Remember When That SF Staircase Became a Waterfall?

With the current atmospheric river swirling around the Bay Area, let’s revisit that time last spring when the Vulcan Steps flooded.

San Francisco has no shortage of superb staircases — some tiled, some not; many of which are tended by doting communities — to ascend and descend. Even on rainy, cloudy, otherwise gloomy days, the city’s smattering of sublime staircases offer serendipitous adventures around virtually every corner.

Under certain conditions — like, say, a torrential downpour or broken water pipe —they can shapeshift into urban waterfalls that leave passersby both perplexed and captivated. And such an instance cascaded down the Saturn Street Stairs at Corona Heights in 2022.

In the video uploaded by @VulcanStairway on Twitter this past April, the short four-second clip shows a deluge of muddy brown, clay-colored water rushing down concrete Saturn Street Stairs — a locally adored staircase located just half a block from the more well-known Vulcan Steps, connecting Ord Street on the lower end to Saturn Street on the upper.

It’s little wonder why this impromptu waterfall has been dubbed “Saturn Falls” by onlookers and social media users.

At a little over a block long, Saturn Street Steps wander through gardens cared for by the neighbors who live on either side; it’s a similar communal frequency to what the 22nd Street Jungle Steps resonate on. Much like the Vulcan Steps, many of the houses on the Saturn Stairs are accessible only by foot.

The Saturn Street Stairs, themselves, are constructed from a mix of materials. While the upper and lower ends of the stairs are concrete — the material the water is seen moving over in the video — the center bits are comprised of lumber and packed soil to form parts of the stairs. It’s that eroded earth that adds to the beige-hued water seen making its way down the Saturn Falls.

When it’s not doubling as an urban waterfall or slicked with rain from a historic bomb cyclone, the Saturn Street Stairs offer accessible benches and views of the city to contemplate the cosmos, all while finding gratitude in the fact that you’re, somehow, being given the chance to occupy this bag of protein and enzymes.

Now the pressing question remains: How did the spontaneous waterfall begin in the first place? Well, as it so happens, this isn’t the first time Saturn Falls made an appearance on the cherished stairs. Hoodline reported back in 2015 of a similar occurrence, citing that the flooding was caused by a ruptured water main; the water “bubbled out of a hole in the ground, flowing down the stairs.”

While we do love a random cascade on a weekday, it’s worth mentioning that the entire Bay Area is still under severe weather conditions; today’s strong winds are expected to linger into tonight and have already caused countless trees to fall, energy to go out, and flooded backyards and basement apartments.

Stay safe, Bay Area. We’re not out of these rain-soaked woods yet.

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