The St. Francis Dam Disaster - Atlas Obscura

Santa Clarita, California

The St. Francis Dam Disaster

Hike the ruins of the dam that took 400 lives and ended the career of William Mulholland.

Near the midnight hour of March 12, 1928, the newly constructed St. Francis Dam, designed by Los Angeles legend William Mulholland, suffered a catastrophic break in San Francisquito Canyon. In less than six hours, a wall of water more than ten-feet high carved out a 54-mile path of wreckage to the sea that would claim approximately 400 lives.

Join Curbed and KCET’s Hadley Meares and archaeologist Ann Stansell as we tour ground zero of this infamous disaster. Stansell is a SoCal-raised archaeologist whose master’s thesis “Memorialization and memory of Southern California’s St. Francis Dam Disaster of 1928,” focused on how the disaster and its victims have been remembered and commemorated within the flood zone.

We will meet at Power Plant No. 2, where we will learn about the history of the 1st Los Angeles aqueduct and related power plants. Next, we will view several memorials related to the disaster in the area. We will then drive up to the dam site and walk the ruins in a visit arranged exclusively for Atlas Obscura Society Los Angeles.

Please note there are two different tour dates: February 17 and February 23.


  • The ruins hike is short but difficult. It is less than two miles, but has areas of intense elevation gain and requires some scrambling. It is not ADA accessible.
  • Exact meet-up location will be emailed to attendees prior to event.
  • There are no restroom facilities available during the hike, please swing by a Starbucks or shopping center before the tour.
  • This event is weather dependent. If we are expecting significant rain on this date, we will cancel via email. Tickets will be refunded or transferred to a rescheduled date, depending on your availability.
  • Ages 12 and up. All minors must have a ticket and be accompanied by an adult.
  • Attendees should wear closed-toe shoes and bring water.
  • There is limited cell service in the canyon, and no service at the dam site.
  • A signed liability waiver is required from all attendees.


Email Hadley Meares at

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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.