NEWTON — Way out west of Smithfield, tucked between mossy green farmlands and hay fields that look like spun gold, Newton Dam lies quiet on an early autumn evening. The water is placid, rippling gently in a slight fall breeze as two boaters paddle quietly in the sun. Aspens surround the dam and quake with their yellow-turning leaves.Back in 1871, Newton settlers built a dam on Clarkston Creek, about a mile upstream of where the Newton Dam is now, says Newton Water Users Association President Joe Larsen. That dam kept washing out, and eventually the Bureau of Reclamation came and began to build the Newton Dam. The dam was the first large-body irrigation dam to be built west of the Mississippi River, Larsen said.According to the Bureau of Reclamation Web site, the Works Projects Administration began construction of the dam in the spring of 1941. Construction was suspended in November 1942, was resumed in the fall of 1943 and was finished in 1946.The dam holds 297 surface acres at full capacity and has a maximum depth of 92 feet at capacity, according to an informational sign near the dam.The dam is the biggest attraction in Newton, and visitors come for waterskiing, boating, swimming, fishing and other recreational activities, Larsen said. Though it seems most popular for its recreation opportunities, Larsen said he thinks the thing people likemost about the dam is having irrigation water.Though the dam had some flooding several years ago, it stays in control, Larsen said. The dam freezes over every winter but that doesn’t stop people from enjoying it.”They ice-fish,” Larsen said.Although the amount of visitors depends on how high the water is, summer holidays bring the most visitors, Larsen said. People visit on Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day and Pioneer Day, he said.The sun pierces intermittently through looming moody clouds and the boaters continue to drift calmly across the water. The Newton Reservoir sign stands in front of it all, illuminated by the low sun.”Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your stay,” the sign says.
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