Lakeview Gusher – Maricopa, California - Atlas Obscura
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Lakeview Gusher

Maricopa, California

Remnants of the United States's largest accidental oil spill still mar a California valley. 


The evidence of a 100-year-old oil spill is still visible today. An oil well blowout in California’s Central Valley disgorged a literal lake of oil big enough to launch rafts. It was the largest accidental oil spill in United States history.

In 1910, a down-on-his-luck Union Oil driller was assigned to drill a new well known as Lakeview No. 1. On March 15, 1910, the well struck oil, blowing the crown block off the top of the well and creating a flow of over 125,000 barrels a day.

Workers rushed to contain the oil, but the massive flow thwarted their initial efforts. Days turned into months. Eventually, in October of 1910, a series of berms and sandbags held back the oil. The oil continued to flow, though it was now contained, until finally coming to a stop on day 544. In the end, over 9.4 million barrels of oil were spilled into the desert.

Today, the site is a marked by a historical marker and the remains of the sand berm, still held together with stratified oil residue.

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