Early Floods in Los Angeles: Interview 140, William Mulholland: It is no difficulty to do things when the work is carried on in harmony with Nature
July 15, 2016 § 9 Comments
One of the best creek freak documents around is a series of interviews made by Los Angeles County Flood Control Engineer James Reagan, around 1914. The interviews give a vivid picture of the Los Angeles basin of more than 100 years ago. We will be posting other interviews from this document in the following months.
The following is a transcription of Mulholland’s interview by F. Z. Lee, on October 2, 1914.
As Mr. Mulholland said, he has never had anything to do with the river other than in connection with the water works, where their supply came from for many years.
There seems nothing strange or mysterious about handling the floods of the river if the lesson from nature was followed. It is no difficulty to do things when the work is carried on in harmony with Nature, but when man begins to obstruct the laws of Nature and to work against them, then there is great difficulty.
We had no trouble with the Los Angeles River until 1877-78. Up to that time the channel of the river was clear of willows and other growth that would cause the water to change about from one side of the river to the other. When the floods came they spread over the gravel beds of the river and ran along smoothly without obstruction. There were some willows along the banks of the streams but none out in the channel. The channels remained the same all the time.
December 20, 2010 § 5 Comments
I’ve been enjoying reading Catherine Mulholland’s William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, published by the University of California Press in 2000. It’s a biography of Catherine’s grandfather William Mulholland (1855-1935) who was the engineer responsible for much of Los Angeles’ early water supply engineering and vision, including our securing of water from the Owen’s Valley.
Here’s a Los Angeles River Christmas story from 121 years ago. L.A.’s creek freaks will know to expect some flooding in century-old Los Angeles River winter tales.
From William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, starting on page 49:
[I]n 1890… [William Mulholland] received a gold watch from a grateful water company [the private Los Angeles Water Company that later became the city of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] for services beyond the call of duty when he had braved the torrential rains of Christmas Week, 1889-1890, to save the city’s water supply. « Read the rest of this entry »