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Taking You Back in History: Look Out for Water, Part 2

By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum/Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society

In the foothill districts of the Sierra Nevada two to three times as much rain fell as in the Central Valley. An early unseasonable snow pack of 10-15 feet had accumulated in the mountains when a warm rain began to melt it, sending the snow melt down ravines and gulches into surrounding foothills. Stockton officials received this warning by telegram from high in the Sierra, “It rains like fury. Hill is afloat. Look out for water!” Then line went dead.

Dark areas show flooded areas of California during the Great Flood of 1862

The Union Democrat reported that Dr. Perez Snell measured 81 inches of rain from Nov. 10, 1861 - Jan. 17, 1862 - nearly double the usual 41 inches yearly average for the city in two months. The Sacramento Union reported an even higher total of 102 inches for Sonora recorded by Snell from Nov. 10 - Jan. 23.

The lack of reports for specific conditions in our area is no doubt due to the torrential rains and flooding of all area waterways which stopped both transportation and communication between the foothill towns. One article confirms that communications and travel, other than by foot, was entirely cut off between Sonora and nearby Columbia. Reports about the damage caused by these storms in the Groveland area are hard to find except in a few diaries such as those kept by Second Garrote resident Jason Chamberlain who tells of day after day of unending rain making mining impossible. We can imagine from reports about nearby areas what conditions in the Groveland area must have been like.

Placer mining ceased, made impossible by torrents of rain, dangerous fast-moving streams and flooded gulches. Hard rock mines everywhere were flooded and impossible to work. Log dams built to contain mining waste failed and inundated are