Earthquake & Hebgen Lakes

31 March 2021 by 1der Girl

Earthquake & Hebgen Lakes

The plan is to head Wyoming, where there are no shelter-in-place orders, and then make our way to the Fontanelle Reservoir. It was really sad to leave Montana as we really love it here. But since we feel like we are now living on the lam, we must go.

We took our time in the morning getting Beastie organized for getting back on the road. We really wanted to pack up a bunch of our ski gear and send it home to give us more room, but in the end, we decided not to. This is tough, because having to look at my skis and ski boots every day knowing they can't be used is depressing. Oh well. At least we were able to squish down a bunch of our bulky gear and get them into a box which stores perfectly in the bottom cubie shelf.

We only drove a couple hours via US-287. Along the way, here the things we saw and places we past before we stopped for the night:

Here's just one example of the many reasons I love these road trips. You never know what you're going to see. This was in the middle of nowhere...

Earthquake Lake

We initially planned to camp here, but when we arrived, there were no facilities. It was late in the day, so we had to do a quick drive-by tour and take in the interpretive signs and snow-covered views. It was windy and FAH-REEZING, so guess who jumped out and took all the pics and read the signs to the one who stayed all cozy behind the wheel?

Earthquake Lake Main Sign

What happened at Earthquake Lake on August 17, 1959 was so tragic. From the US Forest Service website:

It was near midnight on August 17th, 1959 when an earthquake near the Madison River triggered a massive landslide. The slide moved at 100 mph and in less than 1 minute, over 80 million tons of rock crashed into the narrow canyon, blocking the Madison River and forming Earthquake Lake. This earth- changing event, known as the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, measured 7.5 on the Richter scale.  At the time it was the second largest earthquake to occur in the lower 48 states in the 20th century. Twenty-eight people lost their lives in the event.

The signs along the highway recount the details of that horrific night. I can't begin to imagine how scary and awful it was for all the people who died or experienced what is the most devastating modern geological disaster in the Rock Mountains.

To experience Earthquake Lake in the rapidly darkening sky, bitter cold and whipping winds made thinking about all those who died, and how they died, that much more profoundly sad. It also hit home that events like these could happen any time and any place. Hopefully it will never happen to us or anyone else.

We continued on and past what is, for me, the greatest, vast expanse of white I have ever seen. For miles and miles, we drove alongside a large, frozen Hebgen lake. Keep in mind it was difficult to photograph this as we were driving. Clearly it was difficult to capture the expansiveness of the scene since the images don't do it justice...

It's interested to learn how the earthquake that form Earthquake Lake impacted the dam at Hebgen Lake.  From the Visit Montana website:

Hebgen Lake is approximately fifteen miles long and four miles wide. Hebgen Lake has been called the premier stillwater fishing lake in Montana.

Hebgen Lake is a man-made lake, retained by an earth-fill dam. It was and is a popular vacation and fishing spot, near Yellowstone National Park. In 1959 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 occurred along a fault that crosses the Madison River. The quake damaged the dam, but not severely. 

The most spectacular and disastrous effect of the earthquake was the huge avalanche of rock, soil and trees that cascaded from the steep south wall of the Madison River Canyon. This slide formed a barrier that blocked the gorge and stopped the flow of the Madison River and, within a few weeks, creating Quake Lake almost 53 meters deep. The volume of material that blocked the Madison River below Hebgen Dam has been estimated at 28 - 33 million cubic meters.

It was getting too late to continue, so we pulled off the highway with the hopes of finding a place to tuck in for the night. It took awhile, but we eventually found a nice spot off a snowy road near a launch ramp for Hedgen Lake. and settled in.

Luckily 1der didn't mind going outside to grill burgers for dindin. Yum...

While we don't like pulling into a place as it's getting dark / nighttime, one of the fun things about doing so is seeing where we really are when the sun is out.

Look where we woke up!

Beastie was all tucked in last night, and we were all snuggly and cozy.
We sure love our son!!!

1der Girl
1der Girl


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