Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial and Monument

Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial and Monument

California

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Angeles National Forest

353 acres

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd872458.pdf

Overview

Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial and Monument was authorized on March 12, 2019 to commemorate the 431 lives that were lost when an 185-foot tall concrete gravity dam failed on the same date 91 years earlier only two years after its completion. The death toll is second in the history of California to the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.  Other dams from that time period remain in use as part of the Los Angeles aqueduct system.  Currently, a California Historical Landmark is located 1.5 miles south at Powerhouse No. 2, but there is nothing developed at the actual site.

A detailed historical account is available on Wikipedia.

Highlights

Ruins of dam, California Historical Landmark #919

Must-Do Activity

There are plans to build a National Memorial at the dam, but currently it is a pile of rubble heavily spray-painted by local teenagers.  After its fall in 1928, authorities further toppled the structure with dynamite, bulldozers, and jackhammers to discourage sightseers and souvenir hunters.  The site is located in a scenic canyon where the leaves were just turning yellow for winter during our mid-November visit.  It is less than a mile walk to the site from the unmarked pulloff on the east side of San Francisquito Canyon Road in Angeles National Forest.  The pathway is the heavily overgrown original roadbed that was abandoned after a storm in 2005 and it reeked of urine.  It will be interesting to see how the Forest Service cleans up the area in the future.

Best Trail

There is no official trail, and it is quite a steep drop from the paved remnants of old San Francisquito Canyon Road to the actual rubble pile down at creek level.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The dam disaster site is not much to look at right now, but there are some angles where you can avoid getting graffiti in your photo.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Fees

None

Road Conditions

San Francisquito Canyon Road is paved, but exercise caution as there is currently no sign for the parking areas nor is there a turn lane on this high-speed two-lane highway.

Camping

There are numerous Forest Service campgrounds in the area, with Spunky Canyon and South Portal being the closest to the north.

Related Sites

Santa Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area (California)

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (California)

Sand to Snow National Monument (California)

Nearest National Park

Channel Islands (California)

Explore More – How many billions of gallons of water were released when the St. Francis Dam failed in 1928?

2 thoughts on “Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial and Monument”

  1. we used to live in Saugus, on Santa Clarita Rd. in the early 60s-70s. On Sundays we would drive up San Fransiquito Rd for picnics. There was always a stream going through the area. I remember seeing bits of concrete in certain areas, and some people still lived up in the area. I just never knew what happened, as a kid, you don’t really think about things like that. I just knew it as a place to explore and be with my family. When I read about all that happened, I feel sad for all the damage and all the families involved. Such a devastating situation.

    Liked by 1 person

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