Who says you can’t go home again?
Submitted By Pamela Zortman-Rogers
It was the winter of 2005 and I was sitting at a file cluttered desk in my law office when the phone rang.
At that time, I had been practicing law for about 5 years in a large city 30 miles north of Boston. I expected the call to be from a client or from someone related to a client’s case but instead I heard a woman‘s voice with an accent that I wasn’t yet familiar with.
“Is this Pam Zortman?” she said with a soft almost Midwestern twang but with a Southern twist. Definitely not the Boston accent I was used to, especially since she had pronounced the “r” in Zortman. Even more unusual than the accent, the woman was using my maiden name which I myself hadn’t used since my marriage some 7 years prior.
I hesitantly replied in the affirmative.
“Well this is Candy Kalal. I’m from Zortman, Montana. I got your name from a relative of yours and she told me to call you.”
At this point in time, she had my full attention, not an easy feat.
“Zortman Montana!” I said with a shock, considering that Montana is clear across the country from where I sat in Massachusetts AND that the town shared the same name I was born with. My mind immediately went back to something my Grandpop had told me years earlier when I was a young girl.
He said there was a town out West, in somewhere like Iowa or Wyoming, maybe Montana, and it was named after a relative. He said it was a big gold mining town and went on to tell me about a fortune that his distant cousin had found in gold. I can remember listening in awe to a tale that seemed to me, to be as magical as Cinderella.
When I got a little older, I researched this seemingly tall tale and found out my Grandpop was right. There was a gold mining town in Montana named Zortman, after Oliver “Pete” Zortman, a distant relative of mine.
Candy continued on despite my lack of conversation due to the peculiarity of the call and the wandering of my mind to times long gone by.
“We want to dig up Pete Zortman and have him buried back here in Zortman and we need your help.”
Now I was laughing to myself, the call had gone from surprising to crazy.
How could I possibly help? Did she need to borrow a shovel to dig up a dead body? And who was the relative that gave Candy my name and number, I’d have to call them later and share a snarky “Thanks”!
“Wow!” I said, unsure as to what else to say. With trepidation, I continued, “How can I help you?”
“Well, old Pete is buried in Big Timber and we need a blood relative to fill out some forms with the town clerk to have his remains dug up. ince you’re a lawyer and a blood relative, your cousin Lois told us to call you.”
I paused for a moment, while all this sounded logical, it also sounded insane.
“So you want me to call the clerk and then fill out the forms?” I was kidding myself if I thought this was the only involvement I would have in bringing Pete home.
And that’s how this crazy and fun journey began for Candy and I.
Along the way, we filled in some historical blanks, solved a mystery, made new friends and found a member of the family that we didn’t even know existed.
Oliver “Pete” Zortman
“Pete” was born Oliver Zortman in 1865 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
He descended from Alexander Zartmann, the Zortman family’s patriarch in America. Alexander had two sons, Alexander II and Jacob. Pete and I both hail from the Alexander II branch of the family.
Our family history book states that Pete went west looking for gold. And after many attempts, Pete did find gold and he struck it rich, running a successful mining company in the town that would soon be named after him.
He married Rose Finn, a Wisconsin born school teacher and they had two daughters, Lucille and Helen. It is noted in a history book that Pete is one of only a few men who left Montana with a “good sized fortune.”
Not much is known about Pete after that. We do know he was a Mason from the Chinook lodge and when he was buried in Big Timber in a pauper’s grave, he received Masonic last rights.
It appears that Pete died alone in 1933 from prostate cancer.
So as crazy as it all seemed, I was on board with the disinterment of Pete’s body in Big Timber. I can remember placing the call to the town hall, it went something like this, “Uh, Hi…My name is Pam Zortman. I want to have the body of Pete Zortman dug up from his grave and I was told to call you.”
It was awkward to say the least.
Since my dad was still alive and technically one generation closer to Pete than myself, I had him fill out the clerk’s forms and I returned them to Big Timber.
We were told that Pete had been buried in a “pauper’s grave” in a local cemetery. There was no sign of a grave for his wife, Rose, or of his two daughters, Lucille and Helen.
Where they were was a complete mystery to us, one that would not get looked into until a later date. But first, we had a body to dig up and bring home.
Since I live about 2300 miles from Zortman, I was only able to help by making calls and sending emails.
I would wait patiently for Candy’s calls or emails and revel in all the details of the big Homecoming scheduled for August.
