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USGS Geology in the Parks

field trip map 3

FIELD TRIP STOP 12 - Mount Baker Highway (State Route 542)

Church Mountain Landslide

Church Mountain Landslide
Monstrous Church Mountain landslide covering the floor of the Nooksack North Fork valley, as viewed from Skyline Divide.

A catastrophic event

The traveler driving up the Mount Baker Highway for the first couple of miles beyond the town of Glacier sees little evidence of the huge landslide that rushed onto the valley floor here. Erosion, stream deposition, and the forest help conceal the hummocky surface of the slide that fell from Church Mountain to the north. Based on radiocarbon ages of buried wood, the landslide crashed into the valley about 2,400 years ago. Where the highway ascends a long hill east of Glacier Creek, it is climbing out of the young, eroded valley of Glacier Creek onto the thick debris of the landslide. A condominium development in the valley is tastefully placed around the humps and bumps of the landslide's surface. River rafters on the North Fork of the Nooksack here dodge huge boulders eroded out of the landslide. Geologists look for a special event to trigger such a large slide--at least hoping for a special circumstance to make them feel more secure in these steep-walled valleys--and suggest that an earthquake might have triggered the slide.
On to Yellow Aster Meadows

Material in this site has been adapted from a book, Geology of the North Cascades: A Mountain Mosaic by R. Tabor and R. Haugerud, of the USGS, with drawings by Anne Crowder. It is published by The Mountaineers, Seattle.

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