Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Thursday, August 1, 2019

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  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 Yellowstone earthquake.
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 then family  from left to right  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. Legs crushed and 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.... More recently Tony's wife bore twins  and the family continues to grow


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. I remember that massive '59 earthquake in Yellowstone. Congrats to you on the newest grandchildren added to your clan!

  4. That is quite the wonderful family.

  5. Don't remember that one in 59. I was just out of school two years and news wasn't what it is today. That picture tells the story. What an amazing family your son has. You must be so proud of him.

  6. I think I was in the 8th grade, but I remember it being on the radio and papers. My best to you and your bride.

  7. What a wonderful story of a family of choice, and earthquakes and their aftermath.

  8. I don't recall that happening, but in 1959 we had no television and my parents rarely bought a paper...sometimes the Sunday paper:) Wow you have such beautiful grands!! Twins wonderful!

  9. In 1959 my family subscribed to our small Mississippi town's daily, but I don't recall news or conversation about that catastrophic event. This post was riveting, including grandkid report and photo!

  10. When we built our house, my husband asked our insurance rep if people around here buy earthquake insurance. He said, "Pretty much only the geology professors at Clemson University." Yep, we bought the insurance only to find out that we indeed live only fifteen miles from a fault that has not been active for years and years. Love the blended family.

  11. Hi Ray - gosh what an amazing story ... while how very fortunate life can be for some after that appalling tragedy ... bet the family love life now ... so pleased for them - cheers Hilary