I contacted lots of Zortmans, from Fowler, Kansas to Hollywood, California, about the big event. I would tell them what was planned, see if they could make it and get them in touch with Candy if they could.
We wanted to make sure that lots of Zortmans were at the event. And since Zortman is so remote, we knew that only a few relatives would actually make the trip.
In late August, Candy let me know when Pete was dug up. A few days before the big Homecoming, some local veterinarians went to Big Timber and had a back hoe dig into the just located area where Pete was buried.
After awhile, they hit some wood splinters and some bone.
Apparently the casket had broken into pieces under the weight of water and dirt over some 72 years. But the body was found and brought back in a new casket. Pete was kept in the town fire hall for the big day.
On Aug. 27, Pete Zortman Days began in the tiny town.
I was told by a few relatives who were there that the event was moving. The ability to return a person’s remains to his rightful spot on earth was powerful.
A horse drawn carriage took Pete to the Zortman cemetery. A gravestone paid for by local Masons marked Pete’s final resting place.
I couldn’t make it to the Homecoming due to work but I read about it online and received calls and pictures from candy and relatives that were there. I was a bit surprised when the reburial made news around the world.
The Final Resting Place
I was finally able to make it to Zortman in July of 2013. On a beautiful July day, my husband, John, and I drove from Lewistown to Zortman and just stared in amazement at the beauty that surrounded us as we drove.
Living in the Northeast we are not accustomed to long flat drives on empty highways. Nor are we accustomed to the sheer beauty of big sky country. It was possibly the most amazing drive of my life. I was in awe.
After about an hour and a half we came across a sign on Highway 191 that said “Zortman” and my heart skipped a beat.
The place that my Grandpop had told me stories about, that I had researched myself as a young adult and then that had come to life through my talks with Candy Kalal was now becoming a reality. We drove down seven mile road, which looked to us like an abandoned dirt road leading to nowhere.
We went directly to the Zortman Motel and we were greeted by Candy Kalal and her husband John.
Even though we had never met before, I felt like I had known Candy my whole life due to the homecoming planning and all the calls we shared during the past 6 years. Candy and John showed us Zortman memorabilia, dinosaur bones, and gold nuggets.
We ate lunch at the Miner’s café where their daughter was our very pleasant waitress.
John shared stories of Zortman with us, fully explaining how gold mining worked. He then drove us in his Ford F350 all around the original claim that Pete owned. There were times when I had to take a deep breath and just go with the flow.
I think it was apparent to John that I wasn’t exactly a backwoods type of girl and Zortman is most certainly in the backwoods.
At the end of the tour, John took us to Pete’s grave in the Zortman cemetery. It was situated in the most beautiful spot you could find in town. As I approached the grave, the trees swayed close by, the fields were as green as green could be, and the mountain views were breathtaking. I declared it was a fit place for a great man. And I was thankful he could rest in this beautiful spot. I then took a moment alone to kneel down by the grave and talk to Pete.
I wanted him to know I was there with him. Pete is family to me even though we’ve never met, but we share the same blood and that means something to me.
I was proud to have helped him to get home. And I was even prouder to share his last name.
As one can imagine, records kept in a mining town during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s are hard to locate. That left Candy and I with a lot of questions about Pete and his daughters and what happened to them after they left Zortman.
That’s where Mary Hackett came into play. Mary is a Zortman by way of her mother. Born in Ohio, like many Zortmans, her dad moved them to Montana when she was a little girl and she now lives in Stephensville with her husband, Harvey, a true cowboy. Mary has the same nosey streak in her that I have. We just have to know and in turn, we will stop at nothing to figure it out.
Through countless hours of research Mary was able to find out that Rose had left Pete at some point in time after the turn of the century. There are census records that show Rose and the girls in Washington state, Iowa, and even Hollywood, California.
Mary even uncovered a newspaper article from Big Timber that said that Pete and Rose had renewed their wedding vows. No mention of the girls.
So why did the Zortman girls move so much? We still don’t know. Where did they end up? That we did find out.
It appears that Rose passed away in Santa Rosa, California around 1965. Her obituary mentions both daughters and a grandson, Richard Fugett. Daughter Lucille passed in 2001 in Seminole, Florida. She had no children and never married. Daughter Helen passed in 1962 and was divorced, with one son.
