March 12, 1928: St. Francis Dam bursts

Photo by George R. Watson

By Signal Staff 

The failure of the St. Francis Dam at midnight, March 12, 1928, killed more than 400 people, leveled farms and homesteads, destroyed property and livestock and changed the way dam safety is addressed across the nation.  

Today marks the 96th anniversary of the disaster, which a path of devastation from San Francisquito Canyon in the Santa Clarita Valley westward through Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula and Ventura as the floodwaters made their way to the Pacific Ocean. 

On Saturday, March 23, the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society is scheduled to host its popular annual tour of the ruins of the St. Francis Dam. The tour is sold out, but you can join the waiting list for any potential openings by visiting 

Participants will join four SCVHS historians as they tell the story of the quest to bring water to the arid land of 1920s Los Angeles and how one man’s attempt to make it happen turned into the second-worst disaster in California’s history. 

Tickets for the event are $50 and funds raised will benefit programs at the Santa Clarita History Center. For more information, visit

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