Trailing An Apocalypse
The ground trembling came first, Eastern Washington and Oregon shuddering under the approach of an Ice Age flood of 500 cubic miles of water, weighing more than 2 trillion tons.
The sound next, an ominous rumble growing to an overpowering roar. A cloud of mist on the horizon. Beneath it, a towering, unstoppable wave.
The water was a brown slurry, soupy with silt, rocks, trees, icebergs and any animals unlucky enough to get in its path: mammoths, giant sloths, beavers the size of bears. Basalt columns were peeled off like string cheese. Some gravel from Montana would be carried all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Other would be left in bars as high as a 40-story building.
If any humans were in the Northwest then, roughly 15,000 years ago, the inundation would have seemed like the end of the world.
The wave itself was a prow of white water, pushing a shockwave of air. Rivers typically flow from near zero to 7 miles an hour, but this flood started at freeway speeds. In volume, the deluge thundering across the Pacific Northwest was 10 times the combined flow today of all the rivers on Earth.
The flood started in the Idaho panhandle as a wall of water 2,000 feet high, bursting through the remnants of a glacial dam at 65 miles an hour. It spread into temporary lakes as it plowed west and south, and bunched into a rising boil at every canyon and constriction. In the Columbia River Gorge, it rose again as deep as 2,000 feet, its kinetic energy so great that it gouged out a pothole below sea level in the John Day River canyon.
At the Gorge's western end, the flood depth was still 800 to 1,000 feet, and water shot past Oregon's Crown Point like a fire hose at speeds as high as 70 to 80 miles an hour. One of its gravel bars would become east Portland, the water there 400 feet deep. The flood backed up the Willamette Valley as far south as Eugene, the swirling current grounding ice chunks that, when melted, deposited odd boulders across future farmland.
And thus was the Columbia River Gorge created...
Those massive dams were, on occasion, made of ice. Other dams that formed were made from basalt, lava that had flowed from numerous small and large volcanoes that dot the West. Geologists estimate these catastrophic floods happened up to 100 times.
The geology of this area has been influenced by many factors, including the last Ice Age, but under that ice there was always the rock. When Glacial Lake Missoula's ice dam gave way, the great carving began and when it was all done, we were left with a scenic area like no other.
But, Mother Nature was not done...
Where there is basalt, there are volcanoes.
The Columbia River Basalt Group (including the Steen and Picture Gorge basalts) is a large igneous province that lies across parts of the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and California.
During late Miocene and early Pliocene epochs, one of the largest flood basalts ever to appear on the Earth's surface engulfed about 163,700 km² (63,000 mile²) of the Pacific Northwest, forming a large igneous province with an estimated volume of 174,300 km³.
Eruptions were most vigorous from 17–14 million years ago, when over 99% of the basalt was released. Less extensive eruptions continued from 14–6 million years ago.
And those mountains are still with us to this day. Some are considered dormant, however, so was Mount St. Helens...
That mountain has not gone dormant yet, even though she blew her top 30 years ago.
This area is surrounded by volcanoes that have been active as recently as 1907, prior to the Mount St. Helens eruption.
A volcano blowing it's top is not an unknown occurrence. Krakatoa, a massive volcano located between the rock islands of Java and Sumatra in the Sundra Strait, exploded in 1883, killing approximately 40,000 people, although some estimates put the death toll much higher. The explosion is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history, with reports of it being heard nearly 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from its point of origin. The shock wave from the explosion was recorded on barographs around the globe.
Before the age of scientific instruments, around 5677 BC; the Pacific NorthWest experienced a Krakatoa like eruption of its own. Mount Mazama erupted and literally gutted itself . It formed what is now known as Crater Lake. The eruption reduced Mazama's approximate 12,000-foot height by over a mile. Much of the volcano fell into the volcano's partially emptied neck and magma chamber.
Even though those mountains near us have erupted and have or will slip into dormancy, we are surrounded...
And so, what happens with Mt. Adams, Mt. Ranier, Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Thielsen or Mt. Shasta?
Time, and another apocalypse, will tell.
Beautiful pictures and story Michael!!
Way cool!! :rep:
Absolutely beautiful pix, and a great history/geography/science lesson to boot. :smileup:
:rep: and if I could more :rep: these are beautiful photos. And a great story to go along with them.
Very well done Michael, informative and interesting and the pics are amazing, thanks for putting that together for us! :smileup:
Those are awesome pictures. I wanna go through yellowstone sometime and do the same thing... I imagine the wildlife/scenery through there that you could get on film when you know what your doing would be epic!
Those are some beautiful pictures!
Nice pix & history
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