The Reluctant Traveler: Dry Falls and Other Natural Catastrophes

I was going to write about the Eastern Washington channeled scablands, but this article from National Geographic says it all; how they were formed and the scientific squabble over how they were formed. Also the photos accompanying the article are Nat Geo spectacular.

National Geographic Formed by Megafloods

I could also write about Mount St Helens, one of the other catastrophic events that re-shaped 200 square miles of landscape in a few minutes, also featured in a National Geographic issue that I still own.

There is Crater Lake, formerly Mount Mazama. The Klamath tribe observed and recorded the explosive eruption that collapsed the volcano about 5600 years B.C.E. as an epic battle between the god of the underworld and the sky god.

Our house is situated on the Duwamish River, the blue-collar end of the Green River where it becomes a working water-way. We sit between two ancient Mount Rainier lahars. The Green originates at the foot of the mountain, and will send a wall of water, timber, the houses of Orting, and boulders down our valley when it goes off.

Not all that far away lies Yellowstone, a supervolcano, or rather a caldera formed by multiple volcanos. Just thought I should give it a nod.

But there is nothing like the scablands. I’ve seen a lot of western drylands, from Death Valley to Canyonlands, where natural forces worked to fashion landscapes into the twisted and vast: salted plains, carven hoodoos, sandstone arches, golden canyons. But Dry Falls, Pothole Coulee, and Palouse Falls are eerie. To imagine walls of water channeling ancient lava deposits, smashing them to chunks and carrying these chunks hundreds of miles to spill into the Columbia basin and hurl them out to sea is just about impossible.

No evidence of human habitation has been found in or around Glacial Lake Missoula or the scablands, nor in my quick research for this blog, did I uncover a Native American explanation of what caused the massive floods. But I can only imagine that it was quite a fight.

And yes, I have traveled to all of these catastrophic aftermath locations.




About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


The Reluctant Traveler: Dry Falls and Other Natural Catastrophes — 2 Comments

  1. Dry Falls and the scablands are creepy. I set some action around them in “Hounding the Moon.” The National Park Service produced an excellent video about the formation of what was once the largest waterfall in the world and is now dry. The former path of the mighty Columbia River is now a string of lakes. Soap Lake is now a tourist attraction and health spa. The water is so thick with minerals that it feels slippery like soap. It has so many minerals that only a variety of tiny shrimp can live in it. Bathing in the water reportedly helps thousands of people with a variety of health problems. One hotel actually has a second spigot in the bathtubs to add natural lake water to your soaking experience.