[Excerpts from:]
Walker R. Young., "Report on salt water barrier below confluence of Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, California" 1929

(c) 2012, Mike Barkley

Umbrella page:
Various formats linked on that page, 2 of 4 volumes

Text here is from the OCR text version, - click on "See other formats" for pdf, etc.; I've taken the following excerpts from the OCR, matched them against the pdf version and fixed OCR errors where I've caught them.

Volume I of Two Volumes
By WALKER R. YOUNG, Engineer, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation
Prepared under contracts executed jointly by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, the California Department of Public Works, and the Sacramento Valley Development Association

From Table of Contents:

The 1862 flood.. - p. 123

PART TWO Exhibits, Tables and Estimates Accompanying the Report
17 The Flood of 1861 and 1862, extracts from journal of the California State Senate for 1863. .. 265

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. . . .

Delta Levees.

The exceptional fertility of the delta lands was a great attraction to the early settlers. Attempts to reclaim some of the islands were made as early as 1852. The levees at that time were small, two to four feet high, and were built to shut out high tides. Though small, and of little weight, difficulty was experienced in their maintenance, and during the flood of 1861-62, they were overtopped with disastrous results.

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. . . .

As far as known, great floods from the two rivers have not occurred simultaneously, nor have great river floods been coincident with extreme tides. If the latter should occur conditions similar to those described for 1861-62 are not beyond conception whether or not the Salt Water Barrier is constructed. . . .

Since the memorable flood of 1861-62, when the overflow from the rivers is reported to have formed a navigable body of water from Sacramento to Stockton, and to Suisun Bay, surveys and plans have been made for their control by the government and by the state. At present work is under way upon straightening and enlarging the lower Sacramento Rivor which. when finished, should greatly relieve the flood menace in tho delta region. The work is being done by the War Department under the general direction of the California Debris Commission, with funds contributed by the government and by the state. . . .

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p. 123
The 1862 Flood.

The flood of January, 1862, which followed a previous one in December, 1861, is generally conceded to be the greatest of record. Extracts from the Journal of the California State Senate for 1863, relative to this flood, accompany this report as Exhibit 17. It will be noted by inspection of the exhibit that the impressions of some of those reporting


were apparently more vivid than those of the others. There is a lack of positive information as to the actual amount of run-off, but it probably was not as great as some of the published reports would indicate. Below is a quotation from Bancroft's Hand-book Almanac for the Pacific States, 1863, page 85-86.
The great floods of 1861-62 wore the most overwhelming and disastrous that have visited this state since its occupation by Americans. The first flood submerged the Sacramento Valley about the 10th of Docember. the water rising higher than in either of the memorable floods of 1849 and 1852. For six weeks thereafter an unusual amount of rain descended ; and during that time the deluge but partially subsided, the streams still carried torrents, and the lowlands were overflowed. On the 24th of January the second flood attained its greatest height, and the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys were transformed into a broad inland sea, stretching from the foothills of the Sierras to the Coast Range, and somewhat similar in extent and shape to Lake Michigan.

The raging mountain torrents swept away bridges, fences, houses, mills, and the most durable improvements in their reach; not infrequently ploughing new channels through the country, and depositing the debris of sand and rock upon large sections of cultivated land.

But the flood was not attended with unmixed evil. The streams that had been choked by tailings for years were suddenly cleared of their obstructions, and extensive river beds were again opened to the enterprise of the miner. The work of rebuilding bridges and mills, and of repairing other damages, called into profitable employment a large number of persons; and trade and commerce and actual improvement suffered less interruption than might naturally have been expected, after so great a blow to our prosperity; and such are the wonderful energies and resources of our people, that in a few months the ravages of the flood had disappeared, and losses estimated at millions had been retrieved.
Likewise extracts from an article in the same publication by Thomas Rowlandson, F.G.S.L., entitled "Notabilia of the Floods of 1861-62."
* * * Dr. Logan remarks that, on the occasion of the first inundation at Sacramento on December 7, 1861, "It commenced raining at 12 m., and ended at 9 a.m on the 9th; amount in inches, 2.570; the flood commenced at 10 a.m. of the 9th of December and at 10 p.m. had reached 2 feet 6 inches in my office; by daylight it had all subsided. At the second inundation, on January 5, 1862, rain commenced at 10 a.m. and ended at 1.30 a.m. on the 6th; during that interval there fell 2.690 inches. On January 8th, rain commenced at 11 a.m. and ended at 7 a.m on the 10th ; between which periods there fell 2.840 inches. On .January 10th the flood reached my floor at 2 p.m. and at 8 p.m. came to a stand of 3 feet 11 inches above my floor. The Sacramento River rose during this night to 24 feet above low water mark. On the 14th, the water had receded from my floor. * * * "

