Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Starbuck via Hammer Grade

Plenty of December sunshine Sunday as I took a drive (and a few short hikes) to explore several Ice Age Flood features along the Snake River.

I'd been wanting to check out the streamlined Palouse hills near Hammer Grade Road (Cheney-Palouse Scabland Tract) and had also been interested in visiting a viewpoint along the Little Goose Dam Road (South of river). Dam crossings are not allowed on weekends so ... I ended up driving to the gate on the north end of Little Goose Dam and then backtracking to Washtucna Coulee, then south and around to Starbuck. Not a problem, I like it out there.

Before I get to the trip photos, let me add one taken last Thursday. Teresa and I made a trip to Ellensburg to attend the Ellensburg IAFI meeting [Speaker: Richard Waitt USGS]. I wish I could make it up to more of their meetings. Nick and Karl do a great job.

On the way, we made a quick stop south of Sentinel Gap to view huge field of boulders that settled out as floodwater entered the Pasco Basin.

[Click any image to enlarge]

Teresa and erratic boulder near Mattawa, WA. Sentinel Gap in the distance.

Back to Sunday's trip.

Palouse Falls bottom of falls pool.
Pretty good variety Sunday. Lots of streamlined Palouse hills, gravel bars and a quiet hike to the bottom of the Palouse River Canyon.

Streamlined Palouse Hill left by the Ice Age Floods.
Early morning along Hammer Grade Road. This area was once covered with rolling loess hills up to 250 feet thick. In major channels the Ice Age Floods removed huge amounts of loess (windblown silt), exposing the basalt bedrock. Many loess islands were left behind (like the one pictured above).
"Here are streamlined, prow-pointed and steeply scarped loessial islands 150 feet high" J Harlen Bretz

The Lake Missoula floods left streamlined Palouse Hills.
Wheat is grown for miles to the left of image. A ten mile wide flood tract exists to the right. [View South]

1. Hammer Grade Road.
2. Wheat field.
3. Scarped Palouse hill.
4. Streamline Palouse hill.

Palouse Hills.
View North

Same thing here. Flood-swept basalt and streamlined hills to west. Wheat country on the right.

Hammer Grade Road.
Hammer Grade is no problem when bare. Might want to think twice before attempting to descend through snow and ice.

Ice Age Floods scarped hills.
Flood-swept scabland and scarped Palouse hills. If you want to search for the missing soil ... Try looking in the Willamette Valley and Pacific Ocean.

Two photos below from Bruce Bjornstad

I sure like these shots. I'm impressed the farmer has maximized his wheat acreage by farming a loess island!

Palouse Hills
Surrounded by scabland.

Flood-cut channel through Palouse hills.

Palouse deer.
Large deer population along Hammer Grade.

Hammer Grade Ice Age Flood deposits.
Once you get to the bottom of Hammer Grade (near the Snake River), start looking for depositional features left by the Ice Age Floods.

[Hammer length: 10.5 inches]

Little Goose Dam Ice Age Flood deposits.
Exposed flood deposits near Little Goose Dam (Snake River). Note band of fine material that settled out during slackwater conditions. I'll add a few photos below that show similar slackwater band(s) exposed downstream at Lake Sacajawea Bar. Road in distance climbs to top of Little Goose Dam. Recreation area marked with "1".

Call 1-888-DAMINFO (1-888-326-4636) for Dam Crossing Info.

Little Goose Dam
Little Goose Dam - Army CE Photo

Red arrow marks exposed flood deposits shown in previous image.

Hammer Grade dwelling.
Hammer Grade structure.

Hammer Grade warning sign has been rotated and bolted.

Chief Washtucna watches over the coulee.

Photo by Steve Coffel (Florence, MT)

Steve recently sent me a few Snake River photos that led me to the Little Goose Dam Road overlook. I like the soft lighting in this one along with the cool fence!

Thanks again Steve and I hope we can get out for a hike next spring!

Map shows lower Hammer Grade Road, Old Vantage Bridge (Moved from Vantage area when Wanapum Dam built) and Starbuck, WA. The Old Vantage Bridge crosses the Snake River just below Palouse and Snake confluence.

