Yes, that’s the topic of a book by Bruce Bjornstad that gives us an amazing account of the extreme forces that shaped the landscape around the Columbia Basin and beyond. I recently read On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods, A Geological Field Guide to the Mid-Columbia Basin and now review the book for you.
The author, Bruce Bjornstad is a senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology. Yes, Bjornstad knows his stuff when it comes to geology but this book is very readable and easily understood by the layperson.
Bjornstad is also an enthusiast who has set feet on the land he writes about. He has studied the ice age floods since 1980.
The story of the ice age floods is amazing! Bjornstad convincingly lays out the evidence to help us understand the theory that was first put forward by J Harlan Bretz in the 1920s.
Ice Age Floods tells of multiple, massive floods that scoured the topography of the Columbia Basin up until the last water flows estimated around 15,000 years ago.
Dozens of specific examples are listed in Ice Age Floods, from the exposed escarpments of rock towering over Wallula Gap to the awesome river plunging over Palouse Falls to the VW Beetle sized granite boulders rafted here on icebergs from hundreds of miles away.
I found it fascinating to read about the geologic shaping of our area. I found myself saying “aha” a number of times as I recognized features the author described as I have seen them in my travels and hikes around our area.
The first part of the book is the story of the floods and the multiple land forms the rushing water left behind in our landscape. Ice Age Floods has multiple maps, drawings, diagrams and pictures to help illustrate the story.
The next part of the book has detailed descriptions of the specific landforms and their locations. The descriptions include coordinates, trail lengths and difficulty, directions, geologic features and even geocaches in some locations.
This book can be used as a guide for many great hikes around our area. Watch for some of these in future blog posts as I venture out on these trails, I’m excited about it and the understanding I get from reading Ice Age Floods. I give this book a big thumbs up!
p.s. Bruce Bjornstad also has a new book out On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: The Northern Reaches