By John Eliot Allen
The formation of the Grand Coulee remained a secret for a few years, till J Harlen Bretz proved that the Columbia River basin was once the location of big floods 15,000 years in the past that created the panorama we see this present day.
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Extra resources for Cataclysms on the Columbia: a layman's guide to the features produced by the catastrophic Bretz floods in the Pacific Northwest
He accepted a position as an assistant professor of geology at the University of Washington, an attractive option since a return to the Seattle area meant an opportunity to continue his study and exploration of the geological region he knew best, the region that had convinced him to become a geologist. For Bretz, firsthand contact with the terrain itself was always what mattered most, and appropriately enough, it was a field trip that now brought him in touch a second time with geological peculiarities created by the Spokane Flood.
It happened with plate tectonics, and it happened with the Bretz Floods. During the Bretz floods, ice may not have been present over Rathdrum Prairie. Page 17 Chapter 3 Early Days We crack the rocks and make them ring, And many a heavy pack we sling; And run our lines and tie them in, We measure strata thick and thin, And Sunday work is never sin, By thought and dint of hammering. A. C. Lawson, "Mente et malleo," 1888 The geological detective tale that developed over the Spokane Flood Controversy is a tale of such sustained intrigue and epic proportions that its unfolding makes most fictional mystery plots seem trite in comparison.
Again the composition was wrong, and there were no craters to suggest meteoric impact. Could mud slides have moved them? No, not from the Rockies to the Columbia Basin, to the Willamette Valley and on to the Pacific! Could glaciers have pushed or carried them? Not here, not so far south. Could humans have moved them? Most unlikely! Even if there had been Indian tribes in the area at the time the rocks arrived in the Gorge, it is inconceivable that Pleistocene humans could have moved them such distances, and certainly there was no logical pattern to their distribution.