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Photo from the Floyd River Flood

Date: 1892


Description: While useful for commerce and trade, the meandering Floyd River has always been both a blessing and a curse for Sioux City. The Floyd begins in the northwest corner of O’Brien County in northern Iowa, and flows southward, meeting the Missouri at Sioux City. When heavy rainfall hits the drainage regions of the Floyd and its major tributary, Floyd West Branch, the river swells and overflows its banks. Heavy rainfall in both the Floyd and Floyd West Branch is exactly what happened in 1892, when Sioux City experienced one of the worst floods in its history. This is a photo showing the effects of the flood on downtown. The street shown is Steuben Street, looking north from Third Street. Back then Sioux City’s streets were paved with cedar blocks, which was a problem during floods because the floating wood was carried away by the river. Sioux City was in its boom era when it was hit by the flood in 1892, costing thousands in property damage and displacing many people.


The Floyd did flood frequently after 1892 but never as disastrous. That is until 1953, when heavy rainfall again pushed the Floyd over its banks with disastrous consequences. Businesses and community members came together and decided that something had to be done to tame this river for good. U. S. Representative Charles Hoeven petitioned the federal government to conduct a major re-channelization of the Floyd River. The Floyd had been re-channeled several times over the years, and sections of it had been straightened to try and control it. But these projects were not enough and Sioux City had by 1953 had been pushing for over 40 years for federal aid for a major project. The flood that occurred in 1953 helped spur government action and by 1961 the Army Corps of Engineers had begun construction on a new, and hopefully final, channel. The project was completed in 1964, and still exists in the city today.

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