Wednesday, May 27, 2009

National Geologic Trail Press Conference

The Ice Age Floods Institute held a press conference today regarding legislation that was passed by Congress on March 25, 2009, authorizing the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. The legislation is the culmination of a multi-year effort. The primary sponsors of the legislation are U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings.

Link to Tri-City Herald coverage: Press Conference

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail Press Conference speakers Gary Kleinknecht (Ice Age Floods Institute President), U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell.

Congressman Hastings and Senator Cantwell hold small ice-rafted erratics that were presented by the Ice Age Floods Institute.

Senator Maria Cantwell

“Since 2001, I have been working with communities in Central and Eastern Washington, the National Park Service, and community stakeholders to create an Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail through portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. “Visitors to the trail will not only provide an important economic boost to Central and Eastern Washington communities, but they will learn about an amazing, and often overlooked, part of our region’s history.”

Check out the huge erratic boulder above - left side of image. This boulder was ice-rafted to the Badger Mountain area during the Ice Age Floods. Material on the kiosk describes that the erratic was moved to this point during construction of homes a short distance away.

Congressman Doc Hastings

“I was proud to sponsor the legislation establishing the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail in the House of Representatives,” said U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings. “It is fitting that the first-ever National Geologic Trail should highlight the unique and dramatic landscape of the inland Northwest, which was shaped by these Ice Age floods. This trail will serve to inform local residents about our unique geologic history, attract and support tourism to the region, and do so by interpreting sites on existing public lands rather than adding new regulations to private landowners or through the costly acquisition of new federal lands.”

Lake Lewis Maximum Elevation 1,250 feet.

The press conference was held in Trailhead Park, (541 Queensgate Dr., Richland) on the slopes of Badger Mountain. As you hike the trail to the top of Badger Mountain, you'll pass this marker placed at the Ice Age Floods high-water line.

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Badger Mountain (lower left) and Queensgate Drive in Richland. Use Google's navigation tools to explore the area.

Bruce Bjornstad created this illustration to show approximate water level during major Ice Age Flood events. Click to enlarge and notice the summit of Badger Mountain became an island surrounded by temporary Lake Lewis.

Keith Dunbar is the National Park Service Chief of Planning for the Pacific West Region.

Kris Watkins, CEO for the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau describes tourism opportunities for communities along the trail.

Geologist/Author Bruce Bjornstad

I'm not sure what Bruce is describing here but he's probably explaining a flood feature or giving directions to a hike in the Channeled Scablands.

Bruce's book "On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods" is available at the Ice Age Floods Institute store.

Dale Middleton

It made my day to see Dale at the press conference. Dale has worked hard for many years to make sure that the story of the Ice Age Floods is told.

George Last

George deserves a ton of credit for the Ice Age Floods kiosk and high-water marker along the Badger Mountain trail. George serves as President of the Lake Lewis chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute.

Terry Hurd is President of the Columbia Gorge chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute. I'll always appreciate Terry's help and advice when Nick Zentner, Karl Lillquist and I were starting the IAFI chapter in Ellensburg.

Ice-rafted erratic along bike path to Badger Mountain.

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail

The Trail will become part of the network of existing public highways through Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, enabling the public to view, experience, and learn about the features and story of the Ice Age floods through the collaborative efforts of public and private entities.

The Ice Age Floods were the largest documented flood events known to have occurred on Earth. The discharge of water from Glacial Lake Missoula as the ice dam failed equaled ten times the flow of all of the rivers on Earth. The Glacial Lake Missoula contained over 500 cubic miles of water when the ice dam failed.

Learn more about the trail at the Ice Age Floods Institute site:
IAFI Trail Page

Monday, May 11, 2009

Umatilla Rock - Dry Falls

Dry Falls Ice Age Floods
View north from top of Umatilla Rock
-Dry Falls Lake upper left-

Dry falls is one of the most well known features created by the Ice Age Floods. This great cataract group is primarily made up of Dry Falls, Monument and Deep Lake coulees. The two best known lakes immediately below the precipice are Dry Falls Lake (Bretz refers to this lake as "Falls Lake" in his papers) and Deep Lake.

-Umatilla Rock-

The State describes Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park as a 4,027-acre camping park with 73,640 feet of freshwater shoreline at the foot of Dry Falls. Dry Falls is one of the great geological wonders of North America. Carved by Ice Age floods that long ago disappeared, the former waterfall is now a stark cliff, 400 feet high and 3.5 miles wide. In its heyday, the waterfall was four times the size of Niagara Falls. Today it overlooks a desert oasis filled with lakes and abundant wildlife.

Umatilla Rock is the long slender island in the big horseshoe shaped cataract system. Dry Falls Coulee on left, Monument Coulee on Right. Deep Lake Coulee joins from the far right. The State Park's northern boundary is confusing. The ranger in the visitor center has tearoff maps available.

