Jackson Hole: Geology 101. How to disturb a slumbering landslide

Slide was not started by spring thaw and rain alone-

The slide (or maybe best called a “slump”) above the northwest part of Jackson, Wyoming was not just the product of a wet spring, the spring thaw, and a steep slope known to have been unstable.

A lengthy story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide tells how the slide has repeatedly had its toe (bottom) disturbed by grading and construction.  Water from a  leak at a house on the slide also likely contributed.  Any literature on geologic hazards says “don’t disturb the toe of a slide” (at least not without removing much of the slide’s crown). Don’t lubricate the slide.

Jackson, Wyoming (unlike Oso, Washington) has land use planning. However, the town council repeatedly allowed (voted) the toe of the slide to be disturbed. Now it is going to cost the local taxpayers a lot of money and damage both private and public property. Jackson might have planning, but the properties as building spaces have come to be worth huge amounts of money. This might be the ultimate explanation for the slide.





  1. Alma Hasse Avatar
    Alma Hasse

    Ralph, not especially related to wildlife, but thought you should see this:


    This is particularly troubling to me:

    Most perplexing, this report says, are that these fracking operations in the ISB volcanic zone are being allowed to continue by the Obama regime in spite of their own experts findings and recommendations, especially from this past weeks report from their Midwestern region which, in part, states:

    “Ohio geologists have found a probable connection between fracking and a sudden burst of mild earthquakes last month in a region that had never experienced a temblor until recently, according to a state report.

    The quake report, which coincided with the state’s announcement of some of the nation’s strictest limits on fracking near faults, marked the strongest link to date between nerve-rattling shakes and hydraulic fracturing — the process of firing water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to eject oil and natural gas out of ancient rock.

    Last month, Ohio indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracking operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, including one magnitude-3 temblor that awoke many Ohioans from their sleep.”

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Alma Hasse,

      I don’t think there is any doubt now that fracking sometimes causes earthquakes.

      There has been a swarm of moderate earthquakes in central Idaho near Challis the last couple weeks, and there is a slight possibility of a major quake like the Mount Borah quake of 1983. However, the link you gave looks to me like a one of those marginal web sites promoting “off-label” 😉 geology.

      A volcanic eruption at Mount Borah? That mountain range (Lost River Range) is made out of limestone and dolomite. Borah is no volcano.

      1. Larry Zuckerman Avatar
        Larry Zuckerman

        there have also been swarms of human-caused quakes in Oklahoma from fracking and deep-well injection of drilling waste water, often brine.



        1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

          The Challis/Salmon area is covered with thousands of feet of old volcanic ash. The twin peaks and others up Morgan Creek north of Challis have distinct volcanic cones. I have hiked up on top about four of them. The earthquakes seem to be associated with the old volcanic area, not the Mount Borah fault. Seismic monitors are being rushed to the area and local schools are conducting earthquake drills.

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan

            Larry Thorngren,

            The quakes are deep inside the Challis Volcanics.

            The Challis Volcanics cover a big area. I love to take photos of them http://www.panoramio.com/photo/5337490. I don’t know if your were suggesting an eruption from them, but someone probably will. They are very old with the last eruption 39-million years ago. Did I read properly that this the event left behind some faults? Not sure I understood the details of what I found in my web search on it.

            Calderas formed at Van Horne Peak and the Twin Peaks, but these mountains are not volcano cones, but remnants of the ancient calderas.

            I think these places are perhaps prettier than deeper back in the Frank Church Wilderness.

        2. Scott Gifford Avatar
          Scott Gifford

          Theres alot of hype about oil fracking in the media that gets misconstrued. First off when drilling wells they are incredibly deep and under immense pressure, around 10,000 psi and 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Gary Chapman, head geophysicist at chevron said that The typical energy release from hydraulic fracking is equivalent to a gallon of milk falling off the kitchen counter. also “hydraulic fracturing almost never causes true earthquakes”( Cliff Frohlich, seismologist from the University of Texas)

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan

            Scott Gifford,

            It isn’t the typical well that counts. It is those that seem to be associated with earthquakes. I don’t think the potential problem with hydraulic fracking has anything to do with typical energy release either. The problem is lubrication of a fault or faults that are otherwise stuck due to friction.

          2. Yvette Avatar

            What is a true earthquake?

  2. Red Clover Avatar
    Red Clover

    It does look dry as an old bone.

    I don’t think they’re mentioning quakes, wouldn’t want the sales of stuffed bears and keychains to slow down.

  3. snail darter Avatar
    snail darter

    I think fracking should be required under the home of all oil Company Executives


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan