This photo is on the lower Lloyd Johnson farm, Butte Road (north 40). Note that it points precisely to Charlie Johnson home site and land on and below the bluff! The soil just off the Plymouth Bench suffers from high ground water, resulting in alkali, swampyness, and preventing most crops. To reclaim it for ag purposes requires tiling. Tiling is digging trenches and putting in perforated pipe, which leads down to discharge into the river. This, of course, requires survey stakes indicating the level of the pipe, and subsequent levels all running the magic 1/4 ” per foot fall needed for water to flow. GPS now allows machines to be programmed to do the depth necessary. Tiling like this is pretty much necessary all along the river when the land is below a bench.
Tiling is a necessity in many parts of the country suffering from drainage problems. My son up by Roseberg, OR, had to tile about 80 acres of his land. The NP founders solved their underground prob lems with drain ditches. However, off the bench there is not enough fall to make drain ditches effective, and the bench irrigation and drain ditches actually cause most of the problem.
It is sometimes astonishing to see how much water comes off such land via these tiles. Remember that the water represents drainage from the entire north-to-south width of Plymouth Bench some 4-5 miles. The entire bench has a rather high ground water level. It is caused by the fine clay that is carried by rain or irrigation water down as far as it reaches on each wetting, where the water drops what clay it is carrying. Then the clay builds up at this level forming hardpan. You can “drill” a well virtually anywhere on the bench with mere post hole diggers that can only go down maybe 6 feet. Our first well used for 5 yrs, was dug with such post hole diggers. After we got electricity in 1938 dad had a regular well drilled to 40-50 feet which is necessary for sanitary reasons.
This water table problem is vastly exacerbated by irrigating. It makes it virtually impossible for cellars and basements to stay dry. Every time our neighbors would irrigate we would end up with 4-6 inches of water in our basement (and our old cellar when we used one). For this reason you will not find many basements in New Plymouth. However south of SW 1st, basements might be feasible, that being higher elevation.
In WWII some farmers built basements in that area thinking after the war that they could get lumber and build their house on top of the basement. In the meantime, they lived in that basement. There were many of these “basement houses” south of where I-84 is now located on the sandy hills.