Assuming the entire watershed drained through the Straits of Carquinez as occupying an area equal to 50,000 square miles, and that the rainfall averaged over the entire area a depth equal to four inches in twenty-four hours--and for some days in January last it certainly must have exceeded that amount--it would be equal to 5,377,785 cubic feet per second, or four times the highest gage ever made of the Mississippi at its highest floods. The whole of this immense volume has no outlet excepting a passage not greater than 300,000 feet sectional area, with the further disadvantage that this outlet is subjected to tidal influence. Under such circumstances, that the low-lying country to the east of Carquinez should become inundated, and that for a long period, is not surprising. The inundation thus caused, extended over probably more than 6,000,000 acres. * * * Most singular of all, however, was the fact that the bay fishermen frequently caught fresh water fish in the bay; for from two to three months, the surface portion of the entire waters of the bay of San Francisco consisted of fresh water, to the depth of from eighteen to twenty-four inches. * * * At the Colden Gate, for nearly a fortnight, the stream on the surface was continuously flowing toward the Pacific, composed
entirely of fresh water, the tide not affecting the surface flow, and the water was brackish at the Farallone Islands.
Facts and fancy are strangely blended in this last quotation, and the exaggerated accounts undoubtedly have had much to do with magnifying the probable height of the flood.

Attention is called to the statement of the County Surveyor of Yolo County, in Exhibit 17, that "a barn floated two miles up.stream and landed on the other side," indicating that the velocities were very low. Undoubtedly the restricted condition of the lower reaches of the Sacramento had much to do with cauing [sic] general inundation. In recent years this has been greatly enlarged to permit the passage of floods. Another agent assisting in the general inundation was the choked condition of the streams brought about by hydraulic mining, as indicated in the first quotation from Bancrofts Almanac, and from the following quotation from page 11, Hydraulic Mining Debris in the Sierra Nevada by Gilbert.
In the early days of gold mining in the Sierra Nevada only a moderate amount of earth was disturbed. An army of men were engaged, but they worked as laborers, with pick, shovel and rocker. It was only gradually that more efficient methods were developed; but finally the resources of the engineer were brought to bear, water power was substituted for man power, and vast quantities of earth were handled. At the height of the hydraulic mining, when hundreds of large jets of water were turned on the auriferous deposits, the material annually overturned was reckoned in scores of millions of cubic yards.

The material thus washed from the hillsides consisted chiefly of sand and the finer detritus called "slickens," but included also much gravel and many cobbles and boulders. The slickens was taken in suspension by the water used in mining and went with it to the creeks and rivers. Much of it escaped from the mountains altogether and found eventual lodgment in the Great Valley of California or in the tidal waters of San Francisco Bay and its dependencies. The coarse stuff tarried by the way, building up alluvial deposits on the lower hill slopes, in the flatter creek valleys, and in the river canyons. When rains and floods came the sands and gravels were moved forward toward the lowlands, and in 1862 a great flood washed so large a quantity into the lower reaches of the Sierra rivers and into the rivers of the Great Valley that the holders of riparian lands became alarmed. The mining-debris question, then for the first time generally recognized, assumed greater and greater importance and prominence in subsequent years and led to protest and litigation which in 1884 culminated in a series of injunctions whereby the miners were restrained from casting their tailings into the streams. The petitioners were valley dwellers, and the evils cited by them included the burial of alluvial farming lands by the flood of debris, the obstruction to navigation from shoaling of Sacramento and Feather rivers, and the raising of the flood levels of the valley streams whereby the area of periodic inundation was increased and protection against inundation became more difficult and expensive,
Mr. Rowlandson gives the impression that the floods were caused in great part by the restriction at Carquinez Strait. This is well refuted by statements of the county surveyors appearing in Exhibit 17. The report from Solano County stated that the water stood about 2-1/2 feet deep over the marshes at Suisun. The present elevation of these marshes above mean sea level was found in the investigation just completed. to be about 3.5 making maximum water surface elevation about 6.0 if the elevation of the marshes has not changed. Other extracts from these same quotations also report that the flood conditions on the marshes around Suisun Bay were not unusual.


