Five and a half inch freshet in Mendocino on February 28th, 1917

I had never heard of the word “freshet” when we moved here (Fort Bragg, CA.) in 2000. It wasn’t part of my lexicon. It turns out that a freshet is, “the flood of a river from heavy rain or melted snow.” In the early years we lived here was a relatively dry spell. There was a fair amount of discussion among club members as to whether the weather was normal or abnormal.

Across the California Western Railroad’s (CWR) – the Skunk Train – tracks alongside our club’s layout (The Mendocino Railroad & Navigation Co.) is the Guest House Museum. In front of the Guest House is a slice of a tree:

Guest House Tree, Fort Bragg CA.

Guest House Tree

In order to settle the discussion I and another club member decided to measure the width of the 911 tree rings in the slice of trunk. The more rain the wider the tree ring. I sent our tabulation to a Professor friend at Columbia University in NYC for analysis. The result of the analysis was that there were no regular cycles of more/less rain. There were years when the rainfall must have been horrendous. There were years when the rainfall was minimal. Which means that this year’s very heavy rainfall is not out of the ordinary.

To prove my “point” check out this snippet from the local rag of February 28th, 1917:

“Mendocino was visited by a very severe storm Friday and Saturday, it being that 5 and a half inches of rain fell in 24 hours. As a result, Big River had the largest freshet in several years. About 25,00 logs came into the boom from the camp of Mallory and Johnston. The new chopper’s camp on Big River lost part of its cookhouse and a large fill on the new railroad was washed away. Aside from this, no material damage was done.”



One thought on “Five and a half inch freshet in Mendocino on February 28th, 1917

  1. You will see the larger diameter example in young trees as opposed to the outer rings of a 2,000 year old tree. Look at the rings in the middle of this tree and see if that is not true

Comments are closed.