Mary was then able to find a death certificate for Pete’s grandson, Richard Fugett. t stated that he passed away in 1995, from prostate cancer, the same cancer that killed Pete in 1933. It didn’t mention any next of kin so Mary and I just sighed, fearing a dead end.
Mary decided to send me Richard’s death certificate in order to see if there was something she missed. And lucky for us, there was. As I scanned the certificate, I noticed a woman’s name listed as executor. The name didn’t mean anything to me, it was Mary Hermans. So I googled the name with Santa Rosa attached to it. I let out a loud sigh as I found another death notice. This one was from 2007.
It appears Mary had passed but left a husband and a few children. I went back to google and put in Dr. Colin Hermans. I quickly found many links and more importantly, an email address. Not knowing if it would lead to anything, I sent out another “awkward” email, basically asking if he knew a Richard Fugett from Santa Rosa, California.
I was shocked when I received a quick reply. It turned out that Dr. Hermans was Richard’s college roommate. And boy, did he have some stories to tell! It turns out that Richard, a former member of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division, was quite a colorful character.
He told me “Dick” had passed in 1995, a fact I already knew.
Dr. Hermans offered his telephone number and I phoned, thankful that he was willing to share his time and memories with me.
Thirty minutes later, I had an overabundance of stories about Dick Fugett. It was obvious that Dick shared Pete’s genes. Pte had led such an adventurous and colorful life, so had Dick Fugett. With a heavy heart I thought of the two men, both relatives whom I wish I had gotten a chance to know but now, never would. But all hope wasn’t lost.
I found out from Dr. Hermans that Dick had a daughter, Kerry.
Named after the county in Ireland where Dick’s maternal grandparents were from. He thought she might be in her early twenties, probably living in California. Another Google search led me to my new relative.
Kerry and I have been communicating via emails since she lives in Ecuador, working with bears at a city zoo.
I smiled a weary smile when I initially communicated with her. It had been a long journey to find her, about 6 years.
Conflicted, I was overjoyed to have found Pete’s great-granddaughter and filled with sadness that she was all that was left of Pete. But the best part of talking with Kerry is that she knew nothing about Pete or the Zortman family and I’ve been able to enlighten her about her famous ancestor. I’m hoping to visit Zortman with her next summer.
Looking back on that first call from Candy Kalel, I never expected all the gifts that have come my way because of it.
I never expected to get to know Pete as well as I have. I most certainly never expected to solve the mystery of Pete’s lineage. I never expected to welcome a new Zortman to our family. Nor did I expect to make new friends or visit new places. I most certainly didn’t think I would visit a remote town in Montana and find it to be one of the most special places on earth with the most special people.
All I can say now is that I’m happy that Pete is home where he belongs.
Who says you can’t go home again?
Me and the Ol’ Man
Written and submitted by Zach Pallister, Helena:
What I remember most was the blissful quiet of the forest. The snow had fallen heavily and some feathery flakes still drifted lazily to Mother Earth. My 11-year-old legs plowed through the snow up to my knees. I followed the Ol’ Man’s footsteps as best I could. Outside his track was the fresh, never-trodden snow, so beautifully blanketing the rocks, roots and slick limbs hidden beneath.
Outside the cover of the forest on North Wilson ridge, we felt the stinging bite of the cleansing wind as we traced the edge of the old growth Douglas fir forest heading east for a mile or so.
I thought of the mountain men of old – Kit Carson, Jim Bridger and the like – how their yearning for freedom got them here and how I itched to be like them. My mind fantasized glorious days of trapping and hunting with old Hugh Glass as my mentor. Anyone who could live through such a scrape with a grizzly had to be a tough old bird.
I spent my youth reading of all the mountain men and the Indian chiefs, never tiring of American history during the infancy of our country and of those who blazed the way. I immersed myself in their lore. What a world it must have been! Survival was all that mattered. All the “things” we have now days seemed so unnecessary – and only serving to complicate the meaning of raw existence. Give me the Wind and the Rain, the Mountain and the River, the Sun and the Moon; by God, that’s all I need!
Suddenly the Ol’ Man stopped walking and I bumped into his back. Daydream over! He chuckled and pointed to the fresh elk sign in the snow, by now the perfect texture for picking out clean tracks. In a whispering voice, he took the time to teach me how to read the sign. Hoof direction, what was a cow, a calf and maybe one was a bull because the prints were more rounded at the front. The cow’s urine splattered from the rear and a bull made a hole from his center. The larger pellets were from mature animals, the calves had pellets the size of grown deer. Pellets piled when standing and scattered when moving. Looked like a dozen head or so.
