The sheer palisades, hundred-foot deep potholes and terraced cliffs of the Grand Coulee provide the backdrop for a pair of interpretive day hikes this month showing how the Ice Age floods carved the central Washington landscape.
The hikes will be led by geologists and authors Bruce Bjornstad and Gene Kiver. An East Lenore hike is Oct. 11 and a Castle Lake hike is Oct. 12.
Bjornstad, a Richland resident, worked as a geologist with Battelle for 23 years and has studied the Grand Coulee region extensively.
He penned a book -- On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: A geological field guide to the Mid-Columbia Basin -- that explores the Ice Age floods and the topography created, as well as the trails and hikes you can take to view it.
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"Most people don't know it's there," Bjornstad said. "It's spectacular."
Bjornstad and Kiver, who met decades ago at Eastern Washington University, co-wrote a second book -- On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: The Northern Reaches -- that focuses on the Grand Coulee area as well as the Channeled Scabland and northern Idaho area.
Up to 100 Ice Age floods moved through the region 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, shaping the topography and drilling potholes into the Grand Coulee area.
The Grand Coulee hikes are limited to 30 people each, and spaces are filling quickly, said Linda Long of the Cheney-Spokane chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute, which is sponsoring the hikes.
The single-hike fee is $20 for institute members, $30 for others and $10 for students or teachers. Cost to register for both is $30 for members, $40 for others and $20 for teachers and students.
Rendezvous times and other information is available at www.iafi.org or by calling 509-235-4251.
The East Lenore hike convenes at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 11 in the Lenore Caves parking area. It runs four to five miles and is considered moderate to difficult.
Bjornstad said it will take hikers above the Lenore Shelter Caves to the Great Blade, or what Bjornstad described as "a big rib" carved out of the basalt rock by the floods. The hike continues beyond the Great Blade to reveal the East Lenore Coulee.
Castle Lake hikers meet at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 12 at the Dry Falls parking area, where they'll carpool to the trailhead. The hike stretches about three miles and features a 200-foot drop in elevation mostