Sandhill cranes frolic in the fields of the Danielson farm, with the Saddle Mountain cliffs looming over it. Photograph by Phyllis Danielson.
The communities of Oso and Darrington were devastated by the recent landslide, in which around fifty houses and more than thirty people were annihilated in the space of a couple of minutes. It will be a long time before life can return to anything like it used to be, with Darrington’s main artery to the rest of the world cut off. Now commuters from Darrington have to head north, past our Sauk River cabin, to get to their jobs, shops and supplies. It takes a lot of time and gas. My son’s scout troop raised cash and supplies that we took to Darrington last weekend, and I’ve been watching the news about the landslide daily.
Pictures of the Oso landslide reminded me very much of the landslide my family and I used to climb around on when I was a kid. One of our favorite hikes was to the cliffs at the top of Saddle Mountain, where you can climb down to a ledge where sandstone exposures have been carved by the winds and graffito-ed by generations of local visitors. Continue reading
Posted in Cold War, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Death, Disaster, Earthquake, Education, Geology, Hanford, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Irrigation, Natural Disaster, Saddle Mountain, Science, Washington
Tagged Catastrophe, Central Washington, Climate, Cold War, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Columbia River basalt, Corfu, Crab Creek, Culture, Darrington, Desert, Dr. Bruce Bjornstad, Eastern Washington, Education, Flood, Geology, Hanford Reach National Monument, Hanford Reservation, History, Ice Age, Lake Missoula, Landslide, Low Gap, Mars, NASA, Nature, Oso, Photography, Saddle Gap, Saddle Mountain, Sauk River, Senator Clarence C. Dill, Sentinel Gap, Stillaguamish River, Washington State, Wenatchee
The meteor explosion over Russia and the unrelated but equally awe-inspiring near miss of the earth by a huge asteroid remind us of the inevitability of space objects colliding with the earth. Disaster movies are a popular genre: one of the favorite video clips in my fifth grade science classroom is one animating the ancient collision between Earth and the planet Thea (but the throbbing, powerful new-age soundtrack clearly contributes to that popularity).
A journalist for the British newspaper The Guardian published a link to a Google map with data for every known meteor strike on Earth, from 2,300 BCE to the present. He erroneously credits the US Meteorological Society for the data…I’m sure it happens all the time. The link actually takes you to the US Meteoritical Society, where I wasn’t able to locate the same map, but there was a ton of information about meteors.
Ellis Hughes and his son pose on the heavy cart they constructed to move the fifteen and a half ton meteorite three quarters of a mile to their own land.
My favorite meteor has got to be the legendary Willamette Meteorite. At 32,000 pounds and composed mostly of iron, with a little nickel, cobalt and phosphorus, this ten-foot long, six-and-a-half foot wide, and four-and-a-quarter foot deep glob of metal balances a heat-polished oval exterior with deeply eroded chambers. But its girth isn’t the big draw. Continue reading
Posted in Astronomy, Bellingham, Education, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Saddle Mountain, Science
Tagged American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), artifact, Canada, Central Washington, Columbia Plateau, Cordilleran Ice Sheet, Earth, Ellis Hughes, explosion, Google, Grande Ronde Tribe, Help End Willamette Meteor Absence Committee (HEWMAC), hematite, History, Ice Age, Impact Earth!, Iowa, Judge C. J. Wolverton, Lake Oswego, Lewis & Clark Exposition, Lime Kiln Park, Macovich Collection, Meteor, meteorite, Missoula Flood, Mrs. William E. Dodge, Myth, NAGPRA, Native Americans, Nature, New York City, North America, Oregon, Oregon Iron and Steel Company, Palouse River, Portland, Purdue University, Representative Les AuCoin, Russia, Sacred, San Juan Island, Senator Bob Packwood, Shrine, Supreme Court of Oregon, The Guardian, Thea, US Meteoritical Society, Vancouver, Washington, West Linn, Willamette Meteorite, Willamette Valley, William S. Ladd
I published this photograph of the Lower Crab Creek Valley as viewed from the Taunton townsite in “Another Flood.” On a recent visit to the same spot I took the following photograph.