I parked at what looked to be a new turnout or small parking area along the west side of Umatilla Rock and found a faint path through the talus. Near the top I had to use both hands to access a ledge or two before reaching the top. I don't think this is an official part of the Umatilla Rock trail. Hazards encountered by those hiking in the park seem to be listed on all trailhead signs.

The top of Umatilla Rock is pretty cool. The Ice Age Floods really swept this thing off flat.

Looking off the east side of Umatilla Rock, one views huge basalt blocks scattered over the western portion of Monument Coulee.

This basalt shelf in Monument Coulee is pretty cool. It sits just downstream from a large depositional feature and has been drilled from above by a kolk (underwater tornado/whirlpool) during an Ice Age Flood event. The feature left by the kolk is known as a pothole.


My favorite wildflower.

Bitterroot blooms (Lewisia rediviva).

According to the Wikipedia page: "The Lemhi Shoshone believed the small red core found in the upper taproot had special powers, notably being able to stop a bear attack."

The hike into Monument Coulee along the east side of Umatilla Rock is nice when the wildflowers are blooming. The huge basalt blocks shown in earlier photos are pretty impressive when viewed from the coulee floor.

Monument Coulee Trip Report - Seattle PI

An interesting spire stands at the south end of Umatilla Rock.

The same basalt blocks that were mentioned above. Several similar clusters are found nearby.

North end of Umatilla Rock. Fisherman on Dry Falls Lake at right.

Umatilla Rock from the brink of the falls.

Deep Lake

This is one of the most amazing areas in the Channeled Scablands. Every time I visit the Deep Lake area I find more incredible Ice Age Flood features.

Deep Lake Trip Report - Seattle PI

In his 1932 publication "The Grand Coulee", J Harlen Bretz included images and description of the "pothole-riddled ledges south of Deep Lake". Bretz noted that some of the holes are 40-50 feet deep.

The Ice Age Floods ripped out and removed tremendous amounts of basalt from the Upper and Lower Grand Coulee. There are a few sheltered areas where the floods deposited material ... Small gravel bar on opposite side of coulee. Check out all those potholes!!!

A few of the Deep Lake potholes with a blue pickup truck for scale.

If you visit the Washington State Park's Centennial Page you can open a copy of the Interpretive Master Plan
for the Ice Age Floods in Washington State Parks

The document describes this group of potholes:

"Another spectacular feature is a tight cluster of the deep potholes beyond Sun Lakes just west of Deep Lake. These potholes lie along the valley bottom and require only a 5-10 minute walk from the road."

CAUTION: I'd like to add that a fall into one of these potholes could be fatal!!!

This high altitude image from Google shows the same group of potholes. Click the minus symbol to view surrounding terrain.

I actually measured one of the Deep Lake potholes last year. This illustration is pretty close to scale. I'm 5'10, the pothole is 48' deep and 76' across.

One of the many bedload carried erratics scattered through the park.

This pothole just above the brink of the falls has a nice shape but the water quality doesn't look good. Nasty looking layer of algae.

Red Alkali Lake and Green Lake in upper Monument Coulee.

I almost stepped on the female killdeer tending these eggs.

Interesting pothole gouged into a weak section of the basalt.

Google aerial view of the same pothole. Zoom out or pan side to side to view location of pothole shown in the previous image.

The huge basalt knobs pictured above are between Monument and Deep Lake coulees. The cover of one of my favorite books about the Ice Age Floods shows the same feature viewed from a different angel. David Alt's Glacial Lake Missoula and it's Humongous Floods is available at the IAFI Store.

The Dry Falls area is one of the best locations to view Longitudinal Grooves carved by the floods. They sure stand out this time of year when the grooves are filled with blooming wildflowers.

The State Park's Visitor Center at Dry Falls houses excellent displays that describe the creation of the Lower Grand Coulee. Videos that explain Lake Missoula and the Ice Age Floods are also shown.

I'd be willing to provide a couple gallons of basalt brown paint to the State Parks if they ever decide to paint the south wall of this ugly structure. You can see the big white box for miles.

On previous visits to the Dry Falls overlook, I failed to notice this small flood tumbled erratic placed on one of the stone walls.

The Dry Falls overlook has been a popular spot for years. Photo above from the Rufus Woods Collection (Housed at Central Washington University), shows a woman photographing Dry Falls in 1940 (Umatilla Rock in the distance).

Another image from the Rufus Woods collection. The caption posted for this 1946 shot states: "F.A. Banks, Supervising Engineer at Grand Coulee Dam explains features to Secretary of Interior Krug and party at Dry Falls near Coulee City, Wash."

Dry Falls viewed from the visitor center along SR17.

This set of contour lines is pretty good evidence that the Ice Age Floods were a powerful force.

Sunday, June 7, 2009
FIELD TRIP: Dry Falls and the Lower Grand Coulee (led by Karl Lillquist, Coulee City native!)
8:00 am - 6:00 pm (carpool from Hebeler Hall parking lot)
More information soon on the Ellensburg Chapter page.

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