We are in the desert area of the state of Washington. Called the Scablands, we are sitting in part of the Columbia Plateau, between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Cascade Mountains to the west. It is a hash and wild country, dominated by historic lava flows and repeated volcanic ash deposits. It is a geologist’s playground because of the remarkable geologic events that have happened here.
Not only were there numerous prehistoric volcanoes and their respective lava and ash flows covering the landscape but also catastrophic, very high energy floods that scoured the plateau, forming huge pot holes, gorges, basins that were carved out by tall and wide waterfalls, many times the height and width of Niagara Falls.
To provide you with an understanding of how and why all of this happened, I struggled trying to write reasonable but short explanations. Alas, I was not up to these tasks so I searched YouTube to find videos that presented this information so much better than I could. Therefore, I encourage you to first watch the video which presents information of the Ginkgo Petrified Forest by clicking here. Note that the petrified forest is actually found embedded in a layer of a lava that flowed into the shallow lake where the Swamp Cedars and other trees were located. The water protected the trees from burning up when the hot lava flowed into the shallow lake.
Also, I hope you enjoy the video on the repeated massive flooding that occurred during the last glacial age, about 17,000 years ago. Lobes of the thick glaciers blocked river valleys that formed huge lakes, including Lake Missoula. Lake Missoula contained more water than the current Great Lakes. Like a modern-day reservoir, the ice dam of the glacier backed water up river valley in the Rocky Mountains to an altitude of 4200 feet. Wow! It is speculated that all of this water drained once the ice dam broke free in just 48 hours. Double Wow!! Also, it is believed that the forming of an ice dam and the creation of a massive lake which eventually broke through the ice dam occurred a number of times. Each time scarring the landscape that is today’s scablands of eastern Washington. The video which graphically explains this can be seen by clicking here. Also, note the scenery contained in the video as it shows both the scablands where we are now and our last day’s passage down the Bitterroot Mountains of the Rockies.
What inspired me to write about the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and the scablands was today’s visit to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center and the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Gem Shop, which was near the Interpretive Center. There, we spent time talking with the Ranger, studied the informational boards and exhibits, watched videos and observed and touched numerous petrified logs which were inside the Center as well as outside. It was pretty cool.
From the Center, we then drove over to the Gem Shop. The specimens there were simply awesome, the best we have ever seen and so reasonably prices. Needless to say, we walked out with our arms full of wonderful pieces.
Here are some of the photos we took, showing what we saw.