This summer I took a hurried trip through Eastern Washington, photographing sites I have written about. In this article I try to post old photographs alongside more recent ones. In some cases I have also provided views of places previously mentioned in my posts, although no older photographs are available to compare them to.
A view of the Lower Crab Creek Valley in 2012, more than fifty years after the previous photograph was taken, reveals the changing ecology of the formerly arid landscape. Irrigation and invasive species have radically altered the local habitat.
There is definitely an article to be written concerning the environmental changes that have taken place in the Lower Crab Creek Valley over Continue reading
Posted in Airplanes, Biology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Death, Education, Family History, Geology, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Irrigation, Natural Disaster, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Travel, Washington
Tagged Always (movie), Army Air Force, Burrowing Owls, Central Washington, Corfu, Corfu Pioneer Picnic, Corfu Road, Crab Creek, Crater Lake, Culture, Desert, Earl Arthur (Luke) Danielson, Eastern Washington, Education, Ellensburg Army Air Field, Environment, Ephrata Army Air Field, Family, Flood, Fossils, G. W. Faulkner, Geology, Herman Danielson, Highway 26, History, Ice Age, Invasive Species, Irrigation, Lawrence Danielson, Lieutenant Pickerall, Milwaukee Road, Mount Mazama, Mud Dauber wasp, Nature, North Bend, Othello, P-38, P-39Q, Photography, Railroads, Richard Dreyfuss, Saddle Mountain, Schools, Smyrna Bench, Snoqualmie Pass, Taunton, Taylor Bridge Fire, Volcanic Ash, Volcano, Wahatis Peak, Washington, Washington State, World War II
Beneath this towering cliff and rubble fallen from it lie the remains of the Saddle Mountain Ice Cave.
There has been a fair amount of mystery concerning the Saddle Mountain Ice Cave. Even today you’ll find inquiries about it on internet chat sites. Over the years, locals disagreed on lots of points concerning this phenomenon. Some said it was a natural cavern, a huge chamber full of glittering perpetual ice. Others said it wasn’t really anything more than a big root cellar where people kept chunks of ice they would cut out of Crab Creek in the wintertime. Some people even doubt its existence. But it’s there.
Virtually all that’s left of the Ice Cave is a pile of old timbers and the remains of the massive wooden doorframe.
The Ice Cave is about four miles west of the end of the paving on the old Corfu Highway after you leave Smyrna, around eight miles from Beverly. It’s difficult to spot the remains from the roadway, so look for a large alkali clearing in front of it and a huge slope of tumbled rock flanking its other three sides. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, Geology, Grand Coulee, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Othello, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Speculative History, Travel, Washington
Tagged A. J. Splawn, Anthropology, Beverly, Bruce Bjornstad, Carbon dioxide, Central Washington, Chief Moses, Cold Traps, Corfu, Crab Creek, Culture, Dan Bolyard, Deer, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Erratics, Family, Flood, Geology, History, Ice Age, Ice Cave, Icebergs, Jericho Camp, Milwaukee Road, Missoula Flood, Moses Coulee, Nate Lewis, Native Americans, Nature, New York Times, Othello, Palisades Road, Pioneers, Saddle Mountain, Sentinel Gap, Smyrna, Spokane Daily Chronicle, Tri-City Herald, Washington, Washington State
The shattered remains of a bison leg bone, found in a bulldozer tailing near the Milwaukee tracks at Taunton. Fossil animal remains from this area are typically severely broken and disjointed.
Recently I acquired Bruce Bjornstad’s guidebook to the Ice Age Floods of Eastern Washington, On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods (Keokee Books, 2006). In fact I’ve been carrying it around in my briefcase and using it to fill in odd moments when I’m waiting for my son to finish his Jazz Band practice or to get out of school. It’s about time an interpretive tour guide like this was published! Because of the immensity of the subject, this book is a field guide only to a truncated rectangle of curious flood features in the Mid-Columbia Basin. But it is rich in detail and information. This year, Bjornstad published a second volume focusing on the northern landscapes where the flood began through the Mid-Columbia. He presumably plans to follow the water through to its eventual mixing with the sea.
