Big Break - What’s in a Name?


Ever wonder why this place is called “Big Break”? There was a “big break” in the levee that held back the San Joaquin River from fertile asparagus fields. Although we knew why it’s called Big Break, we searched for years trying to find out when the break broke! We found second, third, and more-hand references to 1927 and 1928.

Local Historian Carol Jensen challenged herself to find the date and circumstances surrounding the event that changed the Delta, Oakley, and later the East Bay Regional Park District. She was recently joined by Big Break Docent Steve Imialek in her efforts. After some serious sleuthing, they found the following excerpt in the County News section of the June 5, 1928 edition of the Pittsburg Post-Dispatch.

"June 2 – Several thousand acres of river bottom land, extending from the Antioch Bridge easterly along the San Joaquin River and Dutch Slough to Iron House Slough where Marsh Creek joins the main river, are inundated and all crops are probably ruined as result of a break in the river levees on the property of Mrs. Wright, formerly the California Packing Corporation ranch.

Among the properties under water are the lowlands of Diethelm and W.T. Sesnon maintained buildings. The flood waters range from four to ten feet in depth and extend south from the river a distance of more than a mile in some points. Several families of ranchers are marooned by the flood and property loss will be heavy."

Thankfully no one was reported hurt. The “Big Break” was never repaired. Though it seemed the details surrounding the event might be lost under the flood waters, Carol and Steve answered the challenge and brought the story to the surface!

These mysteries and histories, and the people who bring them to light, enrich our appreciation and wonder for our parks. Each park is full of stories, especially the ones you make when you visit!

Photo courtesy of RHMImages

Photo courtesy of RHMImages

Jennifer Vanya