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Fort Scott Historic Flood Tour
Relive history as you enjoy a self-guided tour of Fort Scott’s historic flooding. This information can be found on historic markers throughout the downtown historic district.
Visitors Center – Flood of 1885
The 1885 flood is the first catastrophic flood recorded in Fort Scott’s history. The flood washed out the railroad tracks just east of the modern day Visitors Center, as seen in the photo. The Wichita and Pacific Railroad routes were abandoned, and Bell Town became a “Sea of Water” driving out residents with all of their possessions. Though the depth of standing water is unknown, children and even horses are said to have nearly drowned awaiting rescue. The water was so deep that many small houses tipped over. The losses in this flood were in the $1,000’s, with great damage to railroad tracks, local mills, brickyards, and homes.
Skubitz Plaza – Flood of 1915
The flood of 1915 was described as the “flood of the century,” setting a then-record Marmaton River crest of 42.34 feet. A grocery store owner across from present-day Skubitz Plaza suffered a total loss, with standing water midway up the windows at nearly 5 feet high. Nearly 1,000 feet of the Frisco train line washed out and a Missouri Pacific passenger train was marooned. Mothers aboard the train, fearful of dying, tagged their children with their names and addresses in preparation for the worst. Later that night, all the passengers were rescued by boat. The photo shows part of the historic city and railroad lines during the 1915 flood. Hundreds were left homeless, and property damages exceeded $200,000.
Riverfront Park – Flood of 1886
On October 3, 1986, after nearly 20 inches of rain in 3-days, the Marmaton River crested at 52.5 feet, breaking the previous record set in 1915. For perspective, at 42 feet, all roads into Bell Town are inaccessible. Across from modern-day Riverfront Park, water stood nearly waist deep, causing the Fort Scott Cattle Sales Company to release 250 head of cattle. These cattle swam in the water, and three ended up on the roof of the home in the photo. The local newspaper read, “The only way you can get out of Fort Scott is by boat.” Of the roughly 60 businesses damaged in the flood, only a few had flood insurance. The total estimated loss was $60 million.
Riverfront Park Loop – Flood of 1931
While not much is known about the flood of 1931, local historians agree that it was one of Fort Scott’s “floods of the century.” As seen in the photo below the Marmaton River extended far beyond its banks into town. With more than 8 inches of rain in a 12 hour period the area before you was submerged with flood water. The children seen in the photo are standing in the very spot you are standing today. As you can tell, the lowground around you was flooded, with trains marooned on their tracks. This flooding resulted in the destruction of many buildings, homes and agriculture crops.
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