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Flood Devastates Northern California in 1861-62

Siskiyou County and many other areas in northern California and Southern Oregon suffered severely in the winter of 1861-62.  Every river swelled over its banks, taking out bridges and wiping out homesteads. And still the rains continued.

The cities of Sacramento and Marysville to the south were inundated and the region north of them looked like an inland sea.

Heavy rains that fell on Saturday, Nov. 30, 1861, were described by one account “as if the heavens opened and dropped their imprisoned waters in torrents upon the land.”

Water raced down Main Street the following morning in Yreka.  The lower section of the town was under water and everything that floated whirled away along with fences, barns, and debris. The water also damaged or destroyed mining claims along the Klamath River.

The flood subsided for a day or two, but by the following Saturday the rains resumed and the devastation began again.  The storms continued as late as Dec. 22, and people living beside creeks and rivers abandoned their homes. A number of them died.

Sawmills, ranches, businesses and more were lost along the Klamath, Scott, and Shasta rivers and their tributaries.


Source: Wells, Harry L. “Wells’ History of Siskiyou County.” Siskiyou County Historical Yearbook, vol. Two, no. One, 1951, pp. 27-35. 

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.