Friday, August 23, 2013

8/23 Earthquake Lake, Gallatin National Forest

I wasn't really expecting this, but it is always interesting to find something you didn't know about or expect as you drive.  About 20 miles northwest of West Yellowstone on U.S. 287, you pass a large lake, Hebgen Lake.  I stopped for a historic marker and saw this.  This is the site of a major fault and the largest recorded earthquake in the Rocky Mountains.

Hebgen Lake starts out just south of here in a fairly open area.  It is formed by a dam along the Madison River, and after the dam, the river goes through the Gallatin Canyon.

In 1959, a 7.5 on the Richter scale earthquake caused an enormous landslide that blocked the river downstream, trapping over 200 campers and killing 28 people.  (See  Here you can see how a large chunk of the mountain just slid down.

The river was blocked and formed a new lake between the dam and this landslide.  The campers were trapped because the road to get in and out was blocked and water was rising because of the river being blocked.  Most were able to get to higher ground, but it took a while for the forest service to rescue them and lead them out on an old unpassable road.  Made me think about having to leave my motorhome and all of my belongings in such an emergency.

This graphic shows how the canyon profile was forever changed.
The river had cut a new channel, although the newly made lake is still there.  You can see the river past the landslide as it enters a long, flat valley.

Anyway, this was an interesting place.  I stopped at several pull-offs to look at the interpretive signs and take pictures.  There is a visitor center but it is closed until May 2014. 

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