Colorado Water History
1921 Flood: Topic Breakdown
On the afternoon of June 3, 1921, a sudden cloudburst formed over the city of Pueblo, Colorado, bringing heavy rains. Almost simultaneously, torrential rain fell to the north of the city over Fountain Creek, which joins the Arkansas River in Pueblo. Within a few hours, the two streams swelled, and floodwaters inundated the downtown area, destroying large parts of the city. Although no official rainfall reporting stations existed in the city at the time, it is estimated that 6 inches or more fell between June 3rd and 5th.
The flood carried away homes, railroad cars, buildings, and businesses and caused tens of millions of dollars in damages at the time. Accounting for the number of individuals who died in the floods remains a challenge, but estimates range from less than 100 to upwards of 1,500 people. Today, the event is a reminder of how quickly floods in Colorado can form, how devastating their impacts can be, including downstream, and the importance of floodplain management and disaster planning.
On this page, find information about archival collections and other sources documenting the 1921 flood.
Photo: Arkansas River flood, June 5, 1921. From the Photographs of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company.
1921 Flood: Relevant Collections
Irrigation Research Papers
The collection includes several photographs of the Arkansas River floodwaters and the damage caused by the 1921 event. Digitized versions of these photographs are available online; search for: Pueblo flood.
Photographs of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company
The collection includes flood photographs of the Arkansas River downstream of Pueblo taken June 5, 1921. The photographs have been digitized and are available online.
Records of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company
The collection includes correspondence, photographs, and financial and legal files pertaining to the 1921 flood events. Blueprints for reconstruction of the Amity Dam, which was damaged in the flood, are also included.
1921 Flood: Additional Archival Sources
1921 Flood: Learn More
Cohen, Jonathan A. 2020. A Social and Cultural History of the Great Pueblo Flood of 1921, Its Aftermath, and Its Legacy. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
Follansbee, Robert and Edward E. Jones. 1922. The Arkansas River Flood of June 3-5, 1921. U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Supply Paper 487.
Munn, James and J.L. Savage. 1922. The Flood of June, 1921, In the Arkansas River, at Pueblo, Colorado. Transactions of the American Society of Engineers. Vol. LXXXV, Issue 1, pp. 1-35.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This Month in Climate History: June 3, 1921 Colorado Flooding." NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.
Parker, Willis H. 1921. Pueblo's Flood in Pictures. Pueblo, Colo.
Rogers, J. David. “Overview of the 1921 Pueblo Flood; One of the Deadliest in American History.” Slide show presentation.
Sloan, Thomas, Stephanie Armijo, Gary Dixon, and Jordan Everhart. 1921: The Great Pueblo Flood. University of Southern California Libraries, Digital exhibit.
Telecommunications History Group. "The 1921 Pueblo, Colorado Flood." Digital exhibit.