Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near West Yellowstone in Gallatin County, Montana — The American West (Mountains)
 

Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake

 
 
Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
1. Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake
Inscription. By 1898 a 10-foot wide road was built through the Gallatin Canyon to Taylors Fork and the park line. In 1911 a crude, narrow wagon road went to "Yellowstone" (West Yellowstone), 90 miles from the county seat at Bozeman. In 1926, the road was graveled. West Yellowstone started with the coming of the railroad in 1908.

This area contains many historical interests: Hebgen Lake and dam, Quake Lake and the Madison River Earthquake Visitor's Center at the site of the August 17, 1959 mountain slide.

Near here was the Grayling Post Office that served from 1989 to 1951. Missouri Flats (Madison County) was homesteaded by people from Missouri in 1911. Still standing in the ghost town of Cliff Lake in Madison county (2002) are the school, teacherage, store and post office. The Fir Ridge Cemetery overlooks Hebgen Lake.
 
Erected 2002 by Montana Cultural Trust and Gallatin County Historical Society.
 
Location. 44° 48.104′ N, 111° 10.031′ W. Marker is near West Yellowstone, Montana, in Gallatin County. Marker is on Hebgen Lake Road (U.S. 287) 3.5 miles west of U.S. 191, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. There are two other signs at this location: a large US National Forest Sign: "Madison River

Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
2. Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area
Three signs along US Highway 287 mark the east entrance to the Madison Canyon Earthquake Area. This area includes Hebgen Lake, Earthquake Lake, the Ghost Town of Cliff Lake, the Refuge Point memorial marker, the Madison Canyon Landslide Dam (created by the earthquake), and the Madison River Earthquake Visitor's Center.
Canyon Earthquake Area, Gallatin National Forest", and a "geological phenomenon" placard atop a rock pedestal. These signs are located with the historical marker in a pull-out alongside the road. Marker is at or near this postal address: 19002 Hebgen Lake Road, West Yellowstone MT 59758, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Southern Gallatin County (approx. 9.3 miles away); Union Pacific Identification Pylon (approx. 10.5 miles away); Madison River (approx. 12.2 miles away in Wyoming); Land of Lodgepoles (approx. 12.3 miles away in Wyoming).
 
More about this marker. The marker is in good condition, although a bit faded after many years in the Montana sunshine. The US National Forest sign and the "geological phenomenon" sign are also looking a bit aged.
 
Regarding Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake. On the night of August 17, 1959, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in Madison River Canyon caused a massive landslide. The landslide created a dam that sealed the west end of the canyon, blocking the flow of the river and creating a new lake overnight. The earthquake caused over 28 fatalities and changed Madison Canyon forever.
 
Related marker.
Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
3. Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area
Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Montana Traveler: Madison River Canyon Earthquake Area. This article, from Montana The Magazine of Western History, presents historic pictures, diagrams and a detailed description of the Madison River Canyon Earthquake. (Submitted on August 20, 2012, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

2. The 1959 Yellowstone earthquake, also known as the Hebgen Lake earthquake. This Wikipedia link has detailed information and more historical pictures of the Madison River Canyon earthquake. (Submitted on August 20, 2012, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

3. Madison River Canyon Earthquake: Where life and land changed in an instant. This article describes some of the earthquake events and also the road through Madison Canyon as you see it today. (Submitted on August 20, 2012, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Categories. Cemeteries & Burial SitesDisasters
 
