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Santa Fe Dam
SanGabrielRiverCA ASTER 2005jan23.jpg
Satellite view of four of the five major dams on the San Gabriel River system. Santa Fe Dam is the large structure on the bottom left (southwest).
Country United States
Location Azusa, California
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Construction began 1941
Opening date 1949
Owner(s) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Earthfill
Impounds San Gabriel River
Height 92 ft (28 m)
Length 23,800 ft (7,300 m)
Dam volume 12,033,000 cu yd (9,200,000 m3)
Spillway type Uncontrolled overflow
Spillway capacity 200,000 cu ft/s (5,700 m3/s)
Creates Santa Fe Flood Control Basin
Total capacity 45,409 acre⋅ft (56,011,000 m3)
Catchment area 236 sq mi (610 km2)
Surface area 1,000 acres (400 ha)
Power station
Hydraulic head 87 ft (27 m)
Face of Santa Fe Dam
Detail of trash rack before the inlet to Santa Fe Dam
Indicator measuring water level behind Santa Fe Dam

Santa Fe Dam is a flood-control dam on the San Gabriel River located a few miles southwest of Azusa in Los Angeles County, California. For most of the year, the 92-foot (28 m)-high dam and its reservoir lie empty, but can hold more than 45,000 acre feet (56,000,000 m3) of water during major storms. During the dry season, the basin behind the dam is used for groundwater recharge, as well as various recreational activities.


Construction of the dam began in 1941 under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), mainly in response to major floods on the river in 1938; however, work stopped in 1943 and did not resume again until 1946 due to the unlucky intervention of a major flood and World War II. The dam embankment and spillway were completed in early 1947, and the entire project was finished in January 1949 with the installation of the spillway gates, four months ahead of schedule.


The dam functions as a dry dam, with its reservoir empty most of the year. During large floods, water is stored behind the dam and then released as quickly as possible without exceeding the capacity of downstream levees. Releases from Santa Fe are coordinated with Whittier Narrows Dam 10 miles (16 km) downstream, as well as the upstream Cogswell, San Gabriel and Morris Dams, to provide flood protection to cities along the San Gabriel River. By capacity, it is the second largest dam along the San Gabriel, after Whittier Narrows.

During the summer and autumn months, most of the water flowing into the Santa Fe reservoir is diverted into the Santa Fe Spreading Grounds, located near the upper end of the flood control basin, helping to recharge groundwater levels in the San Gabriel Valley. Excess inflow can be sent to the Peck Road Water Conservation Area and additional spreading grounds along the Rio Hondo. As a result, the San Gabriel River channel below the dam is often bone dry. Most of the spreading grounds are owned and maintained by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, reclaiming an average of 110,000 acre⋅ft (140,000,000 m3) of water each year.


During most of the year, the empty reservoir behind the Santa Fe Dam is used for recreational purposes. The Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, located in Irwindale, is an 836-acre (338 ha) multi-use facility located behind the dam.

The park's mainstay is a 70-acre (28 ha) lake with boat rentals, fishing, a swimming beach, hiking trails, and California native plants and chaparral habitat conservation areas.

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