In March, 1907, the water reached an elevation, as measured by the U. S. Army Engineers, of 11.0 at the head of Seven-mile Slough, 3 miles below Rio Vista. Mention was made in the items quoted in Exhibit 17 that there was a depth of about 8 feet over the marshes at the latter place. The elevation of these marshes varies from 0 to 3.5 as shown on the maps of the War Department Survey of the Sacramento River. If the depth given is correct, the elevation of water surface at Rio Vista during the great flood could not have exceeded 11.5. which would have been less than the elevation in 1907, for the drop in three miles above Seven-mile Slough during the latter flood would undoubtedy have been more than 0.5 of a foot.

The statement from Dr. Logan of Sacramento, given in the quotation from Mr. Rowlandson, places the height of high water at Sacramento at 24 feet above low water. So far as known, this gage was the predecessor of the present weather bureau gage with the same datum plane and was established in 1849. The flood of 1909 reached 29.6 on this gage. The project flood planes are shown on Plate 5-20.

The American River appears to have been one of the worst offenders in the 1862 flood, as indicated by the marks of extreme high water along its course, marks that have been definitely identified as made at that time. Likewise, the evidence of the county surveyor of San Joaquin County, quoted in Exhibit 17, and the following quotation from page 95 of the "Economic Aspects of a Sacramento Ship Canal" by C. E. Grunsky and L. M. Cox strengthen this evidence.
There are those still living who may remember the course which the waters of the American River took across the eastern portion of Sacramento in the great flood of 1862. The small levee that had been provided to keep out the American River proved inadequate. It was easily breached by the river and the water followed a natural depression southwesterly into the City of Sacramento and thence southerly toward Sutterville and into the Sacramento Flood Basin.
It is probable that the flood of 1862 was greater than any that has occurred since, but the evidence does not seem to support the belief of many that it was greatly in excess of the floods of 1907 and 1909.

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. . . .

Extremely High Tides.

Mention has previously been made of an elevation of approximately 6 feet for high water at Suisuu during the 1862 flood. The quotations also stated that the highest tide at Benicia occurred several days before the January flood of 1862. . . .

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. . . Mr. Freeman states further that : . )

The effect of the influx of a volume of salt water under a body of fresh water is much the same as above, the salt water floating the turbid fresh water without mixing with it to any great extent, if its influx is slow.

It will be recalled that in a quotation in Chapter V, relative to the 1861-1862 flood, it was reported that for two or three months the surface portion of the entire waters of the bay consisted of fresh water to a depth of from 18 to 24 inches and that at Golden Gate, for nearly a fortnight, the stream on the surface was continuously flowing toward the Pacific, composed entirely of fresh water, the tide not affecting the surface flow.

The reason for the flood tide coming in first on the bottom and for the strength of the early ebb tide near the surface is found in the marked excess of the specific gravity of the relatively salty, cool, incoming water from the ocean, as compared with the ebb water which has been warmed by the sun over the shallow portions of the bays and further lightened by the admixture of river water. . . .

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Exhibit 17


THE FLOOD OF 1861 AND 1862

[Surveyor-General's Report, "FLOOD STATISTICS",
p. 42
bound into "Appendix to Journals of Senate and Assembly of the Fourteenth Session of the Legislature of the State of California, Sacramento, Benj. P. Avery, State Printer. 1863."; for full text of the "FLOOD STATISTICS" section, see mjbarkl.com/surveyor.htm]

"During the prevalence of the floods of last winter, while the incidents connected with them were fresh in the memory of all, copies of the following circular, the object of which is explained by itself, were addressed to each of the county surveyors throughout the state. At the same time, letters were addressed to


responsible persons in different parts of the state, requesting them to furnish this office with any reliable information regarding the destruction by the late flood of any old landmarks or evidences of antiquity, which would tend to show the extent of the floods of 1802, as compared with those of former years:

Surveyor-General's Office.
Sacramento, February 13, 1862.


