Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Empty St. Francis Reservoir
San Francisquito Canyon

Click image to enlarge

Looking back (north) at the empty reservoir in San Francisquito Canyon, shortly after the St. Francis Dam collapsed on March 12-13, 1928.

The dam impounded 12.5 billion gallons of the City of Angels' drinking water. The line between dark and light represents the pre-disaster water level. The concrete dam would have been just out of view at the bottom of this photo.

4x6-inch BW film transparency (larger than 4x5). Date, photographer and original purpose of photograph unknown.

Construction on the 600-foot-long, 185-foot-high St. Francis Dam started in August 1924. With a 12.5-billion-gallon capacity, the reservoir began to fill with water on March 1, 1926. It was completed two months later.

At 11:57:30 p.m. on March 12, 1928, the dam failed, sending a 180-foot-high wall of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. An estimated 431 people lay dead by the time the floodwaters reached the Pacific Ocean south of Ventura 5½ hours later.

It was the second-worst disaster in California history, after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, in terms of lives lost — and America's worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century.

DI2815: 9600 dpi jpeg from original 4x6-inch transparency purchased 2015 by Sharon Divis.

FILM: Tombstone & Reservoir, 3-13-1928





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