Dams and Canyons, Santa Clarita, CA


On the night of March 12, 1928, at two and half minutes to midnight, San Francisquito Canyon’s St. Francis Dam collapsed. The resulting 140-foot wall of water destroyed everything in its path and flooded what is now Newhall, Valencia, and the towns of Fillmore and Santa Paula. Considered one of the worst engineering failures of the 20th century, the dam collapse took hundreds of lives as nearly 13 billion gallons of water headed for the sea. Some bodies were never found while others appeared weeks later on beaches near the Mexican border. (Detailed information and archival photos covering the disaster can be found on the Santa Clarita Valley History web site here.)

Today, although bits of the original levee are still visible from the side of the road, San Francisquito Canyon is a calm and peaceful place that makes for a pretty drive. This trip enjoys a little history as we visit a present-day monument to the old disaster before heading over the hills to the far more placid waters of a pretty back-country lake. After that, there is lunch at a unique old travelers rest (popular with Sunday drivers AND riders), followed by a trip back to the I-5 corridor via a wandering road with great views of the mountains and the recreational mecca of Castaic Lake.

Castaic Lake Recreation Area, Photo by Sunday Drive

Castaic Lake is a popular recreational spot consisting of two separate bodies of water. Tubers, kayakers and swimmers take advantage of the 197 acres of water and 3 miles of shoreline in the Lower Lake/Lagoon, while power boaters, water skiers, etc enjoy the 2235 acres of water surface and 29 miles of shoreline of the Upper Lake. Fishing is also popular here, with many folks choosing to cast their lines off the 340-foot tall earthen Castaic Dam. Photo: Sunday Drive

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