It is deemed of utmost importance to preserve in concise form in the state archives, for future reference, as much statistical information as possible in regard to the recent floods throughout the state.

The most proper method of obtaining such information seems to be through the surveyors of the several counties, acting under instructions from the Surveyor-General.

There is no appropriation out of which such services can be paid, but it is hoped that an interest in the general welfare will prompt each of the county surveyors to as efficient a performance of this duty as possible.

You will, therefore, whenever opportunity occurs, so far as it can be done without expense to the state, collect all possible information upon the points indicated below, and any other information you may deem of importance in this connection, and report to this office in July next :

First: The extreme height above low water at any well designated points upon streams in your county.

Second: Date of highest water.

Third: The general depth over the adjacent lands.

Fourth: The approximate quantity of land overflowed in your county.

Fifth: If the banks of the streams have been seriously affected, state in what manner and to what extent.

Sixth: If any bars were formed, or considerable change of channel occasioned, state the facts and circumstances.

Seventh: If there was much deposit upon submerged lands, state the general depth and character of it.

Eighth: Upon swamp and overflowed lands, state the depth of water and general direction of the current, depth of deposit, etc.

It is suggested also, that all persons having facilities for doing so, should be requested to mark distinctly, upon large trees, or other objects not liable to removal, the point of highest water.

The value of this information will readily suggest itself to the surveyors of counties containing swamp lands belonging to the state, in reference to their future reclamation.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. F. Houghton, Surveyor-General.

To _______________________________________-
County Surveyor.

__________________________ County, California."


The following quotations are from the report of the Surveyor-General:

"The result, so far as answers have been received, has been highly satisfactory, and the testimony furnished in the report of Amos Matthews, county surveyor of Yolo, and of Dr. Louis M. Booth of Stanislaus, furnish strong circumstantial evidence that the flood of 1862 is without parallel in centuries past.

In Yolo County. Indian mounds of great depth, formed of the lightest material, which would almost float in still water, bearing unmistakable evidence of great antiquity in the large oaks growing upon them, have been almost entirely carried away, trees and all, leaving strewn along the course of the current, numberless skulls and other bones of the tribes who once inhabited the valley of the Sacramento, and who made these mounds, at the same time the home of the living and the resting place of the dead.

Reliable information has reached me of the destruction by the rising of the waters melting the sun-dried bricks of which it was constructed, of an old adobe house in Solano County, built 25 years since, in a position which had never before been above the rise of the waters. Evidence which is believed to be reliable,


has been received of a similar disaster to an old adobe, built in the valley of Russian River 50 years since.

By the report of Dr. Booth, it will be seen that the Stanislaus River, which, to all appearances, had for centuries discharged its waters through its proper channel, and allowed alluvial deposits to accumulate upon its banks to the depth of 10 or 12 feet, and upon the top of this deposit oaks from 5 to 10 feet in diameter to grow undisturbed for more than 300 years, during the great flood of 1862 tore away its old banks, carried away considerable tracts of land well grown over with timber, and uprooted and carried down its swollen stream the trees which its waters had so long nourished, and in some places left its old bed, and formed a new channel entirely away from it.

The report of Mr. Drew, county surveyor of San Joaquin, in answer to the circular, contains full statistics of the flood in the vicinity of Stockton, and the county, which will be valuable in reference to the reclamation of the great body of swamp lands bordering the San Joaquin and other rivers in that county.

The county surveyors of Lake and Fresno have also furnished valuable information respecting the flood in their counties.

An erroneous impression prevails to a considerable extent, created chiefly by a series of well written articles published last spring in several public journals of the state, that the Straits of Carquinez, connecting Suisun and San Pablo bays, have, by incapacity to discharge a sufficient amount of water, contributed largely to the overflow of the Sacramento Valley.

