- Quake Lake formed following an earthquake and massive landslide on August 17, 1959.
- 33 people died in the landslide and subsequent flooding, and $11 million in damage was sustained.
- Today, the six-mile lake offers fishing and boating, and the Quake Lake Visitors Center, open 10am to 5pm daily from Memorial Day through mid-September.
- Contact the Visitors Center at (406) 682-7620.
At 11:37 p.m. on August 17, 1959, the largest earthquake in Montana’s recorded history – a 7.6 on the Richter scale – shattered the quiet of West Yellowstone, Montana. Shifting faults caused 80 million tons of earth and rock to slide down Sheep Mountain at 100 miles and hour to block the Madison River below. Thirty-three people died in the slide and subsequent flooding.
When the dust settled, a new geologic wonder lay ready to be explored and studied by generations of geologists and tourists. Quake Lake serves as a six-mile-long reminder of the forces of nature that lurk beneath the region.
The Quake Lake Visitors Center, about one hour south of Big Sky, tells the dramatic story of the temblor and its aftermath. The jumble of rocks that slid from the mountain, the scars the slide left, and the trunks of trees killed by the rising flood waters tell their own story.
Just north of the Montana-Idaho border, Quake Lake is about 24 miles from West Yellowstone, Montana, on Highway 287.
Quake Lake is accessible year-round. The visitor's center is open from Memorial Day through mid-September from 10am to 5pm. Call the visitor's center at (406) 682-7620. Note the Visitor Center will be closing in July 2012 for the season due to renovations.
In addition to the geology lesson, 38,000-acre Quake Lake offers good rainbow and brown trout fishing, boating and canoeing, and, as with most places in this part of the state of Montana, scenic beauty.
The Quake Lake Visitor Center features overlooks of the slide area and the six-mile long, 190-foot-deep lake it created, as well as educational displays about earthquakes, native wildlife, and other information about the region. Outside, visitors can take a road tour of the site, marveling at the enormity of some of the boulders hurled about by the slide – one of which is adorned with a plaque memorializing those who died in the incident – and catching glimpses of the ghost village mostly submerged by the rising waters.