Difficulty IV-V
Length 1.5 Miles
Gauge Madison River bl Hebgen Lake nr Grayling MT
Flow Range 700 - 2700 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 25 minutes ago 1180 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 11/12/2019 7:02 pm

River Description

On August 17th, 1959 at 11:37 PM a major earthquake rocked the Greater Yellowstone Area. Rating a 7.5 on the Richter Scale, this quake was the largest in the documented history of Montana and took the greatest toll on human life. An entire mountainside came tumbling down on a crowded forest service campground before charging a full 400 feet up the opposite mountainside. This slide completely dammed the Madison River, eventually forming Earthquake Lake. The Army Corp of Engineers cut a new path for the river through the debris and this is now a SW Montana padling classic.

The run starts across from the Quake Lake visitors center on Montana Hwy 287. A dirt path leads down to where the lake once again becomes a river. From the moment you drift through the skeletal reamins of the forest poking up from the lake bottom, you are faced with continuous class IV boogie water requiring good read and run paddling skills. Though not overly difficult, the upper section is shallow and extremely sharp. A swim would be painful at best.

As you fly down the run, keep your eyes peeled for a big eddy on river left, just before the river bends hard to the right. You will be directly below the main part of the slide. Catch this eddy and scout the next 120 yards. This rapid, known as the S-Turn, is known for carnage and has drawn its fair share of blood. It is a definite class V at all levels but can easily be portaged on the left.

Below this drop, the river mellows quickly and you can take out wherever you like as Hwy. 287 follows this run in its' entirety. Most folks run it two or three times in a day. Enjoy!

Rapid Descriptions


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11 years ago

Because of dam maintenance at Hebgen Lake, the water level at Quake Attack is the highest I have seen. It has been ranging between 3200 cfs and 3800 cfs. The character of the river demands full attention and endurance at these flows, as it more resembles a North Fork Payette than a Madison River Run. Although the majority of the rocks are underwater, they are still sharp and will leave a strong impression should you decide to face off with them. If you are in the area, it's worth a trip to look at it, as it is very easy to scout from the road and there are eddies above the S-turn rapid for an easy portage. It's a great run that demands your respect and attention to safety.

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12 years ago

Matt Larson Quake attack! I was lucky enough to catch this stretch at 2700 a couple years ago. Sick!! If it happens again, go get it. The S-turn is the class-V ish section, more so because of consequence. The only time i have gone upside down, my helmet was destroyed after the same rock broke the shaft of my paddle. The run is Incredibly a fun continuous drop. worth many laps. I've often traveled through lines that i wasn't planning on and they were cleaner than expected. keep it upright.

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David Garrity
18 years ago

I did this run at about 1100cfs and it was fun without being scary. The lines are fairly standard western runs - inside the bends and down the middle of the straightaways. You could probably run this as low as 800 cfs, but be careful the rocks are really sharp. No clue as to a maximum level. A couple of the bends are run in small chutes on the inside to avoid large holes running the width of the main channel.

Gage Descriptions

Dam release, runs every day of the year.

River is much more difficult at higher flows.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



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Montana Dam Proposals to be Withdrawn!

Kevin Colburn

The company that has been seeking permits to build three new hydropower projects in Montana announced today that they are abandoning their proposals - for now.  This is a great relief for the many Montanans that care about the incredible paddling, fishing, and scenery of East Rosebud Creek, West Rosebud Creek, and the Madison River.  

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FERC Grants Permit to Study Hydro on Madison (MT)

Kevin Colburn

Earlier this week FERC granted a permit that gives a private company sole rights to study and seek to develop a damaging hydropower project on Montana's famed Madison River.  The project would pipe water from Quake Lake around the Class IV/V Slide section of whitewater to a new powerhouse downstream.  American Whitewater and regional paddling clubs have opposed this project and will continue to do so.    

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AW Opposes New MT Hydro Proposal

Kevin Colburn

Fifty years ago today a 7.3 magnitude earthquake triggered a massive rockslide that dammed Montana's Madison River and buried a Forest Service campground beneath 80 million tons of rock. Recently, a power company pitched a plan to divert water from the lake that was formed behind the slide to a powerhouse in the valley below, which would severely impact the river. American Whitewater, Beartooth Paddlers, and the Jackson Hole Kayak Club filed comments last week introducing legal, recreational, and ecological arguments against the project.

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Appeal Challenging Montana Navigability Is Denied

Jason Robertson

On May 28 the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by Mountain States Legal Foundation who filed a lawsuit in June 2001 alleging the 1985 Montana Stream Access Law violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution to regulate who floated over their land.

The decision thereby protects Montana's Stream access law and public rights of navigation throughout the State.

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River Recreationists Win Big in Montana!

Jason Robertson

The Missoulian newspaper reported on January 5th, 2001 that U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell dismissed a case brought by the Mountain States Legal Foundation challenging public recreational rights on Montana’s rivers and streams. This is a huge win for boaters and fishermen!

David Schroeder


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213880 11/12/19 David Schroeder updated image position
1190807 03/27/07 David Schroeder expanded runnable range based on AP's advice based on a run at 850