Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Night The Mountain Fell

We had left our campsite at Swan Creek in the Gallatin Canyon and were heading south on Montana state #191 going south toward West Yellowstone. Our intended destination though, as we approached the park, was a campground at
the point where the West Fork of the Madison enters the Madison River itself. As we turned west on County #1 we headed along the south shore of massive Lake Hebgen . There we, Mrs. T, Gary, Rosie and I would stop at a lookout and I would tell them about an amazing geological event that I had first seen on TV . It was
the summer of 1959 shortly after my graduation from high school. Two years previous to that event I, my younger brothers and parents had visited the selfsame area on our first trip to Yellowstone National Park. Come on along…..
Looking down
from our vantage point at some geese and lots of dead trees, a bald eagle flew over us. “Do you see that bare
area on the hill we’re looking at across the lake. Well, actually, that’s a mountain across Quake Lake”. It was there,
over 50 years ago, that
a very strong earthquake in the area caused the side of the mountain to
collapse. It blocked the Madison River
below Lake Hebgin and its earthen dam. The
initial shock ( they last for
hours) caused a twenty foot tidal wave to
top and seriously damage the earthen dam which created Lake Hebgen and
and then roared into the canyon below at same time as the mountain
collapsed. In the process it buried, with 80 million tons of rubble,
people who were camping in a National Forest Service campground at the base of the mountain. The slide blocked the river to create Quake Lake. Survivors were trapped as roads & buildings throughout the area were damaged and destroyed. A eighty year old woman awaken by a rumble went to her front door and managed to leap to safety with her dog as her house
fell away underneath here into the lake (yes the dog survived as well). A
massive rescue effort began that morning to save the trapped and the injured.
An addendum:
As I was writing up this post about a famous earthquake my thoughts were drawn to the power of mother nature and stories I had read of the survivors and rescuers of the Montana/Yellowstone .
My sons family has a similar story. He and his wife went to Haiti several years back now to help after the massive earthquake which destroyed so much of that country.
The picture below shows their family. One from Fargo, North Dakota, one from Ethiopia, one Rwanda and one from Haiti, who survived being buried in the ruble of that catastrophe for three days. Unable to walk she was brought to Denver Childrens hospital for two major operations. She can walk to school now and argues with her new siblings over whose turn it is to ride a bike....


  1. love that special blended family! mother nature is a force that cannot be penned.

  2. Very interesting story. I'm going to have to research more details on Quake Lake!

    Beautiful family!

  3. You are right about the power of Mother Nature. I remember being in Colorado when the Big Thompson Flood occurred, and more than a hundred people were swept away in the flash flood. I went to see the damage a few weeks later and was awestruck.

    What a wonderful story about the earthquake, the lake, and the family that came about because of concern and love for one another.

  4. I remember hearing that story as a kid. my family had gone camping in the Yellowstones and a fellow was telling the story over the campfires. Needless to say I didn't sleep well the rest of the time we were there,

  5. Nature can be so destructive, but some good always seems to come of it!

  6. I remember that earthquake so well. I was just starting junior high. We were still in bed when the house started shaking and our beds were shaking hard. I had never experienced an earthquake before but I knew just what it was. But just imagine how hard the shaking was in Yellowstone, it we felt it that much in Ogden, Utah, hundreds of miles away from the epicenter. I've experienced other quakes since then, much milder ones. I'll never forget that one.

  7. Always interesting to see how the destruction of Mother Nature can have some positive effects.

  8. Wow... what a wonderful story to remind us of the fragility of life and the power of love. :c)

  9. I've read about the Lake Hebgen dam collapse, and it definitely shows nature's awesome power.
    Love the photo of your grandchildren. The granddaughter from Haiti has an amazing story of courage and survival. I'm so glad she's in a safe place now and part of such a wonderful family.

  10. What a beautiful bunch of Grands!! They are lucky to have you for a Grandpa!
    I have never heard of that Quake before..but I can imagine the time we camped along the Gallatin near Big Sky..the river canyon had some high walls..I always wondered what would happen in an earthquake..not so sure I could camp there again:)

  11. i like the photo of dead trees---they look beautiful in that picture.

  12. Cute kids! I never want to be in an earthquake.

  13. The way nature forms our terrain is fascinating. On a larger scale, the Palouse of Eastern Washington is thought to have been formed when Lake Missoula had one of it's emptying events when the ice dam collapsed. I have read that the particular geography, which puzzled geologists, was deciphered when we took to the air, and the formations could be seen on a larger scale. From the air, it looks like sand on the beach that has been washed by waves.

  14. What a lovely lucky girl. And what a lovely lucky family.

  15. That earthquake sounds awful. Such destruction! Your son has a beautiful family.

  16. We don't have to worry about Earthquakes too much in Saskatchewan. Just Tornados and winter storms! LOL!

    How wonderful that your sons family went to Haiti and helped out. Beautiful!

    xo Catherine

  17. I'm familiar with the Hebgen Lake/Quake Lake story and am glad you retold it here - I especially find the video-slide show at the visitor there to be fascinating.
    But the real treat of this post is the photo of your grandkids - WOW!

  18. This is a wonderful story. The children are beautiful.

  19. So much scary out there... earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados. But sometimes bad things bring good things - look at those little kids! How cool is that?

  20. A wonderful bedtime story.

    Thank you,