Great Ice Age Floods: Nature’s Power & Beauty in the Northwest

Discover your inner geologist and hear the divided history behind the National Park Service’s Geologic Trail as you explore and learn about the region’s stunning glacial landscapes.
Rating (4.75)
Program No. 9695RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Rugged scablands, rippling loess hills, high basalt plateaus and plunging river canyons make up the Northwest’s dramatic landscapes. Only recently have scientists accepted what was once thought to be an outrageous tale of how they came to be. Follow the path of The Great Ice Age Floods across Washington and learn why the National Park Service is establishing a Geological Trail here. Touch the land yourself and step back to wonder at nature’s force.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Discover how the glacial dam that burst from Lake Missoula, located over what is now western Montana, scoured the Northwest as it plunged seaward.
  • Follow the path of these Great Ice Age Floods across Washington to the 10 million year old basalt cliffs of Wallula Gap.
  • Study J Harlen Bretz's 1923 floods theory and learn why he was banished from geological circles - only to be vindicated some 30 years later.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Fire, Faults & Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River
by Marge & Ted Mueller
This handy guidebook offers an overview of the mighty, historic floods that carved the landscapes of Washington and Oregon. It also provides practical information to explore these regions, including maps and illustrations, photographs, and travel tips. This is an excellent resource for understanding the geological features of the Pacific Northwest.
On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods
by Bruce N. Bjornstad
Cataclysms on the Columbia: The Great Missoula Floods
by John Eliot Allen, Marjorie Burns, Scott Burns
The formation of the Grand Coulee remained a mystery for many years, until J Harlen Bretz proved that the Columbia River basin was the site of huge, ancient floods that created the landscape we see today. This absorbing narrative tells the story of his discovery and the research that followed to help us understand the geology of Eastern Washington. Complete with maps, charts, and photographs, this is a must-read for any geology enthusiast.
Early Spokane
by Don Popejoy, Penny Hutten
Explore the history of Spokane, the "Capital of the Inland Empire," through this Images of America installment. Antique photographs and detailed descriptions offer a glimpse into the lives of the Spokane tribe, the development of the downtown area, and its recovery after a devastating fire. An excellent historical introduction to the city.
Geologic Road Trips in Grant County, Washington
by George E. Neff; Mark S. Amara
Roadside Geology of Washington
by David Alt & Donald Hyndman
Glacial Lake Missoula and its Humongous Floods
by David D. Alt
The Restless Northwest: A Geological Story
by Hill Williams
Bretz's Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist
by Soennichsen
Explore the unique geology of the Channeled Scablands, the land between Idaho and the North Cascades, through the story of the radical scientist J Harlen Bretz. When Bretz first proposed the theory of a sudden, massive flood scouring the land, the scientific community rejected his research. But decades later, his theories have been confirmed and form the foundation of how we understand the geological history of this region.

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