Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Eastern Washington

On Monday, June 23, we packed up and left Sun Lakes State Park early so that we could start driving toward Glacier. We stopped briefly at an overlook in Dry Falls State Park.

There were a lot of interpretive signs, which turned out to be fascinating. Apparently, in the last ice age, miles and miles of ice dammed up the Clark Fork River causing it to back up into present-day Montana and forming Glacial Lake Missoula, which covered a huge swath of western Montana. Occasionally, when the lake became especially enormous, the pressure would break the dam and water would come rushing through, flooding eastern Washington. They say the flow of the rushing water would have been ten times as great as the combined flow of all rivers today! Eastern Washington would have massive flooding for just a couple of weeks, and then the cycle would begin again – the dam would build back up, and the glacial lake would grow, eventually busting through the dam again.

One result of these repeated massive flows of water through eastern Washington was a huge waterfall, wider than Niagara Falls. With each successive flooding, more ground would be washed away, and the waterfall would move upriver. It moved something like 20 miles over the years.

Apparently, through this area, the outflow of Glacial Lake Missoula had followed a side channel of the Columbia River that no longer exists today. So with the end of the ice age came the end of the river and, of course, the end of the falls – hence the name Dry Falls. The canyon left behind by the dry river is called a coulee, and there are several of them in Eastern Washington, most notably Grand Coulee.

After Dry Falls, we headed toward Spokane. We were going to meet Brian’s parents for nine days, so we spent several hours in Wal-Mart shopping for groceries. We also went to REI to replace Brian’s headlight that had fallen in the river in the North Cascades. Then we checked out the Spokane rose garden, a must-see according to one of our guidebooks. A lot of the rose bushes weren’t blooming yet, but those that were were quite pretty.

It was getting late by the time we left Spokane, so we headed across Idaho and camped a short ways into Montana in the Lolo National Forest. The campground was quite nice, just a few miles off I-90, and we practically had it to ourselves. Tomorrow, Glacier!

No comments: