SI Vault
John O'Reilly
November 02, 1959
A unique report by a nature writer and a photographer on the cataclysmic changes at Yellowstone National Park
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November 02, 1959

Eyewitness To An Act Of God

A unique report by a nature writer and a photographer on the cataclysmic changes at Yellowstone National Park

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"There was no panic," Garrison said. "We were a little itchy, but it was a wonderful opportunity to see nature at work."

The 750 guests who fled Old Faithful Inn when the big chimney crumpled were taken in buses to Old Faithful Lodge. Some spent the rest of the night in the buses. At the lodge there had been an employees' beauty contest during which they had selected Miss Old Faithful. The contest was just ending when the first shock was felt.

Rangers went among the visitors, explaining to them that no attempts would be made to leave the park until daylight. By that time the dust clouds from the avalanches had cleared and workmen were able to open up the road to the south so the exodus could get under way.

Many persons asleep in cabins thought, upon awakening, that the disturbance was made by bears rattling the doors in search of food. The wife of one ranger naturalist insisted that he get up and "chase that bear off the porch." Soon after the quake it became apparent that the bears had left along with the people. The rangers believe the bears were not driven out by the tremors but went away in search of people who would give them handouts.

"When the workmen were clearing a slide that blocked the road at the Cascades of the Firehole River they found a bear that had been trapped under the rocks," McIntyre said. "He had been under there for eight days. After they moved a boulder the foreman had them put a tree trunk down in the hole. The bear climbed up the tree and took off. I bet he's running yet."

Near Madison Junction there is a round pool of warm water which residents of the region outside the park believe has great therapeutic value. Although it is against park rules, they slip in at night to bathe. "On the night of the quake," Mclntyre said, "a man and his wife were bathing in the pool, and their two children were on the bank undressing. Suddenly their bathtub began to shake so violently they were almost thrown out of it. This crack you see here," he went on, pointing, "opened up right across the tub. The couple ran down to their car, which they had left behind those trees. They waited while they calmed down, and then they went back, put on their clothes and drove away."

McIntyre said no action against the family for violating park rules was contemplated. Nature, he thought, had punished them sufficiently.

At first there was apprehension that some of the famous trout streams in the park would be damaged by the earthquake. Those originating in the Mount Holmes area, including the Gardner River, Grayling Creek and Duck Creek, ran opaque-yellow for weeks. Now they are clearing up, but whether the fish have been affected will not be determined until next spring. The Madison cleared quickly and large trout are visible in its water.

I visited some of the areas where rockslides had felled great numbers of trees. McIntyre explained that they were worried about this huge pile of deadwood because insects breed in down timber and might cause large infestations of trees still standing. He said these areas would be watched for insect outbreaks. A forester also is making a survey of timber damage in the park.

The natural features of the park were not the only ones affected by the shocks. In the three-story stone administration building a crack rose from the ground to the roof. The offices are still being used, but all stone buildings may have to be replaced with steel-skeletoned ones.

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