Slumgullion; Colorado’s natural landslide laboratory

Earthquakes & Volcanoes (USGS)


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The mammoth Slumgullion landslide in southwestern Colorado is the largest actively moving landslide in Colorado and, perhaps, the entire country. To learn more about how and why landslides move the way they do, scientists at the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) have observed and monitored the remarkably regular movement of this landslide for more than 30 years. Located near Lake City in the San Juan Mountains, Slumgullion was chosen for a comprehensive study of landslide processes because part of the landslide appears to have been moving continuously for the past 300 years, transporting material hundreds of meters downslope, and because the slide has the potential to threaten life and property. Surface features of the landslide, such as folds and faults within the sliding mass, are constantly changing, either being created or destroyed by the continuous movement of the landslide. Current evaluation of hazards includes possible landslide. Current evaluation of hazards includes possible landslide damage to State Highway 149 and recreational areas in the vicinity of Lake San Cristobal.

The mountains of Colorado, and the Rocky Mountains in general, have one of the highest levels of landslide hazard in the nation. In a typical year, landslides hazard in the nation. In a typical year, landslides cause several fatalities and millions of dollars in damage to highways, pipelines, buildings, and forests in Colorado. To reduce such losses we need to understand why landslides occur and how they behave once they form. The Slumgullion landslide, an ideal natural laboratory, offers a unique opportunity to carefully observe and monitor the movement of a large, active landslide. In 1990, soon after the State of Colorado assigned high priority to hazard evaluation of the Slumgullion landslide, the USGS began an intensive study as part of its Landslide Hazards Reduction Program. 

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Slumgullion; Colorado’s natural landslide laboratory
Series title Earthquakes & Volcanoes (USGS)
Volume 24
Issue 5
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher U.S Geological Survey
Description 14 p.
First page 208
Last page 221
Country United States
State Colorado
Other Geospatial Southwestern Colorado
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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