Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityKnowing Nevada: The Disaster at Slide Mountain | KRNV
Close Alert

Knowing Nevada: The Disaster at Slide Mountain

A photo taken of the rock and landslide that came flying down on May 30, 1983 at Slide Mountain. Courtesy: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
A photo taken of the rock and landslide that came flying down on May 30, 1983 at Slide Mountain. Courtesy: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon

Nevada has been recognized as one of the most mountainous regions in the country. It's also the third most active area for seismic activity according to the University of Nevada, Reno Seismology Lab. That leads to that to earthquakes, landslides, and avalanches.

One picturesque peak I've travelled by thousands of times is Slide Mountain; a mountain that sits 9,702 ft in the skyline of the Sierra. It can be seen best when you drive through Washoe Valley...Then again, that's just my editorial opinion.

Most mountains are named after people, events, or Native American stories. You might think this mountain is named after it's 'slide-like' shape.

However, It's actually named for hundreds landslides that come down the mountain each year.

But, large-scale slides on this peak are not as common as its name may prelude.

The most recent large-scale natural disaster from this mountain came during May 30, 1983.

A mix of a wet, snowy, and dry winter caused a landslide to pour into the lakes along the Ophir Creek. The debris slammed into the ponds, as water came rushing down the mountain towards Highway 395. The slide took out dozens of homes, wrecked thousands of acres of farmland and shut down traffic for hours.

The slide also injured several people and killed one person.

I spoke with several people who remember this day as if it were yesterday.

Just a rush of water was on the road as I was heading into Carson City. It scared the daylights out of me," says one witness.
I saw the school-bus tipped over, a home in the middle of the road, and cars backed up for miles," says another.

Besides regular floods throughout the Truckee Meadows, this event has been benchmarked as one of northern Nevada's most notorious natural disasters.

Dr. James Faulds, a Nevada State Geologist with the Bureau of Mines and Geology, studies Slide Mountain. He says the south side of Slide Mountain, near Mount Rose for locations sake, is the steepest part of the peak.

"You have a mix of rock, dirt, and not much vegetation. So - when it snows or rains, the water has nowhere to really go but down," says Dr. Faulds.

Dr. Faulds lays out a large photocopy of what he calls a 'lidar' map. "It stands for light detection and ranging," says Dr. Faulds.

He uses laser beams to project a map of the earth's surface. It then shows topography. This kind of map helps a geologist determine where fault-lines run through mountain-ranges. It also helps them determine where and when landslides occur.

When we met for the first time, he pointed to the picture below.

If you look just below that dark curve on the map, that shows the Ophir Creek. Dr. Faulds points out the chunky layers around that look like thin layers of cake batter.

"That shows us where landslides have happened, where they continue to occur and even the remains of the 1983 slide."

Nevada is full of history, that much I know. But it's natural history, will hopefully stay up in the skyline of the Sierra and not slip away.

Knowing Nevada is a historical heritage series that highlights some of the interesting, unknown, and known, tales about the state of Nevada. This series is researched and put together by our own native Nevadan, Miles Buergin. If you have any suggestions for our next Knowing Nevada, please e-mail him at:

For more Knowing Nevada stories, click here.

Loading ...