A view from Lunch Tree Hill takes in the entire 40 mile length of the Teton Range.
There are, though, several other interesting and beautiful area of this section of Wyoming, known as Jackson Hole. With our unseasonably hot weather a few days ago, we decided to take a drive and explore the Slide Lake area.For this excursion, we headed south from Moran towards Jackson, and turned off onto Antelope Flats Road. This area is known for the "most famous barn in America" the Moulton Barn.
This is a part of what is called "Mormon Row". In the 1890's Mormon settlers moved into the area, creating 27 homesteads.In 1997 this historic area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But we need to drive further east to get to the topic of today's blog.
We passed into the town of Kelly on the Gros Ventre (pronounced "gro vant") River. Kelly has a population of 138, contained in a very small area on the east side of Jackson Hole. On May 18, 1927 the town was destroyed when a natural dam formed by the Gros Ventre landslide two years earlier collapsed and sent raging flood waters down through the town. This history is what we came to explore that afternoon.
From Kelly we drove a bit north and turned onto Gros Ventre Road. The road is paved until you reach Lower Slide Lake, then turns to a well maintained gravel road. Before continuing up the Gros Ventre Road, though, we made a turn onto Taylor Ranch Road on the recommendation of our co-worker Elaine, who used to work at cabins in that area. We crossed a bridge going over the Gros Ventre river and had a nice view of the river rushing downstream towards the Tetons.
The other direction showed us our first view of Slide Lake, a very popular place in the summertime for locals and tourists alike.
This is a view of the Gros Ventre slide. The Slide is a mile-long mountain mass that slid 2,000 feet off the side of the mountain in 1925.In just three minutes, the geography of the area was changed forever, 50,000,000 cubic feet of debris hurtling down the side of the mountain, riding 300 feet up the adjacent slope and blocking the Gros Ventre river.
Lower Slide Lake was formed by this blockage, stretching back five miles.
William Bierer, a long-time native to the area, predicted a slide in the near future. Convinced of the validity of his theory, Bill sold his ranch on Sheep Mountain to Guil Huff, an unsuspecting cattle rancher, in 1920. Bierer died in 1923 before his prophecy became reality. Two years later, on the afternoon of June 23, 1925, Guil rode horseback down the river to the north side of Sheep Mountain where he had heard loud rumblings. He arrived at 4 p.m., in time to witness 50 million cubic yards of land mass descending rapidly toward him. He and his horse escaped the impact by a mere 20 feet. Along with Guil, two other men witnessed the phenomenon of nature — Forney Cole and Boyd Charter. In a matter of minutes, debris covered 17 choice acres of the Huff ranch. Guil, along with his wife and daughter, escaped. Ranger Dibble took Mrs. Huff and the child to safety at the Horsetail Ranger Station. By 4 a.m. the next morning, the Huff house was standing in 18 inches of water. By June 29, after heavy rains caused the dam to fill and overflow, the Huff house was floating in the lake, to be joined by the ranger station on July 3. Ranger Dibble moved his family to Kelly, Wyoming, where he kept a wary eye on the slide dam. A man-made dam has a built-in spillway so that the waters cannot top the dam, erode, and breech it. The slide dam, made by nature, was not equipped with a spillway. Engineers, geologists, and scientists came to the area to study the slide; they determined that the dam formed as a result of the slide was permanent and safe. Most of the local people accepted that decision and ceased worrying about a possible disaster, especially when the spring runoff in 1926 passed with no major problems. The winter of 1927, however, was one of the most severe ever recorded in the state to that time. When spring arrived, the unusually deep snowpack melted quickly, aided by days of rain. On May 17, water began spilling over the low places of the dam. The Gros Ventre River was rising. Ranger Dibble and Jack Ellis, along with some other men, were poling driftwood and floating debris away from lodging against the Kelly bridge and endangering the structure. Suddenly Ranger Dibble saw a hayrack—one that had been in the lake above the dam since 1925—floating down the river. He and Ellis jumped into Dibble’s Model T and drove toward the dam to assess the situation. On the way, they were met by the main thrust of water and debris. The top 60 feet of the dam had given way under the pressure of the excess water. Dibble and Ellis turned around and headed for Kelly to warn the residents of the impending danger. By the time they arrived, the people had only 15 minutes in which to flee to safety. Despite the warning, Henry (“Milt”) Kneedy refused to believe the water was coming, and would not permit his wife and foster son, Joe, to leave. Ranger Dibble tried to rescue little Joe, but he got away and ran back to his mother. Later, Joe was reportedly seen clinging to the top of a barn floating down the river. The Kneedy family died in the flood. Through field glasses, a rancher watched May Lovejoy and her sister, Maude Smith, load their wagon with valuables and drive off, but the horse became frightened and raced out of control toward the oncoming water. A wall of water rolled the wagon over and over. May’s body was never found. Maude’s body was retrieved after the water subsided. Max Edick and Clint Stevens were trying to save their livestock when the water came. Quickly, they climbed to the top of a small chicken coop. Though Clint managed to jump onto a passing hayrack, he did not survive. Max was swept into the swift water. He somehow managed to catch hold of a tree branch, and was later found alive. By 4p.m. the water receded. Six lives had been lost in the tragedy. Along with the human lives lost, hundreds of domestic animals perished. Property damage was estimated at $500,000. The little town of Kelly was almost completely obliterated. As a result of the flood, Kelly was not awarded the special recognition of becoming the county seat. That distinction was given, instead, to Jackson. Credit ttp://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5340454.pdf
Past Lower Slide Lake the road turns to gravel, and we passed into the Red Hill area. Visually stunning, and worlds away from the jagged Teton range, the Red Hills are an exposed sandstone deposit that is a leftover from the time the region was submerged in a shallow sea 50 million years ago. The road was actually engineered in such a fashion that the vista just smacks you in the face as you come around a bend in the road.
A small waterfall flowing into the Gros Ventre River.
We made it pretty far up the road, going slow and stopping several times for the dogs to splash around in the river. 22 miles in, we reached Goosewing Ranch and decided it was a good turnaround spot. This area is called the Gray Hills of the Mount Leidy Highlands, and extends all the way east from the Red Hills to Upper Slide Lake. We had a great view of the Gros Ventre River, as it headed west west through the different geographical areas to the Tetons in the far distance.
It's wildflower season all over.
One last splash in the river.
I think these are wild lupines. There are huge meadows of them right now, just beautiful.
One thing we did as a group several days ago was attend the Bar J Chuckwagon Dinner and Show. It was an entertaining night, where we were served an "old west" chuckwagon dinner of meat (steak, ribs, chicken or BBQ beef) with potatoes, beans rolls and spice cake. After dinner the Bar J Wranglers entertained us with their singing and comedy sketches. You can watch their introductory video here. We had a great time, both at the show and sharing the time with our coworkers.
I think that was about it. We had a nice Fourth of July, it was a little quiet time for us but we needed a break from our hectic work schedule. We are now at full occupancy again, pretty much until mid-August now, and even late August is starting to fill in. We did manage to spend a day with several friends and take a nice long hike into one of the canyons, but I will save that for the next installment of our great adventures in the Tetons!