on February 16, 2006
It's July 1927. Someone comes galloping into town screaming to get out. Minutes later, half a mountainside is carried through town on a wall of water. For the residents of Kelly, WY, it was the second time the mountain moved in 2 years. In June 1925, the limestone side of Sheep Mountain suddenly slid down the hill and into the valley. The rubble created a natural dam on the Gros Ventre River, 225 feet tall and a half-mile wide, forcing the creation of Slide Lake. Folks in Kelly lived downstream for 2 years before that natural blockage gave way, which took the town and the lives of six residents with it.Even 80 years later, the marks of this enormous event still scar the landscape. The slide took the topsoil with it, and thus no forest has regrown in those spots—two large gashes on the mountainside that you can't miss. The forest service has made a terrific interpretive trail here, which takes you through the area in the Gros Ventre Valley where the slide came to a halt. There are piles of limestone boulders, trees still growing sideways, tangled masses of trunks and stumps, and other oddities that give you a real feeling for what happens when that much rock is on the move. It's really worth making the trip out here, and if you do, I can almost guarantee you'll have the place to yourself. We were here on July 4th weekend, near lunchtime, and we saw no one else during our time on the trail. I wouldn't have thought to come out here if it hadn't been for a AAA guidebook, and the whole family was glad we did. It's a pleasant drive across the flats to (new) Kelly and then a little bit farther: from Jackson Hole, take US 191 just inside the park boundary and bear right at Gros Ventre Junction and on to Gros Ventre River Road. Just past the campground, the road bears right and heads due east to Kelly and then heads north out of Kelly. After a mile and a half, Gros Ventre Road turns right. Keep going and you'll soon see the signs.
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