High Camp Ditch was an important water infrastructure in El Dorado county. It was constructed in 1877, and spans a total length of three miles, carrying 1,800 cubic inches of water across Camp Creek to Sly Park Creek located in Hazel Valley.
To satiate the demands of the gold mining industry, water reclamation and ditch building became a very lucrative venture in the 1850s. With the employment of a Chinese company, the excavation and building of the ditch’s earthen elements was made possible. Another company was in charge of blasting and wall construction. Once completed, the ditch surpassed the carrying capacity of Park Canal and Mining Company’s, Eureka Ditch. The completion of the ditch increased production of gold, agricultural irrigation, hydroelectric power for the Ladies Valley general plant, and the creation of California Door Company’s lumber milling operations.
When gold became scarce, water was no longer in high demand. Paired with the high costs to repair ditch systems, Park Canal and Mining Company were losing profit by the turn of the century. Thus, the rights to the entire ditch system were transferred over to C.E. McLaughlin for $1,910 by 1910 and then to the Diamond Ridge Water Company by 1916.
There were a few plans to reconstruct the ditch back to operating levels.However, with the ditch described as “almost impassable from the growth of small pine and fir timber and underbrush,” and the high cost, the original plan of reconstruction was abandoned for a tunnel from Camp Creek to Hazel Valley instead. Even with numerous reconstruction desires, High Camp Ditch was never put back into use and was left abandoned.
High Camp Ditch in El Dorado National Forest, consists of two segments. Each segment extends approximately 1.5 miles, with depths of 3 and 4 feet and widths of 10 and 11 feet, respectively. While segment one has remained largely undisturbed besides the natural process of sediment and ground cover build-up; segment two has been greatly impacted by road construction, timber operations, and logging slash. The diversion dam and flume supports have disappeared from segment one. Today, the rock walls and rock shoring segments built by the Chinese in segment one, are still apparent.