Union Depot crash, Pueblo flood 1921


Through the Lens: The Aftermath of the 1921 Pueblo Flood

In the days that followed, photographers documented the destruction wrought by the flood. A century later, their images are powerful testimonies to the devastating scale of the catastrophe.

Photographers were among the first to survey the devastation caused by the flood of 1921 in Pueblo and the surrounding area. Their images captured rail lines washed away and tracks irreparably twisted. They documented overturned freight and passenger trains tipped by the force of the floodwaters. Everywhere they pointed their lens, the wreckage was catastrophic.

These images of the flood were compiled in a photo book, which J. Russell, the general manager of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, offered as a gift to Rio Grande workers. The book is stamped with the name of J.W. Martz, the assistant superintendent of the railway at the time of the flood. Martz later gave it to a Mr. Granger, as indicated by a handwritten note to Granger. The images from the book have recently been digitized, and here we share a few of them.

The captions are the original notations in the book.

1921 Pueblo Flood aerial view

Where destruction was greatest, aerial view.

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Nuckolls Plant and bridges, 1921 Pueblo flood

Mo. Pacific Terminal, Nuckolls Plant and Lower Sante Fe bridge from the air.

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Union Depot, Pueblo flood 1921

Street in front of Union Depot at daylight, June 4th.

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Union Depot crash, Pueblo flood 1921

Track Side of Union Depot. Business Car 5B wrecked.

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Freight car crashed into Arcadia Hotel in Pueblo Flood of 1921

An uninvited guest.

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Walker yard south of “C” Street Viaduct, Pueblo flood 1921

Walker yard south of “C” Street Viaduct.

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Rio Grande and Santa Fe Bridges, Pueblo flood of 1921

Cars and house substituted for north approach of Rio Grande and Sante Fe bridges at Pueblo.

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Wreckage on South Union Avenue, Pueblo flood 1921

Wreckage on South Union Avenue.

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Railroad Bridge 126B, Pueblo flood of 1921

Steel work of Bridge 126B was left undisturbed without rails or ties.

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Washout at Brook Ranch, Pueblo flood of 1921

Washout at Brook Ranch east of Swallows. One track gone, the other hanging.

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Main Street at Portland, Pueblo flood of 1921

The Main Street at Portland. Note high water mark on buildings.

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More from The Colorado Magazine

How Many People Died During the Pueblo Flood? Pueblo-based professor Jonathan Rees searched for the answer to the perpetual question of just how many deaths the Great Flood of 1921 had caused. What he came away with was even more important: a sense of the flood’s impact in shaping the city of Pueblo, even to this day.

Photographing the George Floyd ProtestsHistory Colorado’s photographers documented the protests for racial justice across the state during the summer of 2020.