An amateur only (have I ever made that completely clear?), I was excited to see that scientists had actually taken time to study the area I’ve been writing about. That gigantic landslide I mentioned in my post The Five Mile Slide actually has a name, quite logically the Corfu Slide…although it stretches from Taunton on the east to Corfu on the west. Bjornstad’s book spends a couple of chapters explaining the mechanisms that allowed the flood to create such a variety of unusual landscapes. The hummocky surface of this landslide had always seemed mysterious to me, but his book details precisely how the original topography slumped away in successive wedges. The feature I refer to as Column Crevice in my post To the Cliffs and Beyond appears to be one of the cracks in the earth where a landslide was developing, left exposed at the end of the flood, a landslide frozen in time. In fact a hike across this landscape would reveal successive events in the process of the collapse of the northern slope of Saddle Mountain.
And I was touched to see that Bjornstad refers to what locals around Othello refer to as The Bench has been named Parting of the Waters. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Books, Columbia Basin, Disaster, Education, Geology, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Natural Disaster, Saddle Mountain, Science, Washington
Tagged Belfast, Bill Hanson, Bruce Bjornstad, Central Washington State College, Central Washington University, Column Crevice, Corfu, Corfu Slide, Danielson, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Environment, Flood, Fossils, Geology, Glaciers, History, Ice Age, Ireland, Iron Age, Milwaukee Road, Montana, Nature, Othello, Othello Channels, Paleontology, Parting of the Waters, Petrified Bone, Saddle Mountain, Sentinel Gap, Taunton, The Bench, Washington
“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Ecology have completed an appraisal level study of potential Columbia River mainstem off-channel storage sites…The appraisal study determined that the Crab Creek site represents a potentially viable reservoir location. This site appears to be preferable to the Hawk Creek site based on both cost and technical feasibility criteria.” From Columbia River Basin Storage Options – Columbia River Mainstem, Department of Ecology web page.
A brief stop on a car tour of the Crab Creek Highway in the late 1940s. This is near the location where the Department of Ecology and the Bureau of Reclamation would like to place a dam 250 feet high and a mile and a half wide.
The government is back in the dam building business. This time it looks like they’re going to dam Crab Creek! There are only two sites currently under consideration for a new water storage (and possible power generation) facility off the main channel of the Columbia River in Washington State. The results of the preliminary study favor damming Lower Crab Creek to create a reservoir that inundates the entire valley, from an earth core dam 250 feet high near Beverly to high water shorelines near Taunton. If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you can be sure I have deep reservations about building such a dam and flooding what I consider to be unique historical, cultural and environmental landscapes.
My family is perhaps lucky in this situation. Although the new lake created by the Crab Creek Dam would cover our ancestral homestead and the ranch that succeeded it, the more recent Danielson spread appears to be right about at the shoreline. But when the new lake is created, other infrastructure will have to be altered. It looks as though a massive power line will cut down Danielson Road, looming over the house I grew up in.
This view of the Lower Crab Creek valley, taken in the early 1950s (as my father notes: before irrigation), shows what will be a lake if the dam is built.
Will it happen? I don’t know. In this day of budget crisis funding may be difficult to pry out of the government. But who knows whether a Roosevelt-style public works program might not use the dam project as a solution to the economic slump. It’s the type of program that stands a chance of succeeding: employment of a vast range of professional and working types, new power generation, new irrigation storage, amelioration of a certain habitat (albeit at the cost of destroying other more unique habitat), benefits to local industries and those further afield. It might even help to restore the aquifer depleted by injudicious permission to pump water for irrigation circles. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Botany, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, Geology, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Washington, World War II
Tagged A. J. Splawn, Anthropology, Archaeology, Ben Hutchinson, Beverly, Clovis, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Columbia River, Corfu, Crab Creek, Crab Creek Dam, Culture, Danielson Road, Desert, East Wenatchee, Eastern Washington, Education, Environment, Family, Flood, Geology, History, Ice Age, Ice Cave, Jericho, Kamiakin, Kennewick Man, Lind Coulee, Marmes Rock Shelter, Milwaukee Road, Missoula Flood, Native Americans, Nature, Petroglyphs, Pygmy Rabbit, Railroads, Red Rock Canyon, Rock shelters, Saddle Mountain, Sandhill Cranes, Second World War, Smyrna, Taunton, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, Washington State, Washington State Department of Ecology, World War II