Surviving The Oregon Trail

History - Geography - Survival - Homesteading

Finding Water - Dowsing

by Crystal Calhoun

In this report I will explain different ways to find water. How to dig for water, and in what is the best way to do it.

What is a Dowser??? Well a dowser is someone who knows how to find water the extremely old fashioned way. This is also the most affordable way for the one who'd like to know. All you need is a willow branch that's just right, and some land to find the water in. If you are interested in dowsing, all you need is a forked willow branch. Remove all the small twigs and leaves attached to the branch. Also it should be pliable, so that you can bend it without breaking it. Although the American Society of Dowsers says there is no correct way of handling the branch, some people prefer to grab it by two ends loosely (Just enough to keep it straight up against gravity) and support the ends of the branch with the thumbs. Next is rather simple. Just start walking around your place. When you've walked over a water supply, the willow branch will jerk down softly.

Another useful way to find water without a branch is just to use nature's advice and to take it. Rural Vermonters have discovered that lightning doesn't always strike the tallest tree. But rather sometimes it decides to pick smaller ones, consistently. A badly damaged tree may be standing above an underground spring, or vein. Since water is a good ground, lightning may select that tree as the easiest route to earth. It is suggested you look there for water.

Photo by Sabine Baring Gould

Photo by Sabine Baring Gould

After finding a place that might have a good source of water, you might want to decide to take action. Dig a well! But hold on before grabbing your shovel, because it is much more dangerous than you might think. Although hand dug wells are a treasure, they can also be deadly, most hand dug wells get contaminated, and shouldn't be relied upon. And digging your own well is just as dangerous as testing out an older one.

Hand dug wells are rarely dug more than 50 feet down, which is okay in a good place that gets a lot of rain. And most often they are about 3 to 20 feet in diameter. Field-stone is most often used to keep the well walls from caving in, but brick and mortar or even concrete block will do just as a good a job with much easier handling. A modern dug well is supposed to have a sanitary seal at the ground surface, which does a good efficient job of keeping the rain water out. And it will also keep the surface water from contaminating the well water.

I hope this watery information doesn't drown out any of your thinking, and don't be convinced to dig your own well without professional guidance. It is extremely life-threatening. Enjoy looking for water with your dowser and digging your own modern day well.

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Book References: Storey's Basic Country Skills and The Self-Sufficient Life and How To Live It

Finding Water – Dowsing – Surviving the Oregon Trail