Rawhide Bar and Grill Starbuck, WA.
Starbuck now has two restaurants.

Starbuck, WA and Little Goose dam map.
Little Goose Dam at top left. Interesting flood deposits are found along SR-261 near Starbuck. Steve's overlook is marked with camera symbol.

Mid-Canyon bar Snake River.
View downstream from overlook.

1. Huge flood bar. I'm trying to find a name for it.
2. Mid-Canyon Bar (J Harlen Bretz described this feature in 1928).
3. Mouth of Palouse River Canyon (right).

Bruce Bjornstad describes the Mid-Canyon Bar in his book On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods.

"Floodwaters rushing down the Palouse River cataract canyon plowed into the high walls of the Snake River valley, forcing the water to split and rush in opposite directions. Some floodwaters surged up the Snake River for 80 miles, all the way to Lewiston, Idaho, and beyond. The rest of the floodwater went down the Snake River, eventually emptying into the Pasco Basin."

Snake River gravel bar.
View east from overlook. Looks like the pit is active.

The Mid-Canyon Bar is 2.5 miles long. A tremendous amount of gravel has been removed from bar below the mid-Canyon Bar (note the giant current ripples that are about to disappear).

Little Goose Dam airport.
- WSDOT - Photo

Little Goose Dam Airport was built on a Snake River bar. The water behind Little Goose Dam (Lake Bryan - Max. pool 646.5 feet) covers much of the bar.

YouTube video uploaded by fazonsazar on Sep 8, 2007. Video shows Cessna 172 landing at Little Goose Dam and Lock on a windy afternoon in late August.

Tucannon Valley.
Please scroll back up about six images (Google Earth) and check out the Tucannon drainage. Huge volumes of sediment laden floodwater surged into this valley during Ice Age Flood events.

Ya gotta feel sorry for the beavers living on this stretch of river 15,000 years ago. Feeling safe living off the main Snake channel ... Then suddenly forced to ride out a 700 foot deep flood surge that came from a downstream direction!

Tucannon Valley - View west from Little Goose Dam Road (on the way to the overlook). FYI- There isn't an official "Overlook". Just pull over when Snake River is in view.

At least six rhythmites are visible at the Starbuck exposure. Approximatly 25 have been found in the Tucannon Valley.

Missoula Flood rhythmites.
Bruce Bjornstad explains that the coarse basaltic gravel between some of the beds may be material shed off the steep valley walls between floods.

Starbuck, WA Ice Age Floods rhythmites.
Use caution if you visit this area on foot. Motorists are dealing with curves and elevation changes ... probably not expecting pedestrians.

Ice Age Floods rhythmites near Starbuck, WA.
The last time I visited this location, a woman stopped to ask "Are you OK?". I don't think she had much of an appreciation for the flood feature I'd driven many miles to examine.

Ice Age Flood rhythmites draped over Columbia River Basalt near Starbuck, WA.
Ice Age Flood rhythmites and Columbia River Basalt. I'm standing too close!!! Good thing Skye Cooley thought enough to back up and capture a panoramic view of this exposure. See below.

Thanks to Skye for letting me use this amazing shot of Starbuck rhythmites draped over Columbia River Basalt. (Click to enlarge)

Check out some great shots at Skye's: Picasa Clastic Dikes Gallery.

Hammer Grade flood deposits from Little Goose Dam Road.
Now I'm on the south side of the Snake River - Looking at the first flood deposits shown above. The exposure between Hammer Grade and Little Goose Dam. You can see the slackwater band.

Lake Sacajawea Bar rhythmites.
Here's a shot of a similar slackwater band exposed downstream on the 400' tall Lake Sacajawea Bar.
Lake Sacajawea Ice Age Flood Bar.
A few images here from a visit to the Lake Sacajawea Bar earlier this year. The size of many Snake River gravel bars is impressive. Hard to image what happened along the Snake River between Pasco and Lewiston at the end of the last Ice Age. Usually the floodwaters raced down the Snake and into the Pasco Basin. Other times when Wallula Gap restricted the flow, floodwater rushed up the Snake River. During several intervals, the flow stabalized and fine material was allowed to settle out to form the slackwater bands we see today.