The adrenalin kicked in immediately as the predator instinct tuned the senses. I knew we would follow these elk tracks to where their makers were bedded and we would see elk up close. It just couldn’t happen any other way. Any bull could be taken in those days with an over-the-counter license at a cost of about five bucks.
The Ol’ Man hadn’t taken his bull yet which was unusual. It had to have been mid-November by then and lots of trails had been traveled. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that eight of my brothers were eligible to hunt at the time.
My four younger brothers, like me, weren’t old enough to hunt yet. My one lonely (and lovely) sister gave hunting a try for a year or two and decided to leave it to the boys. When you got to be 11, it was OK to ride around with the bunch and learn the ropes. The hunting excursions we made in my youth were what cultivated my desire to tramp the Great Outdoors.
Mom and Dad would load up a pickup and a suburban with kids, food, gear and guns and off we’d go to Ekalaka for antelope, Libby for goats and bear (or berries in the summer), California Creek near Sheridan for mule deer and anywhere close to home before and after school and every weekend throughout hunting season.
Our summers were filled with gardening, building the cabin on Bull Mountain, camping at Elder Creek, arrowhead hunting, picnics, swimming and fishing. We always had hard work followed by the reward of an outdoor experience.
With 12 brothers and a sister, the occasion to spend any one-on-one time with Dad or Mom was precious, for certain. Maybe that’s why this experience has prickled my feathers for so many years.
The wind was slight inside the timber and blew from out of the north. The elk couldn’t scent us and the snow made silent our approach. A squirrel sounded his warning and the Ol’ Man gave him a knowing look of respect. We stopped until the squirrel decided we weren’t quite the threat he had surmised.
Gray jays or “camp robbers” as we called them flitted from snow-laden, grandparent fir trees along our trail, curious as to our approach. The jays loosened the snow on the tree branches and it filtered lazily to the forest floor in a beautiful ghost-like veil. The tree moss was heavy, it’s chartreuse color contrasting flawlessly with the snow.
The elk trail followed the contour northwesterly where Bull Mountain wapiti had coursed this forest thousands of times.
The only trail alterations happened when danger scattered a herd in fright or a natural barricade, like a fallen tree, caused a slight deviation. The scent of the elk reminded me of black licorice and it lay heavy in the closeness of the dense forest. That smell excites me today and always readies me for another spiritual encounter with my favorite critters.
We closed the gap in a hurry I realize now, but back then it seemed a subliminal eternity. Dad put his gloved forefinger to his lips and we crept as silently as my Bass waffle stompers would go.
Then, there they were! The Ol’ Man cautiously dropped to his knee and we huddled together as we shared the moment. The elk were bedded, except for one old cow with her nose up and her eyes bugged out, alert for any drift of a dangerous scent or a predator’s approach. Her nose was wet and it quivered as it worked the air currents, her ears moved forward and back trying to detect the danger. I’ve relived this moment in reality countless times; watching a lead cow up close, tending the flock.
Dad slowly raised his trusty, well-worn .300 Weatherby rifle and looked through the scope at all the elk and elk parts.
“No bulls”, he whispered.
We rose carefully to upright and watched the bunch for a minute or two. Then they just kind of wandered away, not sure of what danger was present, but instinctively sensing it all the same. Dad looked at me and said, “How’d you like that?”
I answered with the expression in my eyes.
I don’t remember much about the long walk back to the cabin, just that I was fulfilled to the max and excited to share the story with mom and my brothers. That same sense of spirituality fills me up whenever I experience the wild of the outdoors.
“Filling my spiritual tank” as my oldest brother Jeff calls it.
That brief walk in the woods with my Dad, affectionately known as the “Ol’ Man” amongst all us brothers, happened nearly 45 years ago. The memory of that experience has sharpened and tuned my outdoor savvy and helped me gain independence of spirit; passed on to my sons and now to their children. What we gain from Nature is freedom of spirit, communion with life in all forms and that sense of completeness individually gained through release of self.
The Ol’ Man’s choice to end his hunting career at age 87 was out of respect for the animals he cares so deeply for, not wanting to wound them. The tunnel vision in his right eye, some tremoring in his hand and a troubled spine made clear his decision. Nearly 94 now, he lives on the family Jaybird Ranch on the edge of Boulder with the memories, having planted his spiritual passion in each of us.
