Floods of December 1966 in southwestern Utah

Water Supply Paper 1870-A



  • Document: Document (pdf)
  • Plates:
    • Plate 1 (pdf) Map of southwestern Utah showing stream-gaging and water-quality sampling sites, geology, vegetation, and precipitation at selected sites during period December 3-7, 1966
    • Plate 2 (pdf) Map showing location and size of radar echoes in parts of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah during December 3-6 1966
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Severe floods occurred in parts of southwestern Utah on December 5-6, 1966, as a result of precipitation of about 1 inch to more than 12 inches during December 3-6. The flood on the Virgin River was the greatest since the first settlers arrived in 1860.

The peak discharge of the Virgin River at Virgin, Utah, was 22,830 cubic feet per second on December 6; this exceeded the previous maximum discharge of 13,500 cubic feet per second on March 3, 1938, and September 17, 1961, and probably has a recurrence interval of 100 years. At eight other gage sites in the flood area, the peak discharge in December 1966 was the highest of record; the recurrence intervals of some of the peak discharges may be 100 years. The flood peaks were generally of short duration and most streams receded to near base flow within 24 hours.

The dissolved-solids content was significantly lower in the Virgin River at Virgin than at St. George, about 25 miles downstream; the water was of the calcium sulfate type at both sites. Data for the Santa Clara River above Winsor Dam and the Santa Clara River near Santa Clara show a significant increase in dissolved solids between the two sites. The water above Winsor Dam was of the calcium bicarbonate type, and the water near Santa Clara was of the calcium bicarbonate sulfate type.

The suspended-sediment discharge, during the period December 5-8, 1966, at Santa Clara River above Winsor Dam, near Santa Clara was about foyer times greater than all the suspended-sediment discharge during the preceding 3 years ; the suspended-sediment discharge of the Virgin River at Virgin was greater during the 4-day period than during any one of the preceding 3 years.

Nearly all the flood damage in the area occurred in the Virgin River basin. According to the Soil Conservation Service, total damage in the Dixie Soil Conservation District in Washington County was about $835,000; 60 percent of the damage was caused by floodwater and 40 percent by deposited sediment.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Floods of December 1966 in southwestern Utah
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Utah Water Science Center
Report: iv, 40 p.; 2 Plates: 35.50 in. x 22.11 in. and 19.50 in. x 18.05 in.
United States