Red arrow points to Walker Bar.

Walker Bar along Snake River.
Walker Bar borrow pit.

Lake Missoula flood deposits.
Still looking at Lake Sacajawea Bar flood deposits.

Contact between flood gravel and slackwater deposits.
The drastic material change is cool. Some of these contacts are super sharp.

Snake River flood deposits.
Bruce Bjornstad has placed an interesting Geocache near this location.

Railroad spike for scale.

"The gravel pit excavated by the railroad here has a scarp 200 feet high. The gravel is unindurated and slides easily, so that the structure is difficult to decipher. But it is 99 per cent basalt." - J Harlen Bretz 1925

The streamlined hill shapes are often referred to as teardrop, ship-like or airfoil-like. Earlier this year I attended an Ellensburg IAFI chapter meeting and heard Vic Baker compare them to "A trout in a stream". I like that one.

Several excellent examples of streamlined Palouse Hills are visible from the intersection of SR-261 and the entrance road to Palouse Falls State Park.

"These hills consist of "islands" of loess that appear to float in a sea of basalt scabland. Their teardrop shape consists of a prominant steep prow on the upstream end and long tapered tails on the downstream end. This shape, which was repeated over and over again in the formation of streamlined sedimentary hills, is not a coincidence. During Ice Age flooding, the hills were streamlined so their length was usually about three times longer than their width; this hydrodynamic shape provided the least amount of drag to the floodwaters that formed them. - Bjornstad"
NASA Mars streamlined hills.
NASA has some impressive shots of streamlined hills on Mars. Scientist estimate flood volumes on Mars were 10 times the largest Missoula flood.

Scarped hills near Palouse Falls State Park.
SR-261 near the entrance to Palouse Falls State Park - The scarped Palouse hills aren't too far off the highway.

Palouse River Canyon - Smithsonian Museum.
Teresa and I were in Washington, DC the week of Thanksgiving - I noticed this Palouse River Canyon USGS photo in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Cool! Franklin County in the Smithsonian.

View from bottom of Palouse River Canyon, Palouse Falls State Park.
- Palouse Falls -

Link to 2009 hike in this area.

Nice day. Too much driving and not enough hiking but still fun!

Merry Christmas! Tom

Glacial Lake Missoula floodwaters were responsible for most of the features pictured above; However, another large flood swept through this stretch of the Snake River about 17,400 years ago. Click video above to watch Nick Zentner interview USGS Geologist Jim O'Connor. Jim talks about the Lake Bonneville Flood at the 14 minute mark of interview.

Watch Nick interview other guests from the US Geological Survey and various regional organizations at Central Rocks.
"Central Rocks" aims to promote an appreciation and understanding of Washington geology - while also shedding light on research and teaching of CWU faculty.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grand Coulee, Northrup Canyon, Umatilla Rock and Deep Lake Potholes

Misc. photos from several hikes to view Ice Age Flood features near Banks Lake - Fourth weekend in October 2011.

I'll try to follow this post with shots from the Vantage, WA area along with a few from the lower Grand Coulee.

Sorry I've been slow to post images from hikes. I still like to get out in the spring and fall ... Just not getting around to posting.

Click any image to enlarge.

Bruce Bjornstad at Dry Falls State Park - Ice Age Floods.
Bruce Bjornstad on Umatilla Rock (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park).

Dry Falls cataract system.
Flood-swept basalt plateau and small portion of Dry Falls cataract system. Hikes over the weekend covered flood features between Sun Lake-Dry Falls State Park and Northrup Canyon.

Bruce Bjornstad photographs Glacial Lake Columbia deposits.
Bruce inspects flood deposits (sand and gravel) beneath layers of slackwater deposits that settled to the floor of Glacial Lake Columbia.

Columbia River Basalt Group.
The Grand Coulee is a great place to view Columbia River Basalt.

Ice-rafted erratic in the Grand Coulee.
Hard working erratic

This ice-rafted erratic has been put to work holding a Grand Coulee fence post.

