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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Richfield

Tuesday, May 19, 2020  
Posted by: Payton Grover
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City of Richfield

Surrounded by ancient lava flows and high-desert farmland, Richfield sits at the base of a seven-milewide, ten-mile-long irrigated agricultural oasis. Richfield is one of several Idaho cities that owe its origins to federal Carey Act irrigation projects and the railroad. The famous resort community of Sun Valley is 70 miles north and the regional shopping and health care center of Twin Falls 50 miles south. Shoshone, the seat of Lincoln County and its largest city, is 16 miles southwest.

Historical Tidbits

 In 1883 the Oregon Short Line Railroad built its line from Shoshone to Ketchum through what is now Richfield. (See Southwestern Idaho, The Region, Railroads.) Over two decades later, the Idaho Irrigation Company received state approval under the federal Carey Act to build a dam on the Big Wood River 30 miles northwest of the city. The dam created Magic Reservoir, which holds up to 190,000 acre feet of water. The reservoir fed a complex system of gravity-flow canals that served the farms in the Richfield, Shoshone, Dietrich and Gooding areas. As part of the effort to sell the farmland, water rights and city lots, the Idaho Irrigation Company platted the town of Richfield and built the Richfield Hotel at the corner of Main and Lincoln Streets. At first, company officers named the town Alberta after Alberta Strunk, the first child born in the community. However, they soon changed the name to Richfield, believing it better suited their marketing campaign to sell “rich fields” of land. However, when water began flowing through the newly constructed canals and ditches and onto the fields, there was not as much water as projected. They had not taken adequate account of the porous nature of the soils. The water tended to seep into the sandy soil, reducing the efficiency of flood irrigation. The farms located furthest from the reservoir were most adversely affected. In the 1960s farmers began changing from flood to sprinkler irrigation. Later, they also drilled irrigation wells. This more efficient irrigation method allowed more efficient utilization of water and opened the rolling hillsides to irrigated farming. Fields of potatoes, hay and grain used to support dairy and cattle operations are often interspersed or bordered by outcroppings of rock and brush. After the Idaho Irrigation Company sold the arable land, city lots and water rights, it turned over its duties to the property owners. On April 15, 1909, the County approved the citizens’ petition to make Richfield an incorporated village. At that time, the population was around 290 where it has essentially remained.

 

Amenities and Attractions Today

Richfield has two city parks and one RV Park. The main north park has tennis and basketball courts, children’s play grounds and a picnic shelter. A nine-space RV Park is on the south side of town. Reynolds Field has rodeo grounds and a racetrack. Every week during the summer there are rodeo events such as calf roping at the rodeo grounds. From November to February the track is used for chariot racing. On the second Saturday of June the city sponsors “Outlaw Day” to celebrate the founding of Richfield. The celebration is also a time for high school class reunions. On the Fourth of July, the town has a fireworks display put on by the local American Legion. The city is near excellent trout fisheries. The Little Wood River runs near the city’s southern border. Many creeks are within a two-hour drive. Magic Reservoir, a five-mile-long lake and fishery noted for its large rainbow trout, is located 30 miles northwest. The lava flows northeast of the city are part of the 750,000acre Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve which includes Idaho’s Great Rift, the source of the lava flows that created this unique landscape. The Monument entrance is 60 miles northeast on U.S. Highway 93-26. The surrounding public land and forests are popular for a variety of outdoor sports including fishing; boating; hiking; and hunting deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, duck and geese.

 


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