It is a well admitted and self-evident principle in hydraulics, that when an obstruction to the free passage of any current of water occurs, it is accompanied by a corresponding rise in the water. Had the writer of these articles applied this simple test to the Straits of Carquinez, no complaints would have been made of their want of capacity

The highest water ever known at Benicia was occasioned by an extraordinary high tide, being eight inches higher than any previous spring tide, and occuring about the 5th or 6th of January, 1862, or several days before the highest flood, and at no time afterwards was the water so high as on that day.

Upon the swamp lands bordering the Suisun Bay on the north, at a distance about a mile below Collins' Landing, hogs lived all winter with no floating islands to flee to. showing that there could not have been two feet of water at any time on the marsh.

Ascending the Sacramento, at a distance of a mile above Collins', the water was about four feet over the marsh, and at Rio Vista it has increased to about eight feet,"


"Also I am under many obligations to Dr. Thomas M. Logan of Sacramento of valuable information which he has allowed me to compile from his most complete ind reliable records; also, for a chart showing the oscillations at Sacramento, extending over a period of 13 years. * * * During the later part of the month of November, and the first few days of December, 1861, large quantities of snow fell in the mountains to the east and north of us.

The average temperature of the month of December for eight years, at Sacramento is forty-six and thirty-one hundredths degrees (46 deg. 31) December, 1862, being forty-three degrees (43 deg.): while the average of December, 1861, reaches the high figures of fifty and ninety-eight one hundredths degrees, (50 deg. 98), and the few days preceding the flood still higher, as follows: December 7th, fifty-six degrees (56 deg.); December 8th, fifty-seven and sixty-six one hundredths degrees (57 deg. 66); December 9th, fifty-one and sixty-six one hundredths degrees (51 deg. 66).

On each of these days a warm rain was falling, which rapidly melted the large accumulations of snow in the mountains, and the rivers, already high, receiving these accessions of rain and melted snows of the 7th and 8th of December, reached here on the 9th of December, with the result already too well known. * * *

The flood of January, 1862, which reached its highest point at Sacramento about 9 o'clock p.m. of the 10th of said month, combined all the unfavorable circumstances of that of the previous month, with the most remarkable downfall of rain ever recorded. * * *

Mr. Begole reports from December 23 to December 30, seven and fifty one-hundredths inches of rain; December 30 to January 9, six and sixty-five one-hundredths inches; January 10, five and eighty-two one-hundredths inches; Janu-


ary 11, five and fifty one hundredths inches; being a total of twenty-five and forty-seven one-hundredths inches in 19 days, or eleven and thirty-two one-hnndredths inches in 48 hours, ending with January 11. This includes 10 inches of snow, which is reduced to rain, being about equal to one inch; and also shows a total of forty-five and three one-hundredths inches falling in that locality from December 23 to January 23.

Dr. Logan's report shows that on the 8th of January there fell at Sacramento, six hundred and eighty-one thousandths inches rain ; January 9, one and four hundred one-thousandths inches; January 10, seven hundred and sixty-one thousandths inches; January 11, nine hundred and ninety-six one-thousandths inches; and a total for the mouth, of fifteen and thirty-six one-thousandths inches. The nearest approach to which was in December, 1849, in which fell 12-1/2 inches ; and next, in March, 1850, in which month fell 10 inches."


December 3, 1862.

* * * I have received a circular from your office, propounding eight questions, having reference to the floods of last winter. By personal examinations and inquiry I have endeavored to collect such information as was possible, and will give you only such as may be reliable, as in many cases it is so conflicting as to be unavailable.

First: The highest water in Stockton was on the 24th day of January, 1862, being 12 feet 1 inch above the low tide of this date; December 3, 10 feet 6 inches above the high tide of this date, and 3 feet 6 inches above the highest water in the flood of 1852. About 15 miles northwest from this city, in Township 3, North, Range 5, East; the highest water was on the 24th day of January, being 14 feet higher than the summer low tides.

In Township 1, South, Range 5, East. 12 miles from this city, in a south-westerly direction, and near the forks of the San Joaquin River, the highest water was on the 24th day of January, 12 feet above the summer low tides, and 5 feet above the highest water of 1852.

