The Great Ice Age Floods: Nature's Power and Beauty in Northwestern Landscapes
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.
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Program No. 9695RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
Getting There
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Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome
Spokane, WA
Red Lion River Inn

Afternoon: Hotel check in begins at 3:00 PM. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Shoreline A room, just around the corner from the front desk, for the Program Registration. The Road Scholar desk is available from 4:00 - 5:00 PM. Meet program staff and pick up your arrival packet that includes your name tag, schedule, and other important information we will be reviewing during Orientation.

Dinner: At the hotel's Shoreline A room.

Evening: Orientation and Introductions: After dinner, we will introduce everyone and review the up-to-date daily schedule. We will go over any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Large Potholes, Coulees, Lava Flows Galore!
Spokane, WA
Red Lion River Inn

Activity note: The coach trip to explore “channeled scablands” area and study the landscape takes approximately 8 hours. We take a break from time to time to allow you to stretch your legs. Recommended optional 2-hour walking tour in the evening.

Breakfast: Roaring start breakfast buffet.

Morning: We begin our exploration shortly after breakfast studying the channeled scablands, coulees and pot holes of the Spokane area. The unflattering term “scabland” sometimes is applied to rough or barren regions with little or no economic potential. J Harlen Bretz established the term “channeled scablands" during his studies that led to his theory that these unusual landscapes had been created by huge, powerful floods that had swept through the Columbia Basin during the Ice Age. The scablands in this area have gouged channels which distinguishes the Columbia Basin from tracts of scablands found elsewhere. Scablands topography normally results from the effects of massive long-term erosion. This area is different in that there is evidence that other forces were involved. These floods gouged the scablands creating the coulees, channels and potholes which add interest and unusual beauty to the landscape.

Lunch: Picnic lunch en-route.

Afternoon: On our way back to Spokane, your study leader will help you identify the remains of massive lava flows, potholes, pillow basalt, and spectacular coulees carved out by Ice Age rivers - truly wonderful terrain created 18,000 to 13,000 years ago by Glacial Lake Missoula.

Dinner: At the hotel's Shoreline A room.

Evening: Recommended optional walking tour along the Spokane River. Join your study leader on a causal walk along the beautiful Spokane River and learn some of the history of Spokane, including the geology, people, events, and what many of the historic buildings represent. We'll see the spectacular Spokane Falls and the skyline of downtown Spokane as we work our way to the city park (the site of Expo '74, the city's Worlds Fair). This is a causal 2 hour walk (round trip) with many stops along the way to rest and learn about this city's fabulous history.

Grand Coulee Dam, Dry Falls & Ancient Ripples
Moses Lake, WA
Inn at Moses Lake

Activity note: Group departs the hotel between 7:45 and 8 am. We travel from Spokane to Moses Lake with a couple of stops along the way. The total journey by motorcoach takes about 8 hours.

Breakfast: Enjoy Red Lion’s Signature breakfast.

Morning: Explore a part of the 'scablands' west of Spokane - giant raw scars that speak of a massive ripping away of the earth's surface - as we travel to the Grand Coulee Dam, through the Upper Grand Coulee, Steamboat Rock and Dry Falls. During the Floods this was a waterfall ten times the size of Niagara Falls, the largest waterfall ever in existence on earth. Now, this stark 400' high, 3.5 mile wide dry cliff overlooks a desert oasis filled with lakes and abundant wildlife.

Lunch: Picnic lunch in the falls area. Time to either explore the Visitor's Center, or meander on trails.

Afternoon: Travel through the Lower Grand Coulee and learn about the glaciation activity that formed the ancient riverbed. Also stop at explore flood worn boulders at the Ephrata Debris Fan that formed from the Grand Coulee. Afterwards transfer to the hotel to check in prior to dinner.

Dinner: Dinner at a restaurant near our hotel.

Evening: Following dinner we'll transit back to the hotel to rest and relax for tomorrow's travels.

Great Floods, Basalt Cliffs, Nuclear Site, Walla Walla
Walla Walla, WA
Best Western Walla Walla Suites Inn

Activity note: We are on the road again. The group departs the inn between 7:45 and 8 am. The journey by motorcoach takes 8 hours from Moses Lake to Walla Walla.

Breakfast: Hot breakfast buffet with eggs, biscuits and gravy, waffles, yogurts, bagels, English muffins, cereals, fresh fruit, fruit juice as well as coffee, cocoa and teas.

Morning: During today's rolling lecture and field trip, learn about the giant ripple marks left by the flood which are plainly visible on aerial photographs. They went unnoticed for many years simply because their immense size makes their pattern and symmetry almost indistinguishable from the ground. Visit Pothole Reservoir whose "Potholes" were created by the flood waters and the subsequent addition of O'Sullivan Dam by the Columbia Basin Project. It raised the water table high enough to allow these topographical depressions to become lakes.

Lunch: Sack lunch at historic wayside.

Afternoon: Travel through the Quincy Basin where the flood waters carried huge boulders of basalt and granite from the bedrock along the flood's course and scattered them across the basin as the waters slowed. Fields are now filled with thousands of boulders, some the size of a small house. Continue past the Hanford nuclear site which produced plutonium from 1944 through 1991 as part of the Manhattan Project. It had as many as nine reactors running in the late 50's and early 60's. From 1964 - 1971 eight reactors were slowly shutdown and prepared for decontamination and decommissioning. The remaining reactor was converted to produce electricity, as well as plutonium and continued to operate until 1991.

Dinner: Explore historic Walla Walla and select a restaurant of your preference to dine on your own.

Evening: Enjoy an evening at your leisure after our busy schedule. Walk through the town or sip a cup of coffee at a local restaurant or coffee shop.

Wallula Gap, Native Cultures, Farewell Dinner
Spokane, WA
Red Lion River Inn

Activity note: Group departs the inn between 7:45 and 8 am. We head back toward Spokane with a couple of stops including a hike at Wallula Gap for scenic views/vistas.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Travel to Twin Sisters at Wallula Gap. Twin Sisters are two pillars of basalt that jut from the cliffs along Wallula Gap overlooking the Columbia River. Geologists say the rock formation is the result of erosion from the great flood. A Cayuse legend states that the natural monument was formed when Coyote, an animal spirit, fell in love with three sisters, then became jealous of them and turned two of them into stone. The third was turned into a cave, says the legend. A trail here is short and provides some amazing views of the Wallula Gap on the Columbia River. Wallula Gap restricted the outflow from the floods creating massive Lake Lewis which covered the entire Pasco Basin, most of the Quincy Basin, Yakima Valley, much of the Ahtanum Valley, and the valley of the Walla Walla River with its main tributaries. Floodwaters also backed up the Snake River well beyond present-day Lewiston, Idaho. An estimated 3,000 square miles of land were under water.

Lunch: We will dine at a local's favorite restaurant in Dayton, WA.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will continue to Palouse Falls for a dramatic view of one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state of Washington. Palouse Falls drops from a height of 198 feet. After these amazing falls, travel through Snake River/Palouse country, where you'll see the rich farmland that thrives from rich soils deposited by the Floods.

Dinner: Closing dinner at our hotel celebrates the amazing terrain we have traversed, the powerful forces of nature, and the people of the Northwest who have adapted to this, including our own group of intrepid explorers!

Evening: Share stories of your travels as you say goodbye to your newfound friends.

Program Concludes
Spokane, WA

Breakfast: At hotel. Departures after breakfast. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoyed your Road Scholar learning adventure and we look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please be in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network, where you can share memories, pictures, and comments. Best wishes for all your journeys.