Saturday, May 23 - MEMORIAL WEEKEND INTERPRETIVE HIKE TO THE ST. FRANCIS DAM DISASTER SITE, followed by an Optional 7 Mile Hike
Interpretive walk with narration/ visit to dam site:
Distance: < 1 mile (RT)
Time: 1.5 hours
Gain: Almost none
Additional Optional Hike:
Distance: ~ 7 mile loop
Time: Additional 3 hours
Gain: 500' (if hiking)
Difficulty: Easy ++ (some gain and more distance)
At two and a half minutes before midnight, on March 12, 1928, William Mulholland's St. Francis Dam crumbled, sending an immense wall of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon, turning west at the Santa Clara River. It did not stop until it reached the Pacific Ocean five and a half hours later. Towns across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties — Saugus, Castaic, Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Saticoy, Montalvo — were decimated. 431 Men, women, children - citizens, immigrants, landowners, laborers lost their lives ..... the floodwaters did not discriminate.
The collapse of the St. Francis Dam is considered to be one of the worst American civil engineering disasters of the 20th century and remains the second-greatest loss of life in California's history, after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and fire.
We will begin our day at 8:15AM at California Historical Landmark# 919, located on the grounds of Powerhouse No. 2 (photo above), 33967 San Francisquito Canyon Road.
CHC Board Member and President, SCV Historical Society (Dr. Alan Pollack), will share his in-depth knowledge of the circumstances and events surrounding the disaster.
At Powerhouse# 2, Alan will review the management of LA water supply at that time and the role the St Francis Dam was intended to play. We will then drive up St. Francisquito Cyn Road and park again before walking to the actual dam site. Here Alan will point out the parts of the dam that are still visible and recount the events of that ill-fated night and the aftermath that met citizens of SCV and beyond, as the sun rose the following morning.
Alan will conclude his talk by 10:00AM and head back to the cars. Anyone who does not to wish to participate in the 7 mile hike option with Steve can leave at this point.
Additional Hike Option:
Steve will lead the remainder of the group on a loop hike North, crossing the new road before heading uphill and West on a ridge trail called the old San Franciscito Motorway. High above San Francisquito Canyon, we will be able to see the dam ruins again and where the original reservoir water level had been above the dam. We will continue South along the ridge, passing large rock outcroppings, enjoying views and some wildflowers. We will return down Forest Route 5N16 to Powerhouse #2, then back along the old washed out San Francisquito Cyn road, by the river, and back to our cars .
Meet your Leader: For this hike we recommend you go straight to the Meeting place. We will meet in front of Powerhouse #2, San Francisquito Road at 8:00AM and start the program here at 08:15 AM SHARP). Note, we will move up the road after this portion to be closer to the dam.
Directions to San Francisquito Canyon Interpretive Walk starting point:
Heading North on the I-5 South, through Santa Clarita Valley, exiting right at Route 126 East, Newhall Ranch Road. Turn left at the second light (with the Walmart on the left ) onto Copper Hill Drive. Continue 2.8 miles on Copper Hill to the light at San Francisquito Canyon (crest of hill), turn left and continue on San Francisquito Canyon (watch for road bikers). After 6 miles, you will see the DW&P Powerhouse#2 on the right on a bend. Park anywhere on the side of the road in this area (we will move our cars in < 30 mins).
Dogs: OK, must be on a leash and if well behaved around other dogs and people with hiking poles. If we carpool and you bring a dog, please drive yourself to the trailhead.
Adventure Pass: No.
BRING: A snack, at least 2 L of water and some electrolytes (if hiking), camera, hat and sunscreen. Wear hiking shoes/boots with good tread - No flip-flops!
Leaders: Alan Pollack and Steve I.