The following are the top ten recorded floods of the Russian River: (1) 48.8’ – 2/18/1986; (2) 48.0’ – 1/10/1995; (3) 47.6’ – 12/23/1955; (4) 47.4’ – 12/23/1964; (5) 46.9’ – 2/28/1940; (6) 45.38’ – 2/27/2019; (7) 45.0’ – 1/1/1997; (8) 42.5’ – 1/5/1966; (9) 42.1’ – 2/18/1879; (10) 41.8’ – 1/1/2006.
The upper photo shows #9 worst flood. It was in 1879, Guerneville, with the very first recording of flooding along the lower reaches of the Russian River. Damage was widespread. The tracks of the San Francisco & Northern Pacific Railroad dropped into the stream just east of Rio Nido. The boilers and engines at the Korbel sawmill were likewise under water. Some eighteen homes in Guerneville were either afloat or off their foundations. Two homes were washed away. Part of Guerne Mill fell into Fife Creek (near today’s Saefway parking lot).
The #6 worst flood of all time occurred Wednesday, 2/27/2019. The Russian River crested at 9:00 p.m. at 45.38′. The lower left photo shows a backstreet in Guerneville. People paddled to downtown’s Safeway to see it spared by two inches. Rescue helicopters used the far east end of Main Street as a landing pad. Most calls coming into the local fire department concerned stranded motorists who could not ford inundated roadways. The lower right photo frames the Highland Dell on the south side of the river in Monte Rio. The lodge would receive nearly eight feet of runoff by the time all was said and done. Owners of Bartlett’s market pleaded for help on social media, asking for assistance in hoisting their products above the uninvited guest. A huge slide on Main Street near the skateboard park coupled with road closures on Bohemian Highway (PGE test spot for underground lines) blocked access to Occidental. The flood negated additional escape routes to Moscow Road and across the Monte Rio Bridge, stranding residents on the northeast side of the town as were many pockets along the river.