Real Science

December 1861 – January 1862: California’s Great Flood

Beginning on December 24, 1861, and lasting for 45 days, the largest flood in California’s recorded history was created, reaching full flood stage in different areas between January 9–12, 1862.

The entire Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys were inundated for an extent of 300 miles (480 km), averaging 20 miles (32 km) in breadth. State government was forced to relocate from the capital in Sacramento for 18 months in San Francisco. The rain created an inland sea in Orange County, lasting about three weeks with water standing 4 feet (1.2 m) deep up to 4 miles (6 km) from the river.[1]

The Los Angeles basin was flooded from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, at variable depths, excluding the higher lands which became islands until the waters receded. The Los Angeles basin lost 200,000 cattle by way of drowning…

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