Second: The first heavy flow of water, from the east or mountain streams occurred on the 26th day of December, on which day the city was slightly submerged. On the 28th day of December, the water in the city was a few inches higher than on the 26th.

On the 11th day of January occurred the greatest overflow of the country to the northeast, east and southeast, caused by the water from the mountain streams. The highest water in this city and on the land to the west, was on the 24th day of January, being 24 inches higher than on the 11th of January. This was back water, and came from the north, or Sacramento River; no current near the city. A short distance to the west of the city, on this and several subsequent days, there was a strong current running past the city from the north, and running nearly due south, to a point six miles south from this city, there meeting the waters of the San Joaquin, and changing the direction of the current to a northwest course.

Third: It is difficult to answer this question satisfactorily. I believe about two thirds of our entire county was inundated. Of the agricultural and grazing portion, about one-half. Over this portion the water would average one and a half to two feet in depth.

[no fourth]

Fifth: The banks of the streams have not been seriously affected.

Sixth: No considerable bars or changes of channel have been occasioned by the flood.

Seventh and Eighth: There was no large amount of deposit left on the agricultural portion--perhaps an average of two inches except at a few points on the river bottoms. This deposit was a very fine sand or slum, and to the most of our land was an advantage. It is impossible to tell the amount of deposit there may be on the tule lands, as they are still submerged.

The greatest danger we have of a recurrence of the events of last winter is from the waters of the Sacramento and American rivers breaking over the plain to the north, as it was the waters from these rivers which caused the greatest amount of damage in this vicinity. Aside from the Sacramento water, the damage in this vicinity would not have exceeded $10,000. * * *

George E. Drew,
County Surveyor of San Joaquin County."


"December 10, 1862.

* * * As to the height of the waters above low water mark in the last flood, it was impossible for me to keep any memorandum of it; but I have been told that at the head of the Cache Slough, at a place called Main Landing, the water was 10 feet above the ground, which would make it about 18 feet above low water mark. In the marshes around Suisun City, the greatest height attained was only about two feet six inches, which would give about nine or ten feet above low water mark. In the islands in Suisun Bay the water did not rise more than six inches above the marsh, and that only at the highest tides. All these islands were covered with cattle, and they continued on them all winter without the least inconvenience, and have been doing all the time exceedingly well.

In your letter of the 28th of November, last, accompanying your circular, you mention the washing away of Baca's house on Putah River. I never heard of it, but. however, it is possible, as that house was built very near the bank and immediately below a ford, and the least overflow of the river would wash any adobe building.

John Peabody,
County Surveyor, Solano County."


"December 2, 1862.

* * * Am of the opinion that such a flood as the last has not occurred within the last hundred years, and, perhaps, never since the Great Flood receded from the land. The evidence upon which I found my opinion, in part, is the undoubted fact, that many years ago, the banks of the Sacramento were inhabited by populous tribes of Indians, who have disappeared from the face of the earth. In witness, we see the numerous mounds scattered along the river bank through the whole valley. These mounds must be very old; some of them had large oak trees, grown from acorns carelessly thrown aside by this extinct race. These mounds, till within a year, retained their shape as left by the aborigines; there could be seen the excavation scooped out where stood the principal hut, with numerous smaller cavities, used for like purposes. Now the flood has destroyed the original shape of the mounds, and we see but a heap of earth strewed with the skulls, which, for centuries, had lain covered with the light ashes and mould of which the mounds were composed. Some say the Indians did inhabit the valley, but were destroyed by a great flood, wherefore we do not find their descendants; but all of us have seen just such mounds on high lands, where no modern flood has ever reached; and the apparent age of these mounds indicates their inhabitants to have been coeval with those who lived along the river. The mounds are of the lightest material, and accumulated slowly, in long years, from ashes and decayed vegetable matter. In my opinion, if floods had often occurred, they would have been washed away ages ago. In one place on the river I saw an innumerable number of skulls, the mound in which they were buried having been almost entirely swept away. In many places great oak trees, centuries old, have been uprooted and carried away. The Indians have no knowledge of any disaster which happened to their ancestors by reason of floods, and their traditions must certainly extend back a hundred years, as many of them have lived three-quarters of that time.