The Coulee Corridor.
When you see signage that includes these towns ... You're getting close to some of the best features in the entire Ice Age Flood region.

The Coulee Corridor group maintains a nice website that describes this section of SR-17. Click link to visit its site.
It possesses almost every characteristic feature of scabland, and most of them are on the huge scale consistent with the flood conception.
J Harlen Bretz describes the Grand Coulee (1933)

Northrup Canyon aerial view.
J Harlen Bretz called Northrup Canyon a "Very peculiar tributary" in his 1932 guidebook "The Channeled Scabland".

Northrup Canyon Lake
Canyon leaves were beautiful. Loved the reds and yellows around lake. Heart-shaped lake photo for Teresa.

Open link to visit Bruce's Northrup Lake geocache page. Great text and illustrations!

Northrup Canyon Granite and Columbia River Basalt Group.
The canyon is amazing ... You're near the edge of the Columbia River Basalt Group flows (not very thick up here). At this location the floods have ripped away basalt and exposed underlying granite.
The granite is significantly older (50-100 million years) compared to the basalt which is only 15-17 million years old.

"One can stand on the brink of Northrup Canyon and aver with confidence that it can never be satisfactorily explained except as an extinct Niagara."
J Harlen Bretz 1932

Northrup Lake and Northrup Canyon geology.
I like this Google Earth image showing the granite ridge. Aerial images on Bruce's geocache page show grooves and potholes on the plateau.

Bretz noted "Buried granite hills exhumed by erosion of the glacial torrent are also seen" when describing Northrup Canyon.

Northrup Canyon granite.
No erratics here. This granite is right where it belongs.

Fall color in Northrup Canyon.
Bruce and bright trees in lower canyon.

Click arrow to play short aerial video by GeoCosmicREX. Footage shows upper Northrup Canyon - Check out granite ridge - canyon center. Northrup Lake visible about 20 seconds into video.

On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods - The Northern Reaches.
Bruce will have a new Ice Age Floods guidebook out soon - Published by Keokee Books. I hope it comes out soon. The Grand Coulee guidebook I'm currently using was published in 1932!

Awesome cover art by Stev Ominski shows Dry Falls area (includes Okanogan Ice Lobe and receding Ice Age Floodwater).

The Bureau of Reclamation has lowered Banks Lake 30 feet to perform maintenance on equipment at Dry Falls dam. Lots of mud and sand exposed in the Grand Coulee. This shot shows mud flat between Steamboat Rock and mouth of Northrup Canyon. Note Glacial Lake Columbia deposits being blown around (arrow).

Banks Lake - Coulee City, WA
Inundated scabland reappears north of Coulee City.

Banks Lake drawdown.

Coulee City, WA.

Banks Lake
Dark blue areas remain underwater.

Steamboat Rock USBOR Banks Lake draw-down.
Lake down 30 ft. - Things look different near Steamboat Rock.

Banks Lake draw down.
I thought it might stink but there was no odor. The mud/silt/sand didn't really stick to shoes - Enjoyed walking around out there.

Glacial Lake Columbia.
It was easy to get around and explore Glacial Lake Columbia deposits.

Dry Falls area.
1. Dry Falls Visitor Center.
2. Umatilla Rock.
3. Deep Lake potholes.
4. Dry Falls Dam.
5. Coulee City.
6. Main Canal (Columbia Basin Irrigation Project).

Deep Lake road.
The road to Deep Lake is closed this time of year. Easy walk or bike ride to lake and pothole area.

Tom Foster Ice Age Floods
Photo by Bruce

OK ... The plan was to try and get a better angle with camera when photographing Deep Lake potholes. Before I waved my Nikon around on a 16 ft. pole - I supplemented the attachment point with several wraps of duct tape.

Tom Foster Lake Missoula floods.
It should work.

Pothole pole photo.
First few pothole pole photos were a little rough.

Getting better with the pole.

The potholes out here are really cool! Whirlpool-like currents called kolks, drilled into the basalt.

View from the top of a Lowe's 16' telescopic painter's pole. Looking west down Deep Lake channel to Lower Grand Coulee. Bruce standing near pothole rim (left).

