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Holmes Creek Reservoir: Historic dam now a popular fishing spot

Article Published 04/07/2014

Driving along the far east end of East Gentile Street is a quiet and pleasant experience. The Valley View Golf Course highlights the west side of the curvy road. To the east is Holmes Creek Reservoir, a popular haven for fishermen today, but also the oldest dam in Utah and one of the first in the western United States.
The Holmes Creek Dam was first built in 1852 to store water for settlers in the Layton area.
Privately owned, the reservoir is gated and visitors have to walk down a dirt road several hundred yards to the water’s edge. The reservoir is a peaceful oasis, sitting just west of Highway 89. It also supplies secondary water each year to many customers.
No motorized vehicles, biking, camping, tubing or swimming is allowed in the area. Violators could be cited.
Despite plentiful warning signs against swimming there, a young Clearfield man drowned while illegally swimming with friends in the reservoir last September. The reservoir is not a safe place to swim.
Owned by the Holmes Creek Irrigation Company, a cooperative agreement now allows the use of non-motorized watercraft (canoes, kayaks, etc.) to now better fish on the reservoir.
Visitors are also asked to always carry out all of their own trash and to respect public use of this private property. Utah fishing licenses are required there.
Constructed by pioneer settler Elias Adams Sr., the dam was originally only four feet high. Adams selected the blind canyon as an ideal spot for a dam. He utilized a wheelbarrow all winter to haul dirt to create that first water stoppage.
This hollow was originally a bog and Adams’ journals indicated that he found numerous buffalo bones there – possibly animals who had become stuck there and died.
There were some springs in the hollow, but no stream. Adams dug a diversion ditch from north of Adams Canyon (named after him), to capture the Holmes Creek water, as it was needed to fill the dam.
The dam provided a dependable water supply for his garden to the west.
Five years later, neighbors helped Adams enlarge the dam. However, they used frozen dirt and the next spring the dam broke and sent a wall of water downstream that wiped out crops, turkey and chickens, but missed Adams' cabin.
Later, Adams' son, Joseph, built the dam 22 feet high in the 1870s. He also added a gravel drain into the design. In 1898, area farmers bought the dam from the Adams family and started the Holmes Creek Company.
By 1929, they had increased the dam to a 70-foot height and added a new outlet. That's the way it basically stood until the fall of 1997 when crews took out the old dam to strengthen it. 
SOURCES: Deseret News Archives, Harris Adams.