Our History

Flood of 1913

Rescue operations on Burns Avenue during the Great 1913 Flood. Notice the water line on the building in the background.

The Miami Conservancy District was born as a direct result of the Great 1913 Flood.

Flooding was somewhat common in the Dayton region even before the Great Flood. As early as 1805, Dayton was inundated by the Great Miami River. The river overflowed its banks somewhat regularly, with flooding documented in 1814, 1828, 1832, 1847, 1866, 1883, 1897, and 1898. But the Great 1913 Flood was like no other, killing 360 people and causing more than $100 million in damages.

People who survived the devastation were determined to contain the Great Miami River once and for all. Soon after the flood, residents raised enough money to hire a young engineer named Arthur Morgan to develop a solution. MCD was officially formed in 1915. Our staff built the flood protection system of five dry dams, 43 original miles of levees, and channel improvements between 1918 and 1922. An additional 12 miles of levee were built later.

Flood protection has always been – and remains – our core mission. And, over the years, MCD has branched out to tackle emerging water issues to meet the region’s needs.

 The original system includes the five basins created by the earthen dams: Germantown, Englewood, Lockington, Taylorsville and Huffman. Downstream of the dams, levees were built in Piqua, Troy, Tipp City, Dayton, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Franklin, Middletown and Hamilton. Channel improvements were made in the cities as part of the flood protection system. Much of the land between the cities was undeveloped floodplain.

More than 2,000 men worked to build the dams and levees simultaneously. The flood protection system was the largest public works project in the world at the time and cost more than $30 million (about $500 million today). Careful attention to planning, financing, legislation and implementation resulted in the most comprehensive flood protection system in the nation.

At the end of 2021, the basins collectively had stored floodwaters 2,085 times since the original system was completed in 1922.

Several decades after the original construction, communities asked MCD to build additional levees. Most were in areas that had been undeveloped in 1913.

New levees were built at Miami Villa in Huber Heights, along the Stillwater River near Wegerzyn Center in Dayton, Miami Shores in Moraine, Coleman Plat south of Miamisburg, Middletown addition upstream of Route 122 in Middletown, and Excello downstream of Middletown. The residents of these areas and local government agencies paid for these construction projects.

MCD was the local sponsor for the Holes Creek local flood protection project in West Carrollton constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project included a channel improvement and levee and was completed in 2014.

Protect. Preserve. Promote.