his teams against the rock cliffs on the west side of the valley south of the lake. Walch said, “If you get out and walk around, you will notice the difference in the lack of rocks. You may also find a hill or two of rocks that have been dumped from the sleds.”
According to Walch, remains of the rock picker the men used to clear the fields may also still be seen. It was an implement to remove the top layer of soil to separate and collect rocks and debris from good topsoil. It is usually tractor pulled. A team of horses could do the job, too.
A stone picker is similar in function to a rock windrower (rock rake); a stone picker generally digs to greater depths to remove stones and rocks.
Stone pickers may still be used in farming and landscaping, where stones need to be removed from the soil and ground surface to prevent damage to other farm machinery (such as hay balers, combines, and mowers, improve the soil for crop production, or improve the appearance of the ground surface in preparation for a lawn or a golf course. Surface stones and large rocks often left from plowing can damage a hay bailer, the header or reciprocating knives on a combine, and blades on a rotary mower.
Lands with rock instead of fine soil are often less useful for crops, and so was the thinking of Ben Grainger.
There was a road along the side of the lake (now U.S. 93), and the owners did dig a tunnel under the road and begin to drain the lake. “However,” Walch continues, “the water did not last as long as they had anticipated and soon dried up causing the business to go bankrupt. Shares of stock had been sold to back this company and my great-granddad was the proud owner of 20 shares.” It sold at $100 a share with the capital stock to be $300,000. The Walch family never gave up their shares and he said his mother Sally, still has one of the original stock certificates.
Was the Maynard Irrigation Company a scam or a bonafide deal that just didn’t work? Walch doesn’t say, but he does note that, “much work went into the ditch and the rock picking just the same.”