Hysterical Journey to Historic Places

Published: August 18th 2017
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I had just turned 11 years old when this tragic landslide happened and remember it well. It didn't dampen my enthusiasm for camping though. It did, however, dampen the enthusiasm for construction of the Auburn Dam which was also being built over a trifling little fault.

On August 17, 1959 an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale rattled through the Madison River Gorge near Hebgen Dam. Twenty-eight people camped along the Shore of Hebgen Lake and along the river below the dam were killed when an 80 million ton landslide fetched loose from Sheep Mountain and came crashing down on top of them. The landslide blocked the river and Quake Lake formed behind it until the backed up water could form a new channel for the Madison River. Hebgen Dam was a stout structure built in 1917 and it was damaged but held. The new channel will continue to eat its way through the landslide I suppose until it reaches its original gradient and then Quake Lake will disappear. The new gorge it carves will continue to be unstable and will most likely collapse into itself from time to time. The 28 bodies were never recovered.


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