Exploring the remnants and history of the greatest American civil engineering failure of the 20th century that took the lives of 450-600 souls.

LADWP Power Plant #1 located above Santa Clarita. PP1 survived the disaster due to its location above the dam, PP2 wasn't so lucky.

LADWP Power Plant #1 located above Santa Clarita. PP1 survived the disaster due to its location above the dam, PP2 wasn’t so lucky.

Old Timey Light

Old Timey Light

Inside PP1

Inside PP1

Deep inside PP1 where access is rarely granted.

Deep inside PP1 where access is rarely granted.

PP1 Control Room. Yes, it's original and still controls the systems that provide LA its water.

PP1 Control Room. Yes, it’s original and still controls the systems that provide LA its water.

Old school alarm system that was actually being tested while we were there. It works!

Old school alarm system that was actually being tested while we were there. It works!

Watch out for da bears.

Watch out for da bears.

There are several owls within the plant that are supposed to scare the birds away from the machinery when they accidentally fly into the power plant. Bird shit and vintage machinery aren't good for each other.

There are several owls within the plant that are supposed to scare the birds away from the machinery when they accidentally fly into the power plant. Bird shit and vintage machinery aren’t good for each other.

Window Wall

Window Wall

PELTON

PELTON

Heavy shit requires heavy duty shit lifters.

Heavy shit requires heavy duty shit lifters.

Aye Aye Captain

Aye Aye Captain

Opening day of the San Francisquito Power Plant No. 1 on March 18, 1917. Construction of the plant began six years earlier in 1911.

Opening day of the San Francisquito Power Plant No. 1 on March 18, 1917. Construction of the plant began six years earlier in 1911.

Holy [LA] Water

Holy [LA] Water

Triplex

Triplex

A gauge that measures the water level in one of the reservoirs and believe or not, there is an actual Drinkwater Reservoir not far from PP1.

A gauge that measures the water level in one of the reservoirs and believe or not, there is an actual Drinkwater Reservoir not far from PP1.

Before fancy computer animated layouts were used, they did it this way and still do @ PP1.

Before fancy computer animated layouts were used, they did it this way and still do @ PP1.

Old timey phone.

Old timey phone.

After the water is used to create the power, it shoots out here before entering another long set of pipes (penstocks) on it's way to PP2.

After the water is used to create the power, it shoots out here before entering another long set of pipes (penstocks) on it’s way to PP2.

Trans Line Express

Trans Line Express

William Mulholland’s career ended on March 12, 1928, when his St. Francis Dam failed just hours after being inspected by Mulholland himself, and sent 12.5 billion gallons of water flooding into the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles. A 10-story wall of water rolled down the Santa Clara riverbed at 18-mph towards the sea at Ventura, and the next morning revealed unbelievable catastrophe. The town of Santa Paula lay buried under 20 feet (6 m) of mud and debris; other parts of Ventura County were covered up to 70 feet. Disaster recovery crews worked for days, and the final death count has been estimated at 450 (although some estimates go as high as 600), including 42 school children.

William Mulholland’s career ended on March 12, 1928, when his St. Francis Dam failed just hours after being inspected by Mulholland himself, and sent 12.5 billion gallons of water flooding into the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles. A 10-story wall of water rolled down the Santa Clara riverbed at 18-mph towards the sea at Ventura, and the next morning revealed unbelievable catastrophe. The town of Santa Paula lay buried under 20 feet of mud and debris; other parts of Ventura County were covered up to 70 feet. Disaster recovery crews worked for days, and the final death count has been estimated at 450 (although some estimates go as high as 600), including 42 school children.

The road to the dam was closed years ago.

The road to the dam was closed years ago.

The short hike along this desolate, abandoned road is your introduction to the disaster that destroyed so many lives.

The short hike along this desolate, abandoned road is your introduction to the disaster that destroyed so many lives.

As you get closer to the site, chunks of the dam begin to appear. The dam stood directly behind here, spanning across the small gorge.

As you get closer to the site, chunks of the dam begin to appear. The dam stood directly behind here, spanning across the small gorge.

Walking on top of the ruins of St. Francis.

Walking on top of the ruins of St. Francis.

The dam was not only poorly designed and engineered but was also built on top of an active faultline. Oops!

The dam was not only poorly designed and engineered but was also built on top of an active faultline. Oops! What a disaster!