What a fabulous day. Wow.
We left our hotel in Spokane at 8:00 and didn’t get to our next hotel in Moses Lake until almost 6:00 pm. It was all time well spent too.
More cool information about the first big flood from Glacial Lake Missoula (1 MegaTon of energy is the amount of energy in 1 million tons of TNT):
- The San Fernando earthquake back in 1971 released 4.5 Megatons of energy
- The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 released 5.7 Megatons of energy
- The explosion of Krakatoa in 1883 released 200 Megatons of energy
- Mt. Mazama blowing up 7,700 years ago (which is now Crater Lake) released 500 Megatons of energy
- The first flooding from Glacial Lake Missoula released 4,500 Megatons of energy
- All the many floods that have gone across eastern Washington over a period of 2,500 years released more than 180,000 Megatons of energy
- A lot of the flood waters found their way into the Columbia River, which then ran at 2,000 times its normal flow
- Only 1/100th of the material scoured off the land in eastern Washington was left behind; the rest is out in the Pacific Ocean, where there’s still a canyon cut into the sea bed
To quote our leader “few events is the history of the world have exceeded this flood”.
We drove east along highway 2 through Reardan, Davenport, Wilbur, heading toward Grand Coulee Dam.
I have to admit, I never made the connection before that “Grand Coulee” meant anything other than the name of the dam. Apparently “coulee” means channel. There are many channels here in eastern Washington left from the flood waters rushing through, some of which are: Telford-Crab Coulee, Lind Coulee, Moses Coulee and even the “Grand Coulee”. So, the dam is actually named for the channel in which it was built.
The Grand Coulee Dam is almost one mile across and rises 550′ above the bedrock in which it was built. I seem to remember driving across the top of the dam many years ago, but that kind of access ended after 9/11. Over 45 million cubic yards of soil and rocks were excavated for the dam and then 12 million cubic yards of concrete were brought in. That’s enough concrete to build a two-lane high way with a sidewalk from Seattle to Maimi with enough left over to build many benches too! The dam was once considered the 8th Wonder of the World – and is three times the size of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
After the dam we headed southwest along Banks Lake (which is within the Grand Coulee) until we came to Dry Falls. This was a great drive, but when we came to Dry Falls: Whoa baby – this was just the coolest site to see. Back when all the water came rushing across eastern Washington (from both Glacial Lake Missoula and Glacial Lake Columbia) a lot of it headed southwest and water, 300′ deep, went shooting off the edge of a cliff near Coulee City at the end of Banks Lake. Water ran over this cliff at a furious pace and there was so much, moving so fast, that the front edge of the cliff receeded backwards over 12 miles.
Dry Falls, now called that beause water no longer flows over it, is often compared to Niagra Falls – which is 167′ high and 1 mile long. Dry Falls? 400′ tall and 3.5 miles long! It’s estimated that more than 10 times the amount of water that falls over Niagra Falls (4-6 million cubic feet every minutge) fell over Dry Falls – that’s 40-60 million cubic feet every minute.
It was just a great site. Our weather has been almost perfect too. While standing overlooking the edge of Dry Falls I could see a dirt road far below… and even an outhouse? So imagine my surprise and delight when our bus driver decided to drive us down there! It was just too cool. I could just picture the new tourists at the visitor’s center saying “hey, there’s a tour bus down there!”
After Dry Falls things quieted down a bit. We drove north along highway 17 toward Mansfield and on the way saw terminal morains (gravel bars/mounds/hills left behind when glaciers recede) and lots of erratics – huge basalt rocks that were carried along in ice and then dropped and just left where they fell when the glaciers moved back north.
By this time we were running out of time so we drove along the Waterville Plateau and watched videos about the great flood. How great to learn something while driving along! We did stop at a fruit stand in East Wenatchee – I got some Rainier cherries at a good price. Mmmmmm
By this time we were really running late so we headed straight for Moses Lake without any additional stops. Even going as fast as we could, we got to our hotel almost an hour late. We’re at the Shilo Inn and I have a huge room to myself – it even has a couch, a table with two chairs, refrigerator, microwave… and a phone in the bathroom? Now I have to admit I don’t get out much, but a phone… there?
Anyway… had dinner at Sheri’s with the group – Road Scholar was paying for it, so we could order anything we wanted off the menu, except for alcohol. I’ve never seen so many people order pie at once! ha ha ha