Floods at Harpers Ferry

  • 1748 – According to local legend, floodwaters drove Robert Harper from the log cabin he had acquired from Peter Stephens.
  • 1753 – “The Pumpkin Flood,” so named for the great numbers of pumpkins washed down from the gardens of nearby Indian villages.
  • 1852 – The greatest flood since the first settlers arrived at Harpers Ferry. Waterpower dams and millraces along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers suffered considerable damage.
  • 1870 – The Shenandoah River rose so rapidly that residents were trapped on Virginius Island. Floodwaters swept away homes and industry along the Shenandoah shoreline and claimed 42 lives.
  • 1877 – High water caused considerable damage to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and closed the old Shenandoah Canal for good.
  • 1889 – The rivers rose to a record height—34.8 feet—destroying the Shenandoah wagon bridge and forcing the Child & McCreight flour mill on Virginius Island to close for good.
  • 1924 – Floodwaters swept away three spans from the Bollman highway bridge across the Potomac River and forced the C&O Canal to close permanently.
  • 1936 – 36½ feet—the all-time record crest at Harpers Ferry. The Bollman highway bridge and Shenandoah bridge were swept away, while many businesses in the Lower Town were left in ruins.
  • 1942 – All-time record crest for the Shenandoah Valley—32.4 feet at Millville, West Virginia. Floodwaters reached 34 feet in Lower Town Harpers Ferry.
  • 1972 – Floodwater from Hurricane Agnes swelled to 29.7 feet here, leaving behind mud and debris in the Lower Town.
  • 1985 – The Potomac and Shenandoah rivers crested at nearly 29.8 feet in Lower Town Harpers Ferry, causing some $2 million in damage.
  • 1996January 21-22: Rain and snowmelt from the record Blizzard of January 1996—which dumped more than two feet of snow in the valleys of the Potomac and Shenandoah—caused the rivers to rise to 29.4 feet in the Lower Town. September 8: Devastating rains from the remnants of Hurricane Fran fell across the Shenandoah and Potomac basins. The rivers rose to 29.8 feet, marking the first time in the town’s history that two floods in excess of 29 feet occurred in a single year.