More About Glacial Erratics

by Dennis Peterson

07. February 2018 · Comments Off on More About Glacial Erratics · Categories: Geography, Geology, History, Ice Age

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.

Thousands of years ago when climate change was far less shy and entirely apolitical, great ice sheets covered much of what would become Canada and several of the northern-most states of the US. This ice is thought to have been more than a mile thick in places, and was continually in motion. Through processes of expansion by way of precipitation and simply grinding across the surface, the ice sheets at times became dams for many age-old rivers. Those dams caused lakes to form behind them, and one such was Lake Missoula. It reached a depth of 2,000 feet and a capacity greater than most of the Great Lakes. And all that water was held back by a bit of ice.

The river that was blocked is the Clark Fork River that runs quietly through Montana and Idaho to Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. That lake drains via the Pend Oreille River which wanders across Idaho, Canada, and Washington State where it meets the Columbia River. The river was dammed when the Cordilleran ice sheet cut off the river valley, and the result was Lake Missoula.

The battle of water and ice was finally won by the water. It reached a depth where it was able to lift and scour the glacial ice and the earth below it. A trickle quickly became a megatorrent and Lake Missoula was unleashed. The waters raced across Washington State at depths exceeding several hundred feet. And with it came huge ice bergs that broke free of the glacier and with them came massive boulders, some larger than houses. There are still ripples in the Scablands area of Washington that from a distance look exactly like ripples one would see on a beach or river bottom – but up close they are huge. Clearly the water raging across the area was very deep and very fast.

One of the great ice bergs that was swept away carried a house-size rock. The ice managed to survive the trip from the glacier, westward down the Columbia River Gorge to where Portland, OR is today. The water depth was about 300′ where the Williamette River is now. Here it turned south following flood waters that were filling the Wiliamette Valley as far as Eugene. It finally ended it’s voyage near McMinnville where the boulder came to rest in what is now Erratic Rock State Natural Park. Owing to vandalism it is today a fraction of it’s original size, but it is still very impressive. Particularly when you consider this was once at the bottom of the ocean in the southern hemisphere.

Photo by M.O. Stevens, Portland, Oregon ~ Erratic Rock State Natural Site

Photo by M.O. Stevens, Portland, Oregon ~ Erratic Rock State Natural Site

Geologically, the rock comes from Canada and is the largest glacial erratic rock in the Willamette Valley.[8][9] The rock is argillite believed to be 600 million years old and originally part of the sea-floor. It is also the only rock of its type outside of Canada. And what is very interesting is 600 million years ago that sea-floor was south of the equator!

The next traveler is very likely a record holder for distance traveled, even for erratics. From Wikipedia we learn the following:

The Willamette Meteorite, officially named Willamette,[3] is an iron-nickel meteorite discovered in the U.S. state of Oregon. It is the largest meteorite found in North America and the sixth largest in the world.[4][5] There was no impact crater at the discovery site; researchers believe the meteorite landed in what is now Canada or Montana, and was transported as a glacial erratic to the Willamette Valley during the Missoula Floods at the end of the last Ice Age (~13,000 years ago) ~ Wikipedia

Photo by Dante Alighieri ~ Willamette Meteorite at the American Museum of Natural History

Photo by Dante Alighieri ~ Willamette Meteorite at the American Museum of Natural History

Pacific Northwest Trails Days

by Dennis Peterson

The Pacific Northwest Trails Days are coming and they need your participation! On Saturday there will be music all day, participation events and presentations, and food. The venue is City Park which has a beautiful broad lawn, shade trees, and plenty of room for kids to play. Hopefully the city won’t run the sprinklers all night (hint hint!).

Sunday will bring opportunities to hike and bike on the beautiful trails that locals and visitors rave about. This is going to be a fun weekend but it will be a huge fun weekend if everyone turns out to enjoy it all.

Erratics in the Okanogan

by Dennis Peterson

12. February 2015 · Comments Off on Erratics in the Okanogan · Categories: Geography, Geology, History, Ice Age, Places, Tonasket

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.

Coordinates of the Havillah Road Erratic

Coordinates of the Havillah Road Erratic

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.

Route from Tonasket to the Havillah Road Erratic

Route from Tonasket to the Havillah Road Erratic

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.

Yet Unnamed Havillah Road Erratic

Yet Unnamed Havillah Road Erratic

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.

Old is New, Again

by Dennis Peterson

08. February 2015 · Comments Off on Old is New, Again · Categories: History, Local News, Photography, Places

Magic Lanterns

On Saturday evening, Feb 7, Vicki and Walt hosted a magical evening of wonderful memories and experiences none of us had. How can that be? Why, you need a time machine! And they had several.

Larry Cederblom of the Magic Lantern Society presented a show that was first presented in part over 100 years ago using a Magic Lantern projector and old and new hand-painted emulsion-on-glass slides. Included in the mix of slides were very early cartoons, commercial advertisements, and even animations.

By today’s standards these are quite simple and primitive but enfolded in a good rolling story line the show proved to be very entertaining and educational. Larry set up a display of several examples of Magic Lanterns dating to the earliest years of the last century. Once illuminated by candles, lamp oil, kerosene and even “limelight”, they’re now lit by modern electric lamps and project quite well. Larry has a practiced routine that sets up the slide series and animations as a continuous and entertaining history lesson.

Magic Lantern on display

Magic Lantern on display

To learn more about the Magic Lantern Society and their efforts to collect and restore these time travelers, visit their website at www.magiclanternsociety.org, and if you have or know someone who has one of these machines or slides then contact the society to learn more about your treasure. Be assured Larry will be your new best friend!

Frank Sakae Matsura, Photographer

Following the theme of time travel, Kay Sibley presented the too-short life experiences of Frank S. Matsura. Frank was a photographer who came to Washington state from Japan in 1905 at age 29, and set up a photo and printing business in Okanogan, Washington but not until he’d paid his dues working odd, sometimes very odd jobs and taking work where he could find it.

Matsura in clown suit

Matsura in clown suit

The dapper Mr. Matsura was also something of a man of mystery, and gaps in his life’s story prior to arriving in the Okanogan were filled with social gossips and fanciful and imaginative tales. He proved to be hugely industrious, very likeable, and also quite artistic. It is clear too from many of his photographs that he had a wonderful sense of humor, a keen sense of showmanship, and a penchant to use his photography to build friendships and business relations. And he proved to be a valuable photo-historian at a time and in a place that provided unlimited opportunity for a man with his skills.

Matsura died in 1913 of tuberculosis leaving his photography collection to his good friend Judge William Compton Brown. The collection passed from Judge Brown to the University of Washington and to the Okanogan County Historical Society. All of Matsura’s imagery that has been cataloged is available on line in the digital archives of the University of Washington at the Frank Sakae Matsura Archives. Additional information about Mr. Matsura can be found at the Wikipedia online Encyclopedia.

There are books available at book stores on line and off that feature Frank Matsura’s work and should be a consideration for anyone interested in the history of the Okanogan area. If your family roots extend back to the early 1900’s then it is quite possible you will see members of your own family captured by Mr. Matsura.

Erratic Behavior

by Dennis Peterson

14. December 2014 · Comments Off on Erratic Behavior · Categories: Geography, Geology, History, Ice Age, Nature

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:

Erratics on the Waterville Plateau

Erratics on the Waterville Plateau

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

The second installment can be seen here: http://northokanogan.com/?p=477