Tri-Cities a hub for Ice Age Floods Geology, says CWU’s Nick Zentner

Did you know the Tri-Cities is smack in the middle of some of the most amazing geological features left over from the Ice Age Floods?

Nick Zentner, a geology professor from Central Washington University (CWU), just told Bored in Tri-Cities all about it!

Zentner is not just any geology professor — he’s also received awards for his work bringing knowledge about geology to the public and has hundreds of videos on YouTube of him explaining geology.

Zentner has multiple series including “Nick on the Rocks” and “Roadside Geology” in which he explains the geological features we see around us in the Pacific Northwest. Many of those were caused by the Ice Age Floods.

These Ice Age Floods sculpted the Pacific Northwest, and after you learn about it you’ll never see the region the same!

About 12,00 years ago, during the last Ice Age, enormous floods swept across the Pacific Northwest from Glacial Lake Missoula and other sources, according to the Ice Age Floods Institute. Most scientists believe that a huge ice dam blocking the waters of Glacial Lake Missoula episodically broke every 40-140 years causing the floods.

We can see evidence of these floods all around us in the Tri-Cities, according to Zentner.

“There is no better region than the Tri-Cities to study the slack water sediments deposited by the floods,” Zentner told Bored in Tri-Cities.

That’s because this is the area where the flood waters got backed up behind Wallula Gap, which is less than 30 miles south of Tri-Cities. That means our cities and even wider was all underwater.

lake lewis

If you’ve ever climbed Badger Mountain, you probably noticed the sign pointing out the shoreline of Lake Lewis — the trapped floodwaters behind Wallula Gap. The waters of Lake Lewis were that high during the Ice Age flooding; it’s more than half-way up the mountain!

Just the ridges of Badger, Jump-off Joe, and Rattlesnake mountains would have been peaking above the waters as islands!

“There are also impressive chalky white beds that repeat over and over in cliffs above the Yakima and Walla Walla Rivers,” Zentner said.

“Each bed was deposited during an Ice Age Flood … more specifically when flood water stopped at Wallula Gap to form Lake Lewis,” Zentner told Bored in Tri-Cities.

Although scientists know a great deal about the floods from the geological features left behind, they still don’t know the exact dates for each flood, Zentner said.

One of the biggest pieces of evidence for massive floods was the presence of mysterious boulders randomly placed sometimes hundreds of miles from where the rock originated. These are called erratic boulders in geology.

“There are strange boulders scattered throughout the Pasco Basin that were rafted in on icebergs during the Ice Age Floods of water from Glacial Lake Missoula,” Zentner said.

Do you want to see an erratic boulder?

The closest ones are right in Kennewick’s Columbia Park, at the entrance to the Audubon trail (pictured above).

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