Missoula Floods: How Did This Get Here?

Granite Erratic in Pasco Basin, Washington

The Central Washington Basin is covered with layers of basalt, totaling as much as 2 miles thick, created by huge lava flows 8-15 million years ago.  The nearest source of granite rock is several hundred miles away.  This photo was taken near the Hanford site north of Richland.  The granite rock was about 1/4 mile from the road.  My lens combination was 560mm.  For reference, the actual height of the rock (above ground) is about 12 feet.  It is a big granite rock.  How did it get here???

The current theory is that it was brought here as part of the ice dam that broke loose during one of the Missoula floods around 15,000 years ago.  As the ice melted, embedded rocks were released.  The Pasco basin and its surround hills have many such erratics.

Missoula Floods: This Was Once a Lake

Pasco Basin and Columbia River, Washington

This image was taken from the top of Saddle Mountain looking south toward the Pasco Basin. (Yesterday’s post was from the same location looking north toward the Othello Basin.)

Can you believe that this was once a 800 foot deep lake?  During the Missoula floods, water entered the Pasco Basin northeast from the Palouse, north from the Drumheller/Othello Channels and northwest from the Columbia River through Sentinel Gap.  Wallula Gap blocked the water from flowing freely through the Columbia Gorge to the Pacific Ocean.  The result was the temporary Ice Age Lake Lewis.  Today, the Columbia River meanders through the basin.  The Hanford Nuclear Research facility is located south and east of the river.  Rattlesnake Ridge is visible in the background.

A Day in the Canyon: Abstract Art

Basalt, Yaklma River Canyon

These pieces of basalt (approximately 18 inches in length) caught my as I was exploring road cuts in the Yakima River Canyon.  They seemed to be accented by an artists brush.  Different patterns and different colors abounded in adjacent rocks.  Since the rocks were adjacent and seem to be part of the same basalt flow, why are they so different in surface color and pattern. I need to do a little research on what factors determine the color and patterns.

Missoula Floods: Facing Drumheller Channels

Drumheller Channels in Distance from Top of Saddle Mountain

This image was taken from the top of Saddle Mountain (~1,300 ft elevation) looking north east over the Othello basin toward the Drumheller Channels.  Imagine a wall of water 200 – 300 feet high racing over an 8-11 mile stretch over the Drumheller Channels at over 60 miles per hour.  This was the amount of water that was released (multiple times) when the Lake Missoula glacier dam broke releasing the water over the Eastern Washington basin.  Saddle Mountain broke the onslaught of water.  Some flowed west through the Crab Creek Coulee to the Columbia River and Sentinal Gap.  The remainder rushed around the eastern edge of the Mountain and into the Pasco Basin and Lake Lewis.

A Day in the Canyon: Vertical Basalt Columns

Vertical Basalt Columns – Yakima River Canyon

A couple of miles up the road from my last post, I saw these basalt columns protruding vertically upward.  They were located on a different ridge.  The forces driving the uplift were different than the ones from the first ridge.  I ask why, what caused the difference? Did this ridge lift at a different time or were the forces just different from the ridge in the first post.  My curiosity kills me.  I think I need to do more research on how these “Yakima Folds” evolved.

A Day in the Canyon: Tilted Basalt

Tilted Basalt Columns – Yakima River Canyon

This tilted basalt was the result of a plate fold being pushed up from a diagonal force.  Throughout the Yakima River Canyon the basalt columns show displacement in various directions.  This illustrates that forces were lateral pushing toward each other creating a “fold”.

The basalt shown here is in a “columnar” formation.  Basalt formed like this cooled very slowly, creating a soother texture.

Mountain or River, Which Came First

Yakima River Canyon, Washington

How did a river cut such a gorge through a basalt mountain.  Maybe it didn’t.  The Yakima River originates high in the Cascade Mountains. The upper end of the river was not part of the great Missoula floods that covered Eastern Washington.  The Yakima meanders through several Basalt Ridges.  The nature of a meandering steam is that it flows through a relatively flat plain.  If the mountains were there first, the river would have flowed around them.  So how did the Yakima get through the mountains.  Maybe the river was there first,  As the ridges slowly developed as part of the Yakima fold formations, the river could have gradually cut a channel through its original riverbed route.

I spent a day slowly driving through the Yakima River Canyon.  I stopped and photographed several interesting rocks and formations. During the next week or so, I will post several of my images.

Pay Attention!

Danger – Gator !!!!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had placed my full attention toward shooting the terns as they were diving.  I sat down along the path so I could brace my elbows on my knees as I followed the birds.  After we finished, I looked down and saw this young gator sunning itself less than 10 feet from my legs.  Holy XXXX, did I jump.  Even though the area had warning signs about alligators, I had not even thought about it when I sat down.  My eyes were on the birds in the sky, not at the water’s edge in front of me.  That is the rest of the story.

How many times have I focused on capturing an image without paying attention to what was around me.  This is truly a lesson learned!  Be safe out there!!!

Flying Birds – Phase III (Difficult)

Diving Tern

Now things really get tough.  Capturing a diving tern is not easy.  They dart changing directions constantly as they fly looking for little morsels in the water.  Once they see something, they dive at 1000 miles per hour (or so it seems).  To catch a dive, I had to actively follow the bird as it darted above, keeping it in focus.  Then as soon as it makes a motion down, I start shooting and drop my camera to the water as fast as I can.  My camera shoots at 10 fps and I still caught only a couple of dives in the 250 images I shot.  We shot for about a half an hour.  I was exhausted from the concentration that I had exerted.  I was ready to quit.  But this is not the end of the story.  Wait for my next post …

Flying Birds – Phase II (Medium)

Nesting Great Blue Herons

Now things are getting a little more difficult.  The heron’s flight path was erratic and now I had to worry about timing and composure within the frame.  Here, I was trying to capture a specific action of the male landing to bring the female branches to make a nest.  I made a lot of errors including not leaving enough room at the edges of the frame.  Many of my images clipped the wings of the heron as he landed.  Also, I had a difficult time focusing on the main subject.  There were many other things going on around me and I would try to capture them as well.  I missed several opportunities to capture special actions of this couple.

There is also a little story behind these two love birds.  Even though the male was working hard to bring the female twigs for the nest, she was not very faithful.  When he would fly to get more twigs, another male would fly in and “do its thing”.  The first male would quickly fly back to chase the second one away.  It was rather comical to watch their behavior.