9 Most Devastating Landslides in the United States

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: July 1, 2023
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It’s not new for environmental disasters like landslides to claim the lives and properties of the citizens of the United States. The country has, in fact, experienced ghastly slides but the fatal ones are the worst of them all. Some of these were prepared for, while others were totally unexpected. Most times, when such landslides are unpredictable, they not only take innocent lives but also cause damages amounting to millions of dollars. Here are 9 most devastating landslides the United States ever recorded:

1. 2014 Oso Washington Landslide

Oso Mudslide

The 2014 Oso Washington Landslide killed about 43 people.


Washington City has had its fair share of bad days, and March 22nd, 2014, was one of them. Washington’s Steel Head Haven Community lost about 43 residents to the ghastly Oso Landslide. Also known as SR530, the landslide was a massive one, and it covered a surface area of about 1.5 square miles. Besides, it had a mass of 18 million tons of debris. It created a temporary lake from the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River that flooded houses in SteelHead Haven Community. Most of the lives lost were as a result of the flooding. The lake had a length of 2.5 miles, but it had completely dried out by mid-May.

2. 2013 Bingham Canyon Landslide

2013 Bingham Canyon Landslide

The Bingham Canyon Landslide triggered 16 earthquakes.

©Farragutful / Creative Commons – License

Imagine what could happen if a large mine had a landslide. Disastrous, right? Well, that was what happened on April 10, 2013, in Utah. The Bingham Canyon Mine is one of America’s largest copper mines and is about 2.5 miles wide. On that very day, there were two rockslides, lasting roughly 90 seconds each. The landslides triggered 16 earthquakes, which were truly unforgettable. 

Additionally, the slips released roughly 70 cubic meters of debris. Fortunately, no one died from the devastating landslide. However, that happened majorly because the mine had been monitored. So, the slip was expected to happen soon. Subsequently, the workers were evacuated, although several machines were damaged in the slide.  

3. 2005 La Conchita Landslide

Ten people lost their lives to the La Conchita Landslide.


Sometimes, there’s more to fear from a rainstorm than a heavy downpour. Sometimes, when there is a rainstorm, a devastating landslide might happen just like it did in 2005 in Southern California. Tragically, this landslide led to the death of ten people. The slide penetrated the town at the end of the slope and killed seven adults and three children. A similar occurrence happened in 1995 when 9 homes were lost. Yet, La Conchita was still unprepared for the devastating landslide ten years later. 

4. 1983 Thistle Landslide

1983 Thistle Landslide


The most devastating landslides in the United States take lives and properties with them. However, although the 1983 Thistle Landslide successfully wiped out the whole town, it did not succeed in killing anyone in the process. The West Side of the Spanish Fork Canyon in Utah had experienced heavy rainfall and a fast-melting snowpack, which was, in fact, what triggered the slip. 

The landslide, which was 6,000 feet in length and 1,000 feet in width, moved at a slope of 10 degrees. The town’s famous railroad that connected Salt Lake City with Denver was destroyed in the process. Fortunately, the residents did not witness such a dreadful event as they had earlier evacuated the town. But that did not stop the city from incurring a loss of about $200 million. 

5. 1982 San Francisco Bay Area Landslide

No one expects to start the year with devastating landslides or other natural disasters. However, California spent the first week of the year in 1982 experiencing about 18,000 landslides around the San Francisco Bay Area. From 3rd to 5th January, the region experienced a downpour with heavy rainstorms. Consequently, a mudflow from the Bay Area caused 14 fatalities, damaged public facilities, and damaged several homes. About 231 homes were destroyed, 6,300 homes were damaged, and 1,565 businesses were damaged or destroyed. The total value of the economic loss incurred on public facilities that year to the slide was estimated to be $109 million. 

6. 1969 Nelson County Landslide 

1969 Nelson County Landslide 

153 fatalities were recorded in the Nelson County Landslide.

©Virginia State Parks staff / Creative Commons – License

In the United States, some devastating landslides like the Thistle Slide and the Bingham Canyon Landslides recorded no fatalities. But that was possible because they were expected, so the appropriate preventive measures were taken. However, the Nelson County Landslide was a totally different case. It was, in fact, unexpected, and about 153 fatalities were recorded. The country experienced heavy rainfall on August 19th, which induced flooding and several landslides. Both the flood and the slides were responsible for the fatalities recorded. 

7. 1959 Madison County Landslide 

Highway 287 slumped into Hebgen Lake, part of the landslides caused in Madison County.

Landslides were caused in Madison County as a result of the Hebgen Lake earthquake.

©I.J. Witkind., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Landslides are not new to the residents of Madison County. Yet, the 1959 slide triggered by the Hebgen Lake earthquake remains one of the most devastating landslides in the United States. The quake had a magnitude of 7.3 and triggered the slide which blocked the Madison River. The damming of the river led to the creation of the Earthquake Lake. What made that day memorable was the trapping of the tourists that visited the canyon that night. Unfortunately, about 28 lives were lost from the disaster, and the county recorded damage of $11 million.

8. 1958 Lituya Bay Landslide

1958 Lituya Bay Landslide

Within a short period, Alaska experienced an earthquake, a landslide, and a megatsunami in 1958.

©D.J. Miller, United States Geological Survey / public domain

In 1958, Lituya Bay in Alaska experienced a couple of natural disasters in a short period— an earthquake, a landslide, and a megatsunami. But what triggered the landslide was the earthquake. The quake happened close to the bay and had a magnitude that varied between 7.8 to 8.3. Then boom! A rockslide of about 30 million cubic meters fell into the bay’s inlet, causing a megatsunami. The water suddenly rose high, reaching nearly 525 meters (1,722 feet) in height. In the process, three boats were damaged, and two lives were lost.  

9. 1925 Gros Ventre Landslide

1925 Gros Ventre Landslide

$500,000 worth of property was damaged due to the Gros Ventre Landslide.

©Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock.com

Indeed, Kelly County in Wyoming is a beautiful town, but the town would never forget the tragedy, the Gros Ventre Landslide of June 23rd, 1925. Sadly, the town recorded the death of six residents and over 100 animals from the disaster. The landslide was massive indeed and produced about 39 million cubic meters of mudslide. 

Besides, it was about 300 feet tall and was huge enough to block the Gros Ventre River. The dam later created a smaller lake which is known as the Lower Slide Lake. Unfortunately, $500,000 worth of property was damaged or destroyed that year.

Summary Of The 9 Most Devastating Landslides in the United States

12014 Oso Washington LandslideWashington
22013 Bingham Canyon LandslideUtah
32005 La Conchita LandslideSouthern California
41983 Thistle LandslideUtah
51982 San Francisco Bay Area LandslideNorthern California
61969 Nelson County LandslideVirginia
71959 Madison County LandslideMontana
81958 Lituya Bay LandslideAlaska
91925 Gros Ventre LandslideWyoming

The photo featured at the top of this post is © tsyklon/Shutterstock.com

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