My Views of Utah

Floods, January 2005

Washington County, Utah

Photos taken January 2005

Comparison photos taken June and July 2005

Photos by Venita*

small map

They're called deserts because of the lack of rainfall. I'm referring to the great southwest section of the United States which includes the southwest section of Utah. The average precipitation for the area is about six inches per year. The winter of 2004 - 2005 has been exceptional. Beginning in November, winter precipitation became much higher than normal. By early in January the desert had received 400% of its expected rainfal which filled the reservoirs to overflowing and turned normally miniature rivers into raging torrents with power comparable to the mighty Colorado River. The last flood of this magnitude in Washington County occured in the 1880s. No one expected it to happen this year nor were they prepared for the devastation that resulted.

Map of southwest Utah
Utah Highway Map: Section 12
Above: This map shows the southwest corner of Utah (Washington County) and its borders with Arizona (south) and Nevada (west). Near the name "St. George" the Virgin River is identified. It's source is in the mountains of Zion National Park. Joining the Virgin from the northwest is the Santa Clara River. They meet just south of St. George then continue southwest through the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona and on into Nevada, finally draining into Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam.

Virgin River at Washington Fields Bridge

Above: The Virgin River four days after its crest on January 12. Though contained within its banks at the time of this photo, it is much larger than usual. Normally it is a small stream, not more than a foot or so wide, meandering through the sandy river bottom. This photo was taken looking north from the Washington Fields Bridge.

Virgin River at Washington Fields Bridge

Above: Comparison photo taken at about the same place in July 2005, about six months after the flood. The river level is still higher than normal.

Evidence of Virgin overflow

Above: Moving a few feet to the west, on the other side of the river willows, we see clear evidence of flooding. The composition of the soil here prevented the type of disastrous erosion that occured along the Santa Clara.

The Virgin, looking south
Above: Looking southeast from the same bridge we see a neighborhood of homes near the riverbank. Thanks to sandbagging and the stability of the soil, most of them received little if any damage and none of them was washed away. For a time the river was wide and strong here, as evidenced by the washed down plants along the bank.

The Virgin, looking south
Above: Another comparison photo taken the same day as the one above. Notice the bank build-up on the left - an effort to prevent future damage.

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The Santa Clara River caused the most damage, at least in part because of the composition of the soil of its bed. To see some photos of what it did, go to page two.

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Many thanks to my daughter, Syd, and her husband, Mark, for allowing me to use their photos!

*Unless otherwise noted, all photos on this website were taken by Venita, who also holds the copyright. Should you wish to download any of them for any reason (other than your own enjoyment), please credit  Venita  as the photographer and add my URL:

Comments are appreciated!

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