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Cataclysms on the Columbia
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Cataclysms on the Columbia

 
Cataclysms on the Columbia

Page Type: Gear Review

Object Title: Cataclysms on the Columbia

Manufacturer: John Eliot Allen, Marjorie Burns and Sam C. Sargent

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Page By: mrh

Created/Edited: May 17, 2007 / May 17, 2007

Object ID: 3220

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Product Description

This book may be interesting for some climbers because the events that contributed in part to the formation of the rugged landscapes of central Washington (such as the cliffs at Vanage) are explained.

This book is two remarkable stories in one. First in time it covers the unimaginably huge floods of water that drained glacial Lake Missoula in present day Montana and drowned parts of Idaho, Washington and Oregon while raging to the ocean. Evidence of such a flood includes among other things miles of scoured landscape in central Washington known as the channeled scablands, ripple marks so huge they appear as hills on the ground, ancient lakeshores on mountain sides, huge erratic rocks hundreds of miles from their origin and more. There was so much volume that the pooling of the water behind bottlenecks along the flow path formed Great Lake sized bodies of water that took days to drain. At Dry Falls in Washington the world’s largest known waterfall spilled 200 foot deep water over a 350 foot, fifteen mile wide cliff. The future site of Portland lay under 400 feet of water. The energy released was 22 times greater than that of the Krakatoa eruption, and nine times greater than the collapse of Mount Mazama. As incredible as this event was, it happened about 40 times as the glacier lobe continued to dam the river then repeatedly collapsed.

The second story is that of geologist, Harlen Bretz, who examined the incredible scoured landscape known as the scablands of central Washington and hypothesized that it could only have been shaped by such a flood. When Bretz came forth with his theory, he was scorned, ridiculed and isolated by the scientific body that at that time was completely sold on the idea that land changes were a slow, continuous process. Such huge rapid catastrophic change was just too biblical and through the ages science had suffered too much from religious interpretation to accept such a possibility. But as the years and evidenced mounted, especially the finding of shoreline remnants on Montana mountain sides and ripple marks that could only be caused by moving water and were so huge they could only be seen from the air, Bretz was finally vindicated. Fortunately since he lived to be 98 years old he lived to see his theories totally accepted.

From the Back Cover
This fascinating book tells two separate stories separated by 14,000. The first is that of the repeated waves of awesome Ice Age floods – the greatest known to have occurred anywhere in North America – which swept across the face of eastern Washington, down the Columbia Gorge, and up the Willamette and Tualatin valleys, catastrophically changing the face of thousands of square miles of the Pacific Northwest.

The second is that of J. Harlen Bretz, a remarkable geologist who defied the scientific orthodoxy of his day and argued that sudden floods of almost unimaginable force rather than the slow, uniform processes of erosion had created the scablands of eastern Washington. Bretz lived to the great age of 98, and in his later years he had the satisfaction of seeing his theories vindicated.

Enormous ice-age lakes, with one-fifth the volume of Lake Michigan, repeatedly grew behind dames of ice in northern Idaho and Montana. When the rising waters became deep enough to float the ice, they lifted the dam and the ice was swept away. Hundreds of cubic miles of lake water rushed southwest at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, carrying away deep loess soils and leaving in their wake the scarred land and deeply cut valleys, which are such striking features of the Washington scablands.

Farther west, the floods crested at 1000 feet entering the Columbia Gorge, and spread out in the Portland basin to a depth of 400 feet, eventually leaving such landmarks as Rocky Butte, the Tualatin scablands, Lake Oswego, and the erratic boulders strewn throughout the Willamette Valley. Perhaps most amazing, the ice continued to dam a new lake, and the whole process was repeated every 50 years or so for 2000 years!

Cataclysms on the Columbia is a gripping account of the extraordinary natural forces that shaped the familiar features of the Northwest. The book concludes with descriptions of the evidence of the floods than can be seen in the landscape from Missoula to the Pacific Ocean. The final chapters provide a great touring guide for the interested traveler. Maps, highway directions, and many photos make it easy for the amateur geologist to rediscover the clues which led J Harlen Bretz to his monumental discovery.

Produce Details

Paperback: 221 pages
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated; Reprint edition (December 1, 1991)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0881922153
ISBN-13: 978-0881922158
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

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