Deep Lake pothole tunnel.
Here's a strange place Bruce heard about from Mark Buser (Ice Age Floods Institute President).
A short tunnel allows easy access to the pothole floor.

Bruce Bjornstad in Ice Age Flood pothole.
Bruce standing on pothole floor.

View over pothole with tunnel entrance (red diamond). Bruce standing on wall between lake channel and pothole.

Deep Lake, Sun Lakes State Park.
Headed back to the lake.

Deep Lake potholes.
Google Earth image shows tunnel entrance pothole (1) and pole photo pothole (2).

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park.
Pretty quiet out here. Umatilla Rock in the distance.

Geologist Bruce Bjornstad.
That's Bruce and he's ... "On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods".

No trail to the top of Umatilla Rock ... just a talus slope with some scrambling near the top.

Bruce Bjornstad on Umatilla Rock.
Confluence of Monument Coulee and Deep Lake Channel in the distance.

Scabland features.
Three images here show view into flood-scoured Monument Coulee.

Channeled scabland.
I like the rubble rings around some of the giant basalt boulders. Rings probably formed as smaller blocks broke away from the biggest boulders due to post-flood freeze-thaw activity.

Monument Coulee wall.
Interesting basalt wall on Monument Coulee floor.

Bruce Bjornstad - Ice Age Floods.
Bruce explores the top of Umatilla Rock. Nice views from up here. What an amazing place!

When you view the floor of Monument Coulee from the top of Umatilla Rock (or hike in the coulee) you may notice several large granite boulders.

Ice Age Flood bedload.
Large granite boulders near our home in the Pasco Basin were rafted within icebergs. Many found near Dry Falls were transported in the bedload.

Cool video posted by SRGSclips - Click to play. Shows bedload movement in lab flume.

Monument Coulee erratic transported in Lake Missoula Floods.
After watching lab video above ... Extrapolate out and replace flume with The Grand Coulee and multiple Ice Age Floods. Boulders this size would have easily moved through the coulee without the aid of ice.

Many flood bars in this area are covered with large boulders - "Armored bars".

Dry Falls - Ice Age Floods.
Bruce walks along coulee rim. Visitor center on rim at left.

Dry Falls Visitor Center.
Next time you visit Dry Falls - Make sure to take a few minutes to walk through the Visitor Center. The ranger that smiles and says "Hello" is Maurya.

Monument Coulee wall.
Maurya can tell you about the basalt wall in Monument Coulee.

Dates and Hours from State Parks site - November 2011.

Dry Falls Visitor Center summer hours: May 1 - Sept. 30, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

Dry Falls Visitor Center winter hours: Oct. 1 - April 30, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., closed Thursdays

Dry Falls Visitor Center is closed on the following holidays: Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.

Niagara Falls - Dry Falls comparison.

Google Earth view - Niagara Falls

Dry Falls - Niagara Falls Comparison.

Google Earth comparison: Dry Falls - Niagara Falls.

If you plan to explore Ice Age Flood features in Washington State - you'll need one of these. I'll bite my tongue and move on to the next picture.

Ice Age Floods - Sun Lakes State Park.
Walked by this interpretive panel that shows Teresa standing in front of flood-cut caves used by early residents of the area. Floodwater at top of image by Stev Ominski.

Dry Falls

Not the best sunrise - but a great place to start the day.

Couleegan's Coulee City.
Samuel Adam's Octoberfest tasted pretty good at Couleegan's in Coulee City.

Wanted to try The Banks Lake Brew & Bistro for coffee but they don't open until 0900 on Sunday. Good thing the friendly folks at Big Wally's have their "Shut Up and Fish Blend" brewed early each morning.

Coulee City motel.
A giant sign that says "MO" is just across the street from coffee stop.

- Big Wally's Fishing Report -

Short Dry Falls panorama (video) shot earlier this year. Click arrow to play.

If you have a little time - Click to watch CWU's Nick Zentner interview Bruce on Central Rocks.

Link to Umatilla Rock blog images posted a couple years ago. Spring trip to Dry Falls area. Deep Lake pothole views from rim.