Eastern WA (7/30/13)

Till recently, I had been just posting pretty landscape photos on this page. It finally occurred to me that people who look at these landscapes might be interested in knowing something about them. Eastern Washington is a very cool place geologically-speaking. Much of the landscape was affected in some way by the Ice Age floods. I’ve been learning a bit about this area’s geology from lectures given by Dr. Nick Zentner, a geologist at Central Washington University, and other speakers from the Ice Age Floods speaker series. Much of what I learned growing up about canyons had to do with wind erosion, like Bryce Canyon, or rivers cutting down through land, like the Grand Canyon. Here, in eastern Washington, Ice Age floods came gushing through about 15,000 years ago and gouged out the fractured basalt that makes up much of this landscape, leaving very cool flat-bottomed coolees, like Frenchman Coolee and, of course, Grand Coolee.

As always, if you click the picture twice (first once to open it, then again to enlarge it, i.e., not a double-click), you’ll get a version big enough to fill the screen. With these broad landscape shots, seeing the bigger version is worth it.

The first seven photos show the area around Lake Lenore Caves, just north of Soap Lake, WA. The first two show the view looking south and north from the parking lot of the “trail head” for the caves. The color of the lake was really that green. The  next shows what the hills look like and the last few show views of or from the caves. These were used as seasonal shelter for native peoples.  Supposedly there are cave drawings from thousands of years ago, but I have yet to find anything other than contemporary graffiti.


The following shot is from Dry Falls, just a few miles north of Lake Lenore Caves. Though these falls are indeed dry now, during the many ice age floods, the water rushing over these cliffs was hundreds of feet high. Over the many floods of the Ice Age, the force of the waterfall eroded the actual fall itself from its original location in Soap Lake to its current location at Dry Falls, 15 miles north of Soap Lake.

The next two photos are of Frenchman Coolee, near George, WA. You may have driven by the road to the coolee if you’ve gone to a concert at the Gorge Amphitheater on the Columbia River.

The photo below shows a view from the top of one of the basalt flats in Drumheller Channel. It’s just north of Mattawa, WA. This was an incredible place to view evidence of many different lava flows that show up as the different layers of basalt. As an “Easterner”, I can never quite get enough of the western geology.

The next three photos are from another interesting and unusual place to walk in the desert over by Moses Lake, WA: Potholes Wildlife Area (North). Though it is in the desert, semi-arid at least, this place is like a lagoon in the midst of dunes covered in sage brush. We saw lots of egrets and other water birds, lizards, left-over Mt. St. Helens ash on the ground, erratics comprised of granite (or granodiorite) boulders, and basalt rocks that appeared to have been ground shiny in a tumbler, probably from the wind. Pictures don’t do the place justice.

In the full-screen version of this picture, Mt. Rainier is “clearly” visible on the horizon.

The lines in the ponds were amazing. In this shot, the big curvy lines are most noticeable. However, in the full-screen version, lines from the layers of deposits are evident at the edges of the pond. Also, in the full-screen version, the tiny snow-caps of the Stuart Range are visible just above the dune in the center of the screen. …No, I’m not referring to the clouds off to the left! ;^)

This last photo shows the everglade-like network of waterways better than the previous photos. The rock in the foreground is an example of a granodiorite erratic. For those new to geology, an “erratic” is a glacier-deposited rock that is different from the local bedrock, which for us here in our area of eastern Washingon is basalt. The tops of three basalt rocks are visible in the lower right hand corner. They appear dark reddish brown.