The Great Johnstown Flood, Pennsylvania 1889
The Great Johnstown Flood of 1889Experience the scene of America's deadliest flood!
Why Visit Johnstown?
Taught as a regular part of High School curricula for over a century, the Great Johnstown Flood is a fascinating combination of natural disaster, humanitarian tragedy, triumph of compassion, and "trial of the century." Discover what happened to cause the deaths of over 2200 people, the rise of the American Red Cross, and the roles of the richest men in the world.
Travel & Lodging
Set in the rolling green hills of central Pennsylvania east of Pittsburgh, Johnstown is at once the stereotypical "rust belt" town and a scenic window to the past.
By Car -- Most people will visit Johnstown by car. The roads into the valley are a bit winding, but it's an enjoyable scenic drive from any direction.
Airports -- The closest major airport is Pittsburgh International. Regional airports are located at Arnold Palmer at Youngstown, Greensburg-Jeanette, Somerset County, and Altoona-Blair County.
Lodging -- Central (old) Johnstown has only two chain motels. Several more are nearby in eastern Johnstown along U.S. 219.
This closer view shows that central Johnstown is located at a pair of big bends in the river. When the flood came racing in, it swept completely over the town.
Debris from destroyed structures piled up at the "old stone bridge," carrying many victims with it. When the debris caught fire, the screams of people trapped in the debris created one of the most tragic scenes in American history.
The model shows inundation of Johnstown. The flood pushed its way upstream (toward the bottom of the picture) a good distance.
The Johnstown Flood Museum has this replica of the flood debris. It's sobering to stand by it and imagine being tangled and trapped inside.
Built only a few years before the 1889 flood, the bridge was expanded a few decades later, covering the original stone facade. Today, the bridge is lighted in memory of the flood victims. You can see the live webcam and read more information here: link
This photo in the Flood Museum shows the remnants of the dam not long after the flood.
This sign is at the site of the dam remnants, and quotes a witness who saw the rising waters and initial deterioration of the dam.
The dam was essentially built by amateurs, there being no laws or engineering standards at the time for dam construction. This diagram shows it neat and orderly inside, but eyewitness accounts describe it more like something built by incompetent beavers.
This is the rock-covered down-stream side of the dam.