Obscura Society LA: The St. Francis Dam Disaster - Atlas Obscura
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Santa Clarita, California

Obscura Society LA: The St. Francis Dam Disaster

Come discover the remnants of the greatest American civil engineering failure of the 20th century

Minutes before midnight on the evening of March 12, 1928, one of the worst disasters in California's history (and the greatest American civil engineering failure of the 20th century) occurred: the St. Francis Dam collapsed. Second only to the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, the dam break claimed over 450 lives (perhaps many more) as a flood of billions of gallons of water rushed down San Francisquito Canyon, from Santa Clarita all the way out to the ocean. 

Much of the path of the water can still be traced today.
 
On December 10th, field agent Sandi Hemmerlein will take us to three main sites surrounding the disaster, all key points along the Los Angeles Aqueduct which celebrates its centennial this year. First, we will explore the exterior and interior of Power Station #1 (which survived the disaster) on an exclusive tour guided by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff for Society members only.
 
Next, we will visit the disaster site itself, where remnants of the dam's 200-foot concrete wall can be seen from a decommissioned road, or up close (hiking optional). Finally, we will visit the St. Francis Dam historical marker at Power Station #2, whose building was completely swept away by the flood and was be rebuilt in ornate Art Deco style shortly thereafter.
 
Both stations are essential to the LADWP's efforts to convert gravity-fed water along the aqueduct into usable power.
 
Details
 
- Please bring valid photo ID for security clearance. You'll be asked to provide ahead of the event as well as on the day of. 
 
- The tour will start at 10 am, so please arrive by 9:45 am to ensure we get started on time. 
 
- Wear comfortable shoes, ie sneakers or hiking boots.
 
- Bring plenty of water.
 
- Carpooling is highly encouraged.
 
- Meeting location will be shared upon registration - appx. 35 miles north of Los Angeles.
 
- Plan ahead, the trip should take you 45-75 mins depending on where you are coming from in Los Angeles. 
 
- The trip is on a Tuesday during the daytime, please be advised.