Geysers, mudpots and waterfall are geological wonders that draw crowds to Yellowstone National Park. But nearby, another significant geological event is recorded and remembered. About 30 miles north of the park entrance at West Yellowstone and 30 miles south of the western town of Ennis, Montana you will see the remnants of a 7.4 earthquake which caused a massive mountain rock slide. The 1959 event caused a river to change course and a new lake to form. Today, the shadows of the trees and cabins in the bottom of the lake are still visible in the shadow of the scarred mountain.
As is often the case when nature’s forces are unleashed, there are powerful stories of lives lost and lives saved by heroic efforts. These amazing stories are told with highway markers, trails and detailed at the USFS Quake Lake Visitor’s Center along the Madison River. The earthquake re-routed the Madison River, but also impacted the economy and lives of valley residents for months afterward as travel to Yellowstone National Park through the US Highway 287 backroad route was cut-off until the road could be rebuilt.
There is a great fishing access at Cabin Creek and some easy hiking. Turn into the Campfire Lodge entrance and continue along the dirt road until you come to a parking area near the river. Plenty of wade fishing and the river is easily accessible.
Tip: The trails of Cabin Creek and Quake Lake are easy and not very long – a good way to stretch your legs before you hop back into the car on your way to more adventures.