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An Inland Sea
 

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Catastrophic floods periodically ravage California, costing lives, destroying livestock, ruining crops, and causing millions of dollars in property damages.  Two of these immense floods occurred during President Abraham Lincoln’s lifetime, inundating communities along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Storms on January 7, 1850 transformed the rivers and streams of the Sierra Nevada Mountains into raging torrents.  Swollen by these waters, the Sacramento River flooded the new city of Sacramento for a mile back from the river.  The print below depicts the city as it looked on January 10th, its streets full of water and navigable only by boat.  A small steamship plied the flooded streets delivering freight, replacing inventory washed out of doors and windows.

The floods of December 1861-January 1862 were even more severe, making news around the world (see the pages from the Illustrated London News below).  This deluge created an inland sea that spread over thousands of acres, deep enough that boats could sail over the tops of telegraph poles in the Sacramento Valley.  The waters carried hydraulic mining tailings that settled on the flatlands, creating what one observer described as a "desolate waste" in the flood's aftermath.

Disastrous floods still plague California.  Their impact is lessened, however, by an intricate system of flood control works, including protective levees, weirs, and bypass corridors.


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"View of Sacramento City as it Appeared During  the Great Inundation in January 1850," drawn by Geo. W. Caslear and Henry  Bainbridge.  State Capitol  Cornerstone Collection, California State Archives.

"View of Sacramento City as it Appeared During the Great Inundation in January 1850," drawn by Geo. W. Caslear and Henry Bainbridge. 

State Capitol Cornerstone Collection, California State Archives.


The Illustrated London News March 20, 1862 (Page 326).  Ephemera Collection, California State Archives.

The Illustrated London News March 20, 1862 (Page 323).  Ephemera Collection, California State Archives.

The Illustrated London News March 20, 1862 (326, 323).

Ephemera Collection, California State Archives



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