Lonnie Jones a Downey dowser shows the tools he uses to find water.
DOWNEY – Lonnie Jones is a water dowser. Using his tools – two wire rods and a fork from a willow tree – the Downey resident finds water for people looking to tap into underground wells or rivers.
“I don’t know how it works, it just does,” he said driving west of Downey to the foothills for a demonstration. “Some people say it’s witchcraft, and there are a lot of people who don’t believe in it.”
A dowser is also sometimes referred to as a water witcher. Jones is a clean-cut cowboy, a retired Idaho State Police officer and active in his church congregation.
“I just consider it a way to help people,” he said. “So I don’t feel right charging to do it.”
Behind a locked gate he drove through cedar trees to a clearing and said he had found water there earlier in the day, so he was sure he could demonstrate how the dowsing works.
He took out his wire rods bent at 45-degree angles and held them strait out in front of him. While he was walking, the rods began to turn in his hands until they crossed each other. Jones kept walking and at about 10 feet the rods opened-up again.
He marked the area by scraping the ground with the bottom of his shoe on both sides. He said there was an underground stream in that spot.
Then he took out his willow fork, held it up next to his face with his palms and began to retrace his steps. As soon as he hit the mark he made, the willow took a dive. The power of the dive appeared so strong Jones couldn’t keep the fork up right.
“I just hold it out and when there is a change in the earth that willow goes down,” Jones said. “When it goes down strong, I know it is a good stream of water.”
“When I was a teenager a local dowser took me to Cherry Creek, gave me a forked willow and told me to walk down and see if I could get it to work,” he added. “That’s when I found out I had the ability to find water.”
There are doubters out there, and occasionally he hits a mud hole or misses altogether, but he is good at it. His reputation and credibility around the rural counties where he lives is growing.
“I try and help as many as I can,” he said. “I found six wells in May and again in June. I used to do about seven a year but with this drought it’s been picking up.”
People are moving to Idaho from other states and buying land in obscure places and need water. At 77 years-old, he is not sure how long he will keep doing it. Jones has been asked if he can find gold or other minerals and is quick to say no.
“I don’t feel like it is for finding riches,” he said. “It’s for finding water.”
However, Jones said he has used his skills to help locate unmarked graves.
Dowsing has been around for thousands of years and the tools used not only include wire rods and forked willow branches; some use pendulums, wire coat hangers and keys.
The U.S. Geological Survey uses scientific methods to find water and claim dowsing doesn’t pass scientific scrutiny.
Scientist haven’t watched Jones work, however. Scientists would have a hard time convincing people who have experienced Jones’ work that there isn’t anything to it.
“I just know it works and I can’t explain how, but it does,” he said.