By the last of the 19th century there was much interest in tapping the Gunnison River as a source of water for the Uncompahgre Valley. in 1900 five valley men made a heroic effort to float through the canyon with surveying equipment, but after a month's effort, they had to admit defeat. In 1901 William Torrence and Abraham Lincoln Fellows, learning a lesson from the previous trip, took a rubber mattress for a raft, arranged to be supplied at various points from the rim, and were able to make their way through out the canyon - 33 miles in nine days. From the engineering log the two men kept, it was obvious that an irrigation tunnel was a feasible project. In January 1905 construction began on the diversion tunnel. Progress was slow because of the many difficulties that the work crews encountered. Intense heat, violent cascades of water, and unstable rock formations were just a few of the problems the engineers had to deal with. When finished the tunnel measured 5.8 miles long and could carry enough water to irrigate a sizable farming community. Eight years after Torrence and Fellow's trip, on September 23, 1909 President William Howard Taft presided over the dedication ceremonies for the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel, a notable engineering achievement of this or any time.