I love you, Dad.
CoMotion Dance Project redefines curriculum through movement
Story and photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ
Five second graders walk carefully into the open space in the classroom as their peers sit quietly as the audience. Music begins and they perform their science-inspired choreography of evaporation, condensation, accumulation and precipitation.
Curled up on the floor as molecules, they lightly swirl and rise to standing. Soon, the clouds condense into the long wispy shapes of cirrus clouds. The 7-year-old performers spread out and twirl softly to the ground as snowflakes and freeze.
The students have just danced the water cycle.
Different from the science classes many remember, these students are participating in the CoMotion Dance Project’s long-term residency program, which uses creative movement and dance to reinforce elementary school curriculum in math, science, social studies and language arts.
The CoMotion Dance Project was launched in 2006 by Karen Kaufmann, professor of dance at the University of Montana, to support the philosophy that movement can enliven the learning experience for many students, especially those who don’t learn easily through traditional methods.
To read the entire story on CoMotion, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Butterfly Whisperer: Artist helps Yellowstone visitors learn about beautiful bugs
Story by CORINNE GARCIA
Photos by LYNN DONALDSON
A wildlife tour in Yellowstone National Park has often been compared to an African safari. But instead of zebras, lions and elephants, Yellowstone guests look for bison, elk and bears. Some even see a wolf if they’re lucky.
For many park visitors, seeing these large animals graze beside brightly colored hot pots and amid steam from nearby geysers is so out of the norm that it’s easy for them to overlook the smaller, more elusive creatures that exist amongst them.
But for Gardiner-based artist and wildlife biologist George Bumann, it’s the butterflies that intrigue him the most, and he’s helping other park visitors understand their significance. It’s not only the butterflies’ beauty that fascinates him, but also by their role in the park’s overall ecosystem.
“In Yellowstone, people get attached to those mega animals: the elk, bears and wolves,” Bumann said. “But what’s really amazing about this place is the tie between geology, plants and animals as they relate to each other; it’s a very tight-knit system.”
With 134 known species of butterfly living within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (out of a total of 725 in North America), the diversity inside and around the park is uncommonly high. For this reason, Yellowstone makes it onto most butterfly hobbyist’s bucket lists.
Yellowstone’s resident butterfly expert George Bumann introduces Hayden’s ringlet
Favorite butterfly: Hayden’s ringlet
Why? It is known as a Yellowstone area endemic, meaning it is found here and nowhere else outside of the region. The species derives its name from Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, leader of the U.S. Geological Survey expedition that documented the wonders of Yellowstone in 1871, resulting in its establishment as the world’s first national park.
What are some of its signature markings? The Hayden’s Ringlet is identified by its smooth, warm, gray color above and below, but when you see the underside of this quarter-sized insect’s hind wing, it has a wonderful row of orange eye spots near the back edge with large black pupils and silver-white centers. (Another signature feature) is its “fatalistic” flight pattern. When flitting about the open meadows of Yellowstone, the Hayden’s ringlet flies as if it is catching itself from a fall with each wingbeat. It’s a most dramatic thespian!
What is its migration pattern? This butterfly does not migrate, as with most species found in Yellowstone, but is limited to the mountainous areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. Thankfully, where you find it, you may find lots.
To read the entire story on the butterfly whisperer, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Lightweight packrafts provide adventure on Sun River
Story and photos by BILL CUNNINGHAM
It happened in a microsecond.
Sable, my co-adventurer Jerad White’s black lab, flipped his tiny raft by jumping out in the midst of a swirling whitewater rapid.
Jared was thrown into the watery mess as I, in an even smaller raft, came bearing down on top of him.
After the near collision I scooped up floating gear while Jared and Sable swam to shore.
This was only the beginning of our maiden packrafting voyage.
Combining backpacking with river floating, packrafting is an increasingly popular way to explore the wilderness.
Packrafts are incredibly light, durable and packable. My little butt boat comes in at a mere four pounds. Jared has a sleeker model that weighs only a few more pounds.
Skilled paddlers can handle serious rapids in a packraft. But I’m fairly new to the sport.
Still, Jared and I were set on making our first trek in packrafts on Sun River.
