Curator's Corner Blog

Monthly Archives: August 2013

1908 Flood


It was June 5th, when the center part of the Higgins Avenue Bridge collapsed. The 1908 flood destroyed many houses, parks,bridges and roads in Missoula. Many people lost their houses and other properties.  For example, one house that had six rooms moved to Rattlesnake Creek at the east end of Pine Street from O.B.S. Orr’s large home in East Broadway today-crossed the creek.


“Missoulians and hundreds of stranded railroad travelers watched the dramas unfold in those rain-drenched days a century ago. They were all but shut off from the rest of the world as telegraph, telephone, road and rail lines were damaged or destroyed by the unrelenting rain.” In addition the streets were full of water and 12 people found dead in Helena, the capital city,  as well as others in Great Falls.


“But for Missoula, at least, the Missoulian’s alarmed pronouncement rang true. One hundred years later, it still does. The flood of 1908 is still the greatest natural disaster in the city’s history.The rains began May 7, after a light winter and a dry April. They pit-patted on thirsty farmlands and unpaved city streets, drumming on for a week.”


The level of water under the Higgins Bridge rose from below 4 feet to above 5 on the last day of May. A puzzled reporter wrote, “This is as high as the river rose last season, and comes as a surprise, for the deapth of snow on the mountains was expected to presage low water this summer.”