The St. Francis Dam (Fig. 1), a curved concrete gravity structure 209-feet high, located in the mountains about 35 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, failed catastrophically near midnight just before March 12, 1928. The failure released 36,180 acre-feet of water down San Francisquito Canyon on a turbulent 55-mile journey to the Pacifica Ocean near Ventura, killing 450 people. As the deadliest American civil engineering failure of the 20th century, the city of Los Angeles paid more than $7 million in restitution to the victims' families and affected landowners. The sudden failure of a new concrete dam constructed by a reputable public agency had enormous repercussions within the civil engineering profession, especially in California.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Geotechnical Engineering; California; Dam failures; Dams

Geographic Coverage


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2006 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2006

Included in

Geology Commons