To read the entire story on the packrafting adventure, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Whitefish becoming a high-tech home base
Story and photos by JESSICA LOWRY
It’s 8:30 a.m. on a sunny Wednesday Montana summer morning as Henry Roberts, 40, grabs his 1971 Raleigh Competition bike for his morning commute. Clad in a green plaid shirt and blue Patagonia hat, Roberts glides by rows of quaint homes that line the streets of Whitefish.
The resort town, once known mostly for ski bums and a close proximity to Glacier National Park, is starting to turn heads for a new reason: a growing tech industry.
Roberts, who works as vice president of creative for The ZaneRay Group, answers to clients like Filson and Patagonia.
“Our foundation was about having a great real world job but living in Whitefish, Montana,” Roberts said.
He cites a short commute both to work and recreation, winter hockey league and fresh powder at Whitefish Mountain Resort among the amenities that made him fall in love with the tiny mountain town.
His creative work at the web development company keeps him challenged with brands known around the world, while his location lets him relax without the traffic or expense of a more urban environment.
Co-worker Dean Hamilton, a lead engineer, finds the same satisfaction in the work-life balance he’s found at The ZaneRay Group. He counters his time at work with skiing in the winter and camping and backpacking in the summer.
“Quite honestly I don’t know how urban people do it,” Hamilton said. “At least I can work crazy hours here and then be home in 10 minutes.”
To read the entire story on the Whitefish tech boom, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Montana wilderness areas continue to lure adventurers, support local businesses
Story and photo by JACK BALLARD
In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, bringing an eclectic mixture of previously designated primitive areas in the United States under a single umbrella of protection in the National Wilderness Preservation System, or NWPS.
The Act originally created 54 wilderness areas in 13 different states. Of the original areas, five were located in Montana, giving the Treasure State claim to 9 percent of the original wildernesses.
However, as a percentage of the total acres initially protected, Montana’s share was much more significant. Of the 9.1 million acres protected as wilderness by Congress in 1964, about 2.5 million of them (nearly 30 percent) were located in Montana.
Of the 54 original wilderness areas, many commentators believe the Bob Marshall was the crown jewel. In the 1930s, three districts in the Flathead National Forest were given wilderness-like protection.
These districts combined to form the 950,000 acres in the original Bob Marshall Wilderness. Subsequent additions to the Bob Marshall and the creation of the adjacent Scapegoat and Great Bear Wildernesses now comprise a 1.5 million acre expanse of contiguous Wilderness known as the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
The Montana Wilderness Association is hosting a handful of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, including the Wild 50th Fest Sept. 5-7 in Seeley Lake.
The organization is hosting events across the state to celebrate the anniversary. Events include everything from hikes to festivals with music and educational displays.
To read the entire story on the Wilderness Act at 50, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Ongoing research allows for closer monitoring of Yellowstone’s famed supervolcano
By Jack Ballard
Photo by Peggy Hamlen
To the informed eye, evidence of volcanism in Yellowstone National Park is everywhere. Vertiginous cliffs – over which plummet inspiring waterfalls, such as Undine Falls east of Mammoth – often mark the edge of lava flows from bygone volcanos.
The world-renowned Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone displays numerous aspects of volcanism on its multi-hued tapestry of earth and stone. Igneous rock, formed by cooled magma, is rife within Yellowstone and the surrounding area. Prized for creating arrowheads and other implements, obsidian was actively traded by American Indians.
A famous outcropping of this shiny, black volcanic stone is found in the park at Obsidian Cliffs. Thermal features, such as Old Faithful and a plethora of colorful, odorous hot springs bear witness to Yellowstone’s volcanic past, and the dormant, yet exceedingly powerful expanse of magma that lurks below the earth’s surface in America’s oldest national park.
Scientists have studied Yellowstone’s geology and volcanic history for decades. Bob Smith, a professor of geology at the University of Utah, has labored at a task he loves for more than a half-century.
“I’ve worked in Yellowstone since 1956. In 1963 we started using earthquake data in our research,” Smith said.
When was the last time there was volcanism at Yellowstone?
According to Yellowstone Volcano Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey information, the most recent volcanic activity consisted of rhyolitic lava flows that erupted approximately 70,000 years ago. The largest of these flows formed the Pitchstone Plateau in southwestern Yellowstone National Park.
Researchers have long studied the Yellowstone area and the supervolcano. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has compiled a large amount of information about the area.
The Q&A section has a trove of information, including an answer to perhaps the most asked question: What is the chance of another catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone?
To read the entire story on Yellowstone’s supervolcano, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.