Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Directions to the St. Francis Dam Site.
By LEON WORDEN.
April 28, 2001.

[LATE UPDATE: MARCH 2006] After the June 2002 "Copper Fire," this section of the Angeles National Forest was closed — and it has been open only intermittently since then. Also, the road has recently been realigned so that it no longer passes through the dam site — so these directions aren't entirely correct any more. Plus, the USDA Forest Service doesn't want you to get out of your car without a permit. Click here for more information and a contact number.

Ruiz Cemetery

Power House No. 2

The Approach

Parking Place

Dam Ruins

Dam Base

The site of the former St. Francis Dam (1926-28) is located approximately 7.2 miles from the intersection of Copper Hill Road and San Francisquito Canyon Road.

First, using your trusty Thomas Guide, find the intersection of Copper Hill Road and San Francisquito Canyon Road. (On our city map, find Copper Hill Road near the top. San Francisquito is between McBean Parkway and Seco Canyon Road.) Use the intersection as "Mile 0." Proceed north on San Francisquito Canyon Road.

Your first stop will be the Ruiz Cemetery at mile 2.1. This is where several dam victims are buried. This PRIVATE cemetery is located on PRIVATE property. Although you can't visit it without the owner's permission, you can stop along the right side of the road and look off to the left (to the west). See the grove of trees in the distance, just left of center in Photo 1? That's the cemetery. Continue driving north.

Your next point of interest is the rebuilt Power House No. 2, which you'll come across another 3.8 miles up the canyon (at Mile 5.9). You can't miss it; see Photo 2. Power House No. 2 is still in operation; it is not a tourist attraction. (Power House No. 1, located above the dam at Mile 11.6, does have a museum that can be seen by appointment.) Keep driving.

You'll be at the dam site in another 1.3 miles or so. Be on the lookout for the bridge in Photo 3. Slow down.

If you want to park your car, do so where you see the car in Photo 4. It's just beyond the bridge in Photo 3. It will be on the left side of the road. Park in front of the white Forest Service gate. Now you're at Mile 7.2.

Get out of your car. Look beyond the white Forest Service gate. The large boulder in the distance, in the middle of Photo 5, is a large chunk of the dam.

Now take another look at Photo 4. See the post at far left and the Forest Service gate in the middle? Well, between them is a walking trail up the mountain. Don't attempt this if you're pregnant, have a heart problem or some other medical condition. Also, watch small children carefully. The trail is very narrow in some places, and unattended children could slip off and plunge down a steep cliff to their death. Ample warning? Good. Because if you continue, when you reach the mesa you'll have a great view of the base of the former dam. [Take a look here.] Keep following the trail to the left, up the hill a bit farther, and you'll come to the ruins of the wing dyke. [It looks like this.] Also look north from there; that's where the water used to be.

Climb back down the mountain but don't get into your car. Instead, LOOK BOTH WAYS and walk across San Francisquito Canyon Road until you're standing on the right (east) shoulder. Don't say you weren't warned. Motorists tend to exceed the 50-mph speed limit as they're traveling around the blind curves on San Francisquito. They're not exactly expecting you to be walking across the road to get to the other side. But do so if you want to see the main part of the dam up close. Walk north a bit. Just around the first curve, your view will look like Photo 6. You're now at Mile 7.3. The mass of concrete at the right side of the photo is what remains of the base of the dam.

Enjoy your expedition!

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