In August 1959, a massive earthquake shook the ground near Yellowstone National Park. It was such a big earth quake that it tore up a lot of roads. It also caused the whole side of a mountain to come crashing down. That’s a lot of rocks and dirts!
Shortly after the earthquake, people that lived near the Madison River noticed a very strange thing – there was no water in the river! The reason there was no water was that the river was blocked. All the dirt and rocks from the fallen mountain had piled up in the canyon where the river normally passed through, making a dam. All the water was piling up behind the new dam.
There were about 250 people camping near the river that night. All of a sudden, they noticed the river getting higher and higher. The tents that were close to the river got flooded. The people tried to leave – but they couldn’t.
When the people went downstream the road was buried by all the rocks and dirt that had fallen from the mountain. When they went upstream the road was flooded by all the extra water in the river. They were trapped.
The trapped campers started climbing up to high ground hoping the water wouldn’t get high enough to reach them.
Two things happened then. One thing is that smoke jumpers came to rescue the campers. Smoke jumpers are people who normally jump out of airplanes with parachutes to put out forest fires. Now, they jumped down to the trapped people with food and first aid equipment. They were able to rescue all the people and get them out.
The other thing that happened was that the Army Corps of Engineers realized how dangerous the new dam of rocks and dirt was. It was holding back a lot of water – for now. The engineers were afraid that the new dam would not be able to hold all the water and would break.
If the dam broke, lots of water would go rushing down below. If that happened there would be a huge flood and lots of houses would be destroyed.
The Corps of Engineers raced to the new dam with bulldozers and other equipment. They quickly dug a channel through the rubble so the water could pass through. That way there was no flood.
Even so, the dirt and rocks from the mountain created a small dam and a small lake formed behind it. You can see where the lake flooded the land because there are still trees there. The trees in the lake are dead now because they can’t live in water, but all those trees were on dry ground fifty years ago.
They named the new lake Quake Lake because it was formed by the earthquake.