By John Eliot Allen
The formation of the Grand Coulee remained a secret for a few years, until eventually J Harlen Bretz proved that the Columbia River basin was once the location of big floods 15,000 years in the past that created the panorama we see this present day.
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Extra resources for Cataclysms on the Columbia: a layman's guide to the features produced by the catastrophic Bretz floods in the Pacific Northwest
And if some other effect had been at work, what could it have been? The intriguing and markedly unusual features of the Quincy Basin topographic map were what first drew Bretz to focus on the geology of eastern Washington. The second geological oddity that would later prove to be connected with the Spokane Flood presented itself to Bretz the year after he finished graduate school. He accepted a position as an assistant professor of geology at the University of Washington, an attractive option since a return to the Seattle area meant an opportunity to continue his study and exploration of the geological region he knew best, the region that had convinced him to become a geologist.
W. Holmes Why should anyone care for geology? There's no life in it, just rocks, things that stay put for the most part, and only a landslide, a sloughing of mud, a river swelling beyond its banks and rolling a rock here or there can make much of a difference. Well, admittedly, there are volcanoes, flows of lava, earthquakes. These things do shift the landscape around a bit, but for most of us such events seem more than a little improbable, like dragon sightings in the county next-door. Even for people in the Northwest, Mount St.
Holloway. Front inside cover illustration: View of the Channeled Scablands region, about 13,225 square miles in area, taken on August 31, 1972, by the first NASA Earth Resources Technology Satellite [(ERTS-1) now called Landsat] from an altitude of 569 miles. The dark "braided" pattern depicts the channelways of the Great Spokane Floodsthe areas where vigorous stream erosion stripped away the "frosting" of loess to expose underlying dark basalt. The Columbia and Spokane rivers are at the top of the picture; the Snake River is at the lower right.