Quake Lake, West Yellowstone, and ‘Snaggletooth’ – Part 3

On our way to Virginia City from Idaho Falls this past Memorial Day weekend, we stopped at the Quake Lake Visitors Center. It’s on Highway 287 about 44 miles south of Ennis, in southwestern Montana. The center sits at the site where, near midnight on August 17th, 1959, 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 were killed, mostly campers along Hebgen Lake. In the Visitors Center you can read personal accounts of the event from survivors. Children who lost siblings and parents, wives or husbands who lost their spouses and children. A large boulder fell on a tent, killing a whole family, but their car parked next to the tent was untouched. Here is an arial photo of the landslide I found on the internet:


According to this wikipedia link, Hebgen Dam, built in 1917, sustained severe damage but continued to hold. The landslide, which occurred downstream from the dam, blocked almost all the flow of the Madison River. In less than a month, the waters had created what is now known as Quake Lake. Before the new landslide was breached by the quickly rising waters, a spillway was constructed to ensure erosion and minimize potential failure of the natural dam.

Eric led us on a detour off of 287 to visit two other Lakes, Cliff and Wade lakes, and coming back I shot my own distant photo of the landslide in the Madison River Canyon:

Landslide in Madison River Canyon

Landslide in Madison River Canyon

I captured these photos of Quake Lake:


Quake Lake

Quake Lake

Today, Quake Lake is 190 feet deep and 6 miles long.

Continuing on 287 toward West Yellowstone, we’re now driving past Hebgen Lake:


The town of West Yellowstone, at the west entrance to Yellowstone Park, has a Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The Center houses a Grizzly Bear Habitat and three wolf habitats. The Grizzlies have been rescued from the wild or otherwise might have been put down due to their encounters with people. Kabuki and Nakina were out in the Habitat for us to see. (They have 8 bears they bring out at different times.) Here’s my photo of Nakina, who was the more active of the two:

Nakina, the Grizzly

Nakina, the Grizzly

Kabul and Nakina, brother and sister, were orphaned as cubs in 1998 after a landowner killed their mother and brother in Delta Junction, Alaska.

An IMAX theater is adjacent to the the Bear and Wolf Discovery Center, and across the street is another museum Eric made sure we didn’t miss, the Yellowstone Historical Center. (Here’s a link with a photo of the Historical Center and to learn more about the town of West Yellowstone, population < 1200 people.)

Inside the museum now, looking at freight wagons. Prior to 1915, almost all goods that reached the West were bounced across a trail or dirt road via freight wagons, piled high with goods such as food, building materials, feed for horses, and an infinite variety of other necessities, to stagecoach companies, camping companies and hotels in Yellowstone.

Freight Wagons

Freight Wagons

These wagons were used all over the American West.

Then you have the Sinter, an 8-passenger coach early travelers rode through Yellowstone Park:

The Sinter

The Sinter

A typical trip took five days over the grand loop. Transportation through the park in the summer evolved to the coach preferable to modern man, on display out in front of the museum:

Modern coaches through Yellowstone, okay, now we're talkin'

Modern coaches through Yellowstone, okay, now we’re talkin’

But the real reason Eric dragged us all across the street to the Historical Museum was to see ‘Snaggletooth’. Standing nearly 8 feet tall and weighing 800-1000 pounds, this giant grizzly ‘reigned as monarch’ in Yellowstone Park. His name came from a tooth which protruded from his lower jaw. Except, his favorite hangout happened to be the West Yellowstone city dump. Two poachers from Idaho shot and killed him there in May, 1970. Here’s a link to the newspaper article about Snaggletooth’s death.

Meet Snaggletooth! Megan posed first:


Then Ben and Rhonda:


Lastly, Eric:


Yeah. Be doubly afraid, Eric.

Whereas Snaggletooth is poised, in one stroke, to rip off the top of your head, are you also aware of that razor-sharp-clawed beast on your chest about to tear your left hand to shreds?

Well, that about wraps up our Memorial Day Weekend trip to Virginia City.

Uh, unless I think of something …

Don’t feed or otherwise, leave garbage accessible to bears!

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One Response to “Quake Lake, West Yellowstone, and ‘Snaggletooth’ – Part 3”

  1. mouse click the following article Says:

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    Quake Lake, West Yellowstone, and ‘Snaggletooth’ – Part 3 | The Decompression of a Boomer

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