San Joaquin – The Great Flood

Hurricane Joaquin, which past over several island chains off the coast and buffeted the eastern US as far inland as Tennessee, brings to mind another watery weather event associated with the name Joaquin – this time on the opposite side of the continent.

“While the rest of the country was engaged in an epic cataclysm of Civil War, California suffered through an unprecedented natural calamity, which was the most devastating recorded flood in California’s history – the Flood of 1861-1862” (

The Great Flood of 1861-1862 actually extended from the Columbia River in Oregon into southern California. San Joaquin county sits just south of Sacramento, the capital of California, which had to relocate to San Francisco for a period of months afterwards. By all accounts, the Central Valley region was “inundated.” The records of the previous flood of 1853 were broken when the Sacramento River crested above the 22’6″ mark on December 27, 1861. This catastrophic flood, unlike the catastrophes from Hurricane Joaquin, were the result of several sequential weather events over the course of many months at the end of 1861 and the beginning of 1862. A combination of continuous rain over large swaths of the Northwest and significant melting snow pack from the mountains contributed to the massive amount of water that poured through the region sweeping away house, cattle, machinery, and men.