Two of my favorite Washington State erratics are not even in Washington – but they were. They’re now down in Oregon, south of Portland, and how they got there… Well, there’s a story I’d like to tell.
Perhaps the most exotic and unlikely erratic in the world got started on its journey a long time ago from a place in the dark emptiness between the stars. It is not only an erratic, it is an iron-nickel meteorite, and it is big. It is the largest such traveler in North America and is a member of the top-ten largest meteorites in the world. We can’t know where or when it fell to Earth as there is no tell-tale crater near it today, so we’ll pick up it’s journey 13,000 years ago when Lake Missoula was formed in Washington, Idaho, and Montana. That lake is going to need an introduction for this tale to make sense.
This is the second installment of a series discussing how the ice age affected the North Okanogan and eastern Washington state. The first installment can be seen here.
Our first wandering boulder can be found alongside Havillah Road 6.1 miles northeast of Tonasket, according to Google Maps. This is a really big rock and it’s just sitting out in the middle of nothing right where it was dropped from its ice sheet. I’ve included GPS coordinates so you can fly over it with Google Earth.
And if you’re in the area and are hoping to visit the site then just follow the map from the town of Tonasket on Hwy 97. Please – at all times respect the private property of the families on whose land these and other natural interests live.
I don’t know of an official name for this big guy, but it is really a splendid thing to see. I need to consult with local experts to verify it is an erratic and to discover any history that may be known about it. There’s another just a short distance to the south across the roadway and I’ll be presenting that later. Here is me stepping over snakes and other imagined beasties as I approach our first erratic in the wild.
Update: Somehow this seems too easy, but the name for the adjacent spur road is Split Rock Road which leads me to conclude the rock’s name is, um…, Split Rock.
Probably not what you thought…This is a story about rocks, where they are, and how they got there. This last part first: How they got there. The Okanogan River valley geography is inseparable from the effects of the great ice sheets that covered this region up to the beginning of the Holocene epoch. It is hard to imagine glaciers a mile high covering the Okanogan Highlands, the city of Oroville, all of the Okanogan River valley, and in fact all of northern Washington State. The Cordilleran Ice Sheet buried everything from the Pacific Ocean to what is now Montana and north as far as Alaska. The Okanogan lobe of that ice sheet is what provided so much beauty in our region.
The ice sheets were very active, continually though slowly sliding and grinding south for many thousands of years, ending their travels only when the southern most climate calved and melted them back as fast as they traveled. Carried effortlessly along with that ice were untold tons of rocks and boulders, some larger than houses. Some of these travelers came from places very far to the north, in fact. Some were carried to the glacial terminus while others were simply dropped in place as the glaciers retreated. They’re still here and we recognize them because they look absolutely out of place. And they are. They are known as erratics.
This article is about my quest to find as many of these notable and interesting erratics as I can and present them photographically, along with the approximate location. As such this article will be updated as I stumble onto these lurking travelers. As the mood strikes I will provide some interesting science associated with the North Okanogan, Washington State, and the stunning effects of the Great Missoula Floods.
I’ll kick things off with this beautiful image of the Waterville Plateau because there is a story to tell about this place and why it is special. From Wikipedia:
How cool is that? Now I have a story to tell you so I’m going to need a few days to spin it. Watch for Part 2