California Crude

Most people think the April 20, 2010 Louisiana Gulf Oil Disaster was the biggest oil spill in US history, right behind the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.


The truth is, Kern County, California has the dubious distinction of being home to the biggest oil spill in history  –  the notorious Lake View Gusher:

On March 15, 1910, in the heart of Califonia’s San Joaquin Valley oil patch near the town of Maricopa, “Dry Hole Charlie” Woods finally hit paydirt, drilling into a gigantic uncontrollable gusher that spewed 90,000 barrels of oil per day, for almost 18 months.

It created rivers and lakes of oil in the surrounding land, and some local preachers said it was the end of the world.  One is said to have remarked,  “It’s wrong to bring that stuff to the surface….  They need it down below to fuel the fires of Hell.”

The well’s oil derrick was soon destroyed, and after months, they tried to contain it with a huge wooden box:


But the box was also soon destroyed, and a crater formed around the gusher where the box once stood.

Finally, after almost a year and a half, a huge embankment of sandbags, 20 feet high and 100 feet in diameter, was built around the spewing crater:


The oil well eventually collapsed in on itself, halting the rivers of oil.




When it was all over, the Lake View Gusher had spat out 9.4 million barrels of oil (395 million gallons) into the surrounding landscape, at peak rate of 125,000 barrels a day.

The price of  crude oil fell to 30 cents a barrel.

The Deepwater Horizon blowout spilled a total of about 4.9 million barrels of oil (185 million gallons) at a peak rate of 62,000 barrels a day, for 65 days.

The price of oil shot up, and since it happened in the ocean, the consequences were much more grave.

According to an April 12, 2011 report by the Center for Biological Diversity:

“…the Center estimates that approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster. Based on the documented, ongoing effects of previous oil spills, pollution from the 2010 BP spill will continue to affect Gulf wildlife for decades.”


100 years ago in Kern County, California:

Rafting on a lake of oil from the “Lake View Gusher”


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