Geologist Bruce Bjornstad came to Dry Falls-Sun Lakes State Park to give a guided tour of the Caribou Trail to a dog and about 10 human hikers both local, from the Seattle area, and as far away as New England last Saturday.
The approximately 90-minute guided hike started with Bjornstad showing maps of the area depicting what things were like during the Missoula Floods. He showed how a large ice dam used to be where the Grand Coulee Dam is now, and how that had diverted the Columbia River through the Grand Coulee, past Steamboat Rock, and so on. When the ice dam melted, the Columbia took on its current course.
Bjornstad, a licensed geologist/hydrogeologist who used to work for Hanford nuclear production complex in the Tri-Cities area, explained the timescale of the coulees being carved, explaining what a unique feature they are on the planet Earth, the closest thing similar being the landscapes of the planet Mars.
Hiking to huge potholes resembling craters above Deep Lake, Bjornstad explained that they were formed by whirlpools or eddies in the waters that had flooded the region, and simply dug the rocks out of the ground and sent them flying with the sheer force of the current.
“These are some of the best potholes in the world,” Bjornstad said. “There’s dozens of them up there. A lot of times you won’t see them until you’re right up next to them within a few feet when all of the sudden the ground will disappear. They can be hundreds of feet deep and hundreds of feet wide.”
Throughout the hike, Bjornstad was able to answer questions and explain geological features of the region.
A video series Bjornstad produces called Floodscapes is available to view on Youtube. The videos show stunning aerial footage shot with a drone of landscapes shaped by the Missoula Floods, including the Deep Lake Potholes.
An episode of the video series Nick on the Rocks, which explores the geology of Washington state, simulates what Dry Falls would have looked like when water was rushing over it during the Missoula Ice Age Floods.
When you get to the area, pickup one of our Grand Coulee Dam Area Visitors Guides anywhere for a comprehensive guide to all things in the coulee.
Until you get here, feel free to click on the image above to flip through the digital version of it.
Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center Begins Laser Light Show May 28
GRAND COULEE, Washington – On May 28, Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center will begin its extended summer season hours, along with its Laser Light Show which plays nightly through the end of September.
Visitor Center hours will be from 8:30 a.m. until one hour past the start of the Laser Light Show. Through the end of July, the show will begin at 10 p.m. For August, the show begins at 9:30 p.m. and for September, 8:30 p.m.
May 28 will also begin an increase in the number of public tours into the John W. Keys III Pump-Generating Plant. These one hour tours occur daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Visitors will ride a shuttle bus to the pumping plant to view gigantic pumps lifting water from Lake Roosevelt to Banks Lake, which then delivers water throughout the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. The shuttle will then take visitors across the top of Grand Coulee Dam for spectacular views of Lake Roosevelt and the Columbia River.
Tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations are taken and space is limited.
Soon, Northrup Canyon will be full of green. If you like a nice hike, this one is recommended.
It’s a great place to shake off winter and welcome spring. A creek runs through part of it, and a blue sky gives a beautiful contrast to the basalt coulee walls that rise up closely on either side.
Don’t forget to take water. It can be a three- to four-hour hike, or more, depending on how far you want to go.
An old homestead of the Northrup family sits at at nice turnaround spot at the top of the canyon. But you can go further, up a rough trail to a small hidden lake.
A restroom and information kiosk sits near gate at the beginning of the trail, but there no facilities past that. As a part of the state park system, a Discover Pass is required to visit. The most convenient place to get one is at Coulee Playland in Electric City.