In reply to your request for statistics of the late flood, I can state, perhaps, but little not generally known. This county was pretty generally overflowed, either by the river or by the rush of water from the coast mountains. The greatest depth of water in the tule, west from Sacramento, was about 15 feet. Considerable quantities of sediment were deposited. I think we should ask to know how the water stood at different points with reference to the river when its banks were full, with no regard to height above low water mark. The river, at this point, rose about two feet above its banks; 15 miles farther down, about three feet; and at Rio Vista, where the incline plane of the river meets the horizontal plane of the bay, it rose nearly eight feet. There was but little current in the river during the flood. The water, as is natural, ran where was the greatest fall, that is, where there is a fall of 1 in 16 by the tortuous course of the river, there may be a fall of 1 in 4 on a direct line. In one instance, the counter current carried a barn two miles up the river, and deposited it on the opposite bank, where it now stands.

Amos Mathews,
County Surveyor [Yolo County],"


"December 26, 1862.

Hon. J. F. Houghton,

Dear Sir :

In response to your questions in relation to the late flood, I have obtained from Mr. J. D. Morley, of Stanislaus County, the following replies in relation to the effects of the flood in that county, and also certain other information which is thereto appended:

First: The extreme height above low water mark at well designated points upon the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers, was 20 feet, but where the Tuolumne River flows through the mountains, the extreme height was 50 or 60 feet. The extreme height above low water mark at well designated points on the Merced River and Dry Creek, was 15 or 16 feet.

Second: The water attained its greatest height on the 10th or 11th of January. 1862.

Third: The lands in Stanislaus County adjacent to the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers, and Dry Creek, were overflowed to the depth of 8 or 10 feet.

Fourth : All lands bordering upon streams in Stanislaus County were overflowed. The Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers overflowed land to the width of about a mile; the San Joaquin, in Stanislaus County, overflowed lands, to the width of from 5 to 20 miles. Persons living upon lands overflowed by that stream, only saved their lives by fleeing to the mountains and high lands. Dry Creek overflowed lands to the width of from one-quarter to two miles.

Fifth: The banks of the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers have been very seriously affected by washing; in some places the width has been increased from 200 to 1500 feet ; and whenever those rivers rise five or six feet, there will be three or four channels at different points, all occasioned by the washing of the late floods. The banks of the San Joaquin are very little changed, the river retaining its original channel. Tuolumne River, by changing its channel and overflowing its banks, has destroyed many ranches by washing away the soil.

Sixth: The Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers have changed their channels in many places, and large sand bars have been formed in those rivers. The San Joaquin retains its original channel, and there are no bars to obstruct the navigation.

Seventh : There was a deposit of light, sandy material upon most of the submerged lands in Stanislaus County, varying in depth from six inches to four feet

Eighth: Upon the swamp and overflowed lands in Stanislaus County the depth of water was about 10 feet, the current running west-northwest. The deposit was less than upon some of the higher lands, varying in depth from four inches to two feet, the deposit upon submerged lands near the mountains and low hills being always greater than upon the lower lands. The deposit upon the swamp lands was more of a vegetable character than that upon the higher lands.

Nine-tenths of the crops upon the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers were destroyed, and many houses were swept off; a general destruction of fencing occurred; many cattle and horses perished in the flood; the destruction of timber was very great, caused entirely by the soil being washed away from the roots of the trees by the immense volume and velocity of the water. Many of the ferryboat landings were entirely destroyed by washing of the banks, changes of channel and formation of bars.

In relation to Merced County, on the Merced River the effects of the flood were very similar to those occasioned by the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers.

The effects of the flood in Mariposa County, generally, in consequence of the face of the country being more hilly, were that so great an area was not over flowed, and the injuries were confined principally to mining improvements upon the banks of the Merced River and various creeks, the water rising as much as 50 or 60 feet above low water mark.

At such times as I receive information in relation to the flood, I will send it to you.

Yours respectfully,

W. H. LYON8."


"Branche's Ferry, Stanislaus County,
December 5, 1862.
W. H. Lyons, Esq.

