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The history that shaped Earthquake Lake

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Refuge Point Overlook, where the public can view a practice smokejump on Aug. 18 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Hebgen Lake Earthquake. PHOTO COURTESY OF CUSTER GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST

60th anniversary events commemorate earthquake and tragic loss

CUSTER GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST

Sixty years have passed since the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake on Aug. 17, 1959, but the evidence of its marks on the natural landscape provide a prominent lasting memory. Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, the Earthquake Lake Visitor’s Center and Geologic Area, as part of the Hebgen Lake Ranger District within the Custer Gallatin National Forest will remember the 60th anniversary of the event that shaped its history. This 7.3 magnitude earthquake triggered a landslide that blocked the Madison River, killing 28 people and forming Earthquake Lake. 

As part of acknowledging and remembering this tragic event, the Earthquake Lake Visitor’s Center focuses in part on the historic and geologic make-up of the area, giving people that walk through for just a couple of hours or spend most of the day a lasting learning experience. Throughout August the visitor’s center will host a daily Junior Geology Ranger program for children ages nine and up, along with guest speakers, hikes, a smokejumper practice and viewing at Refuge Point, and a memorial service with book signings. 

Schedule of Events:

Aug. 3 and 10

10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Guided landslide walk to Memorial Boulder. This will be a short, handicap-accessible walk telling the story of the Earthquake and providing stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can choose to do a short 1/8-mile hike to Memorial Boulder or continue on an unpaved gravel path on Landslide Trail approximately one mile.

Aug. 8

1 and 3 p.m.

Interpretive afternoon with Leslie Quinn and Mike Stickney. At 1 p.m., Quinn will host an event called “Shake, Rattle and Roll: 60 years Since the Hebgen Lake Earthquake.” At 3 p.m., Stickney, the director of earthquake studies for the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, will speak to the 1959 quake and geology.

Aug. 16

2 p.m.

Guest speaker Jamie Farrell, assistant professor of seismograph stations from the University of Utah, will speak at the visitor’s center.

Aug. 17

10:30 a.m.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Memorial Boulder with Pastor Benny McCraken followed by memories from survivors. Rock Creek Campground survivors will share their stories from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Book signing will be available throughout the day by Larry Morris, author of “1959 Yellowstone Earthquake,” and Anita Painter Thon, who penned “Shaken in the Night.”

Aug. 18

11 a.m.

Smokejumper practice jump at Refuge Point. Smokejumpers, often used to access remote areas, were one of the first to aid survivors. View a jump in action and walk the 2.5-mile trail around Refuge Point. Bring bear spray, water and a picnic lunch to enjoy the day with the family. For more information call (406) 682-7620.

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