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Exploring Montana: Quake Lake

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

This is the very last adventure I went on in Summer 2019. Sunday afternoon was our day off from trail rides and clients so to get away from the ever ringing phone and the house for a day, we decided to go on a drive.

It had been quite a while since I had been through the West Entrance of Yellowstone and I had never been to Quake Lake although I listened to my Grandpa's story about it more than once a summer for years.

It turns out that last year was the 60th Anniversary of one fateful camping night back in 1959! Back then this area was a really popular place for camping and fishing. One of those places you had to get to early if you wanted a spot.

August 17, 1959, changed the lives of everyone in the valley! From vacationing families and a troop of Boy Scouts to the locals who catered visitor needs. At 11:37 p.m. one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the U.S. shook everyone from their sleep!

Bears having been sighted in the area crawling up on top of campers and shaking them, a few campers attributed this initial disturbance to a bear making their camper its next bed for the night. It didn't take long to find out how truly wrong they were as the 175 square miles of land surrounding Hebgen Lake Earthquake dropped as much as 22 feet.

My Mom always described it to me as the mountain moving on top of the campground in the middle of the night. As a little girl, she made it sound to me like the campers had gone to sleep and had simply never woken up buried forever beneath the mountain. Certainly, there was some of that, but the quake also had several survivors. Claiming 28 lives and forming one new lake, this valley is still eerie to visit today.

The new lake formed from the landslide damming the Madison River was dubbed Quake Lake.

Quake Lake
Quake Lake by Laura Redmond Heart of Wyoming Photography

It's too much to explore all of their stories in just one blog post, but I highly recommend visiting the Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake Visitor Center. You can even camp in the area if you so desire. I think this is one place I'll enjoy the history of in the daylight and find somewhere else to set up my tent.

What is the scariest thing that happened to you while camping? Would you stay the night at Quake Lake?

Thank you, fellow adventurers! You can follow the lilmissbearpaw blog page on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lilmissbearpaw for sneak peeks into upcoming posts and my adventures. This will also be a great place to share your own adventures!

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