Dear Sir:

In answer to your note of the 1st instant, I would state that it gives me great pleasure to impart any information in my power regarding the subjects mentioned in the Surveyor-General's circular:

First: On the Tuolumne River, at this point (Section 35, 3. South, 13, East), the extreme height was about 30 feet above low water mark, and about seven feet higher than the high water mark of the flood of 1851 and 1852.

Second: About meridian, on the 10th of January, 1862. On Saturday, the 11th, at 12 o'clock, it having fallen three or four feet in the interval, it was a few inches lower.

Third: From 7 to 20 feet.

Fourth : All the bottom lands on the Tuolumne River, from bluff to bluff. I should think that 10 times as much land was submerged as lies within the United States meandering posts.

Fifth : The banks of the river have all been washed away; in some places to the extent of five or six rods.

Sixth: Old bars were washed away, and new ones formed. The channel was changed every half mile, in many instances sweeping away all the bottom lands, in others, cutting a new channel through the center of a ranch.

Seventh: In some instances the flood left large deposits on the land of a light sandy character, unfit to sustain vegetable life. The flood appears, in most cases, to have swept off the soil and original deposits to the depth of from 5 to 20 feet, and as the water subsided, to have deposited sand and loose gravel of various depths.

Eighth: I can only state that I believe that nearly every acre of overflowed land within the United States meandering lines on the Tuolumne River has been swept away, or rendered valueless by a deposit of sand, as the water fell.

In reply to the concluding clause of your letter I would state that no flood of like character and extent has occurred on the Pacific slope for many hundred years. The evidences in support of this conclusion are to be found in the facts that the land washed away along the river banks was originally formed from alluvial deposits, in some places 10 or 12 feet above the bed rock, where the Indians had for years bruised the acorns and seeds for food, forming dozens of small and large holes in the rock. The period of time occupied in forming 10 or 12 feet of deposit, including a foot or two of soil, geologists can determine. Upon that deposit grew oak trees from 5 to 10 feet in diameter, washed up and carried down the stream. Some of them must have been more than 300 years old. In some places the hearts of large oak trees can now be seen lying on the bed rock where 10 or 12 feet of the original deposit has been washed down stream.

My ranch, as well as those of many of my neighbors, was rendered nearly valueless by the sweeping away of the soil and depositing afterwards of loose gravel and fine sand, which the wind blows hither and thither as it changes.

In a hurried manner I have given you all the information thought of at this moment; any further questions answered with pleasure.

I should estimate the damage caused by the flood on the Tuolumne River, from Jacksonville to its mouth, at not less than $150,000.

Yours respectfully,

Louis M. Booth, M. D."

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Exhibit 21(a)


Department of Commerce
U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey

January 1?, 1926;

Mr. Walker R. Young, Engineer,
Bureau of Reclamation,
Department of the Interior,
2054 University Ave., Berkeley, Calif.

Dear Sir :

Your letters of December 28, 1925, and January 2, 1926, relative to high tides in San Francisco Bay, and addressed to the Inspector, U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Field Station, San Francisco, Calif., have been referred to this office for reply. . . .

With reference to the fifth paragraph the records on file in this office show that the highest tides at Fort Point in 1861 and 1862, respectively, occunred on December 31, 1861, and January 1, 1862, the heights being 4.6 and 4.1 feet, respectively, above mean sea level. Although these are not the highest tides observed at Fort Point, the record being 4.9 feet above mean sea level on November 5, 1869, it is found that the water surface in January, 1862, was materially raised as indicated by the following :

Sea level for January, 1862, was the highest observed during the period 1860-1876, being 0.6 foot above mean sea level. Mean low water for that month was the highest obtained at Fort Point. Mean high water for the month was unusually high, and was only exceeded by the monthly means for September, 1876, and this was but 0.01 foot higher. The mean range for Jnnuary, 1862, was the smallest range obtained for any month during the period 1860-1876, indicating that the tide was materially affected by meteorological conditions. As Fort Point was the only station in San Francisco Bay or tributaries where tidal observations were made during the period December, 1861-January, 1862, we are unable to furnish you with corresponding elevations at any other station for this period. . . .


. . . .

Very truly yours,

E. Lester Jones, Director.

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--Mike Barkley, 167 N. Sheridan Ave., Manteca, CA 95336 (H) 209/823-4817
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