US Forest Service Geological Area Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
4. US Forest Service Geological Area Marker
On the marker: "This area is preserved for public enlightenment and scientific study of the many phenomenon resulting from the August 17, 1959 earthquake."
The Seismic Shake that Shaped this Lake image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
5. The Seismic Shake that Shaped this Lake
On the marker: "Over three miles of former US Highway 287 are under Earthquake Lake and landslide debris. A new road now exists along the north shore. At 11:37 PM on August 17, 1959 an earthquake shook this area and triggered a massive landslide. Rushing currents of the Madison River were blocked and churned behind the massive rock dam created by the slide. The landscape instantly changed, more than 28 lives were lost, and a lake formed."
Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
6. Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana
Long view of Earthquake Lake, looking towards the rockslide dam at the west end of Madison Canyon.
Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
7. Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana
View of dead tree tops rising from north side of Earthquake Lake, looking east. Before the earthquake, these were tall, healthy trees along the north bank of the Madison River.
Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
8. Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana
Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
9. Earthquake Lake, Madison River Canyon, Montana
Refuge Point, Madison River Canyon, Montana image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
10. Refuge Point, Madison River Canyon, Montana
On the marker: "On the night of the earthquake about 250 people were camped in the Madison River Canyon. Their escape was blocked by the highway destruction at Hebgen Lake and the huge slide at the mouth of the canyon. Realizing they were trapped, most of the people gathered on the ridge behind this sign. The misery and confusion of the night was relieved by many acts of kindness and mutual assistance. A Forest Service Smokejumper rescue team parachuted to this point to give first aid and prepare the injured for evacuation. They were flown from the area by U.S. Air Force and Forest Service contract helicopters."
Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
11. Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam
Looking east toward the rockslide dam created by the earthquake. The rockslide immediately blocked the west end of Madison River Canyon. After the earthquake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hurriedly cut a spillway through the rockslide dam to avert a possible flood downstream.
Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
12. Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam
View across rockslide dam, looking from north to south.
Madison River Canyon Landslide image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
13. Madison River Canyon Landslide
Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
14. Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam
View towards the east, from atop the rockslide dam. The Madison Canyon Earthquake Visitor's Center is visible near the center, with Earthquake Lake in the background. Beyond the Visitor's Center, on the right, is the new US Highway 287. The original US Highway 287 is buried under the rockslide dam.
Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
15. Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam
View of the Madison River and new US Highway 287 looking west from atop the rockslide dam.
Giant Dolomite Boulders image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
16. Giant Dolomite Boulders
View looking east, from atop north edge of rockslide dam. You can see two giant dolomite boulders, (one in the foreground and another behind it in the background), sitting on top of the rockslide.
Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
17. Madison River Canyon Landslide Dam
View from the south side of the rockslide dam, looking north. These two emormous dolomite boulders slid from the opposite side of the canyon. They were probably part of a supporting buttress that held the mountainside in place before the earthquake. The earthquake cracked the buttress and a mass of older brittle rock behind it pushed and carried the boulders across the canyon.
Madison River Canyon, South Wall image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
18. Madison River Canyon, South Wall
View of the south face of Madison River Canyon, from the rockslide dam. The missing canyon face of this mountain crumbled during the earthquake and slid down creating the rockslide dam.
Madison River Canyon, South Wall image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
19. Madison River Canyon, South Wall
The circular outcrop on the side of the mountain is a remnant of the dolomite buttress.
Giant Dolomite Boulder & Memorial Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
20. Giant Dolomite Boulder & Memorial Marker
On the placard: "Nineteen people lie buried beneath the landslide that you are standing on. Tragedy struck 250 campers in the Madison River Canyon when the 7.5 Richter scale earthquake shook these mountains. Choking dust clouds filled the air. Waves coursed Hebgen Lake and the Madison River. Boulders crashed, mountains slid, families were separated; some members injured, others lost forever. Escape was blocked until help arrived after daylight. A memorial plaque on the large dolomite boulder above and behind this sign commemorates the 28 men, women and children who lost their lives as a result of the Madison River Canyon Earthquake."
Madison Canyon Earthquake Memorial Boulder image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
21. Madison Canyon Earthquake Memorial Boulder
View of giant dolomite boulder, from atop the rockslide dam, looking southeast towards the Visitor's Center and Earthquake Lake.
Madison Canyon Earthquake Memorial Boulder image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
22. Madison Canyon Earthquake Memorial Boulder
On the placard: "This 3000 ton dolomite boulder rode the crest of the slide across the canyon. Undisturbed lichens on its side to your left indicate it did not roll or tumble while crossing. The bronze memorial plaque can be seen on the other side of the boulder."
In Memoriam image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010
23. In Memoriam
This boulder is part of the huge slide caused by the earthquake of August 17, 1959. It is dedicated to the memory of the men, women and children whose lives were lost as a result of the earthquake. Dedicated by the USDA Forest Service, August 17, 1960.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 15, 2012, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 1,707 times since then and 260 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. submitted on August 15, 2012, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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