On August 17th 1959 at 11:37 P.M., Jerry Yetter, living in the Duck Creek area, was suddenly awakened by the shaking of his home. He and his wife barely escaped from their cabin as it partially collapsed. These experiences, and those of hundreds of others, were a result of the biggest earthquake to ever hit Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area.
The quake caused 80 million tons of dirt and trees to slide from the southeast side of the canyon into the Madison River at an estimated 100 miles per hour. The force of the slide displaced both the air in the canyon and the water in the Madison River below and buried the Rock Creek public campground. The slide created a barrier across the Madison River that formed a new lake that still exists today, Quake Lake. All told, twenty-eight people lost their lives in the quake and its aftermath.
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Hebgen Lake earthquake and slide. Four full days of activities and presentations from August 14th through August 17th, 2009 are planned to commemorate the event. Sponsored by the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center (Hebgen Lake District of the Gallatin National Forest), events will be held at different locations including the Madison River Earthquake Visitor’s Center, the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce Auditorium, Guided walks will take place at Red Canyon fault and the Hebgen Lake fault, Ghost Village, and other sites in the Madison River Canyon earthquake area.
On Friday, August 14, 2009, at the opening ceremony at the Earthquake Visitor Center, Jerry Yetter will be talking about his experience. Jerry’s first-hand story, and those of eight other survivors and rescue workers, is just one part of many great events that will be taking place from Friday, August 14th through Monday, August 17th, 2009.
In addition to the opening ceremonies at the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center on Friday, Jack Epstein, U.S.G.S. Geologist in 1959, and Dave Lageson, from M.S.U. Earth Science, will be giving a Friday night program at the West Yellowstone Visitor Center. Programs for Saturday will include field trips to the Hebgen Lake and Red Canyon faults, guided walks from Refuge Point to Halford’s Camp, a book signing by Doug Huigen, and more evening presentations.
Sunday offers a special Smokejumper program and proficiency jump at Refuge point at 9:00 A.M. The 1959 smokejumpers that jumped at Refuge point and Hebgen dam will be presented to answer questions. Later that afternoon, there will be an Open House for ‘59 Hebgen Lake Earthquake Survivors, Rescue Workers and Families from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M., with survivor talks at 2 and 3 P.M. Monday’s events include more survivor talks and a special memorial service at the Quake Lake Visitor Center.
For call Joanne Girvin, Hebgen Lake Ranger District Information Officer, at 406/823-6965 of Gallatin National Forest.