The nonprofit Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society will commemorate the 92nd anniversary of the second-worst disaster in California history with its annual St. Francis Dam Disaster Lecture and bus tour to the dam site in San Francisquito Canyon on Saturday, March 14.
Guests will be among the first to visit the newly designated St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial and National Monument.
Leading the tour will be Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy, and Dr. Alan Pollack, president of the SCV Historical Society.
Both were instrumental in creating and promoting the legislation leading to the National Memorial.
Erskine-Hellrigel has been featured on SCVTV’s “Points of Interest” and Pollack has been featured on Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum” as well as local television.
The failure of the St. Francis Dam on March 12, 1928, also one of the worst disasters in American history, killed more than 400 people. The dam break and subsequent flood leveled farms and homesteads, destroyed property and livestock and changed dam construction safety forever.
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which killed more than 3,000 people, is the state’s worst disaster.
Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel at St. Francis Dam site.
March 14’s activities will begin as guests check in at Heritage Junction, adjacent to Wm. S. Hart Park in Newhall, at 10:30 a.m. to secure their seats inside the Saugus Train Station freight room.
At 11 a.m., Erskine-Hellrigel and Pollack will host an introductory PowerPoint presentation detailing the dam’s history and the disaster’s aftermath.
A Q&A session will follow, and at approximately 12:30 p.m., all ticketed guests will board a motorcoach for the brief ride to the dam site in San Francisquito Canyon.
The first stop will be at Powerhouse 2 (exterior only), then the dam site ruins further up the canyon.
Guests will get off the bus and join Erskine-Hellrigel and Pollack on a hike through the debris field as the hosts tell the stories behind the ruins, including the Western Wing Dyke, the Pyramid formation, and other remaining blocks of the dam.
Guests will have a choice of hikes which may include walking in brush, on uneven surfaces, and up a steep hill, so organizers urge guests to wear long pants, long sleeves and tennis shoes/hiking boots, and recommend a hat and sunscreen.
Alan Pollack at St. Francis Dam site.
The tour will end when the bus returns to Heritage Junction by 4 p.m.
Tickets are $45 per person, pre-paid. Funds raised will benefit programs of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.
Price includes a snack and bottled water. Guests will be welcome to take a bag lunch to eat on the bus.
Heritage Junction is located at 24101 Newhall Avenue, Newhall 91321.
For reservations, call 661-254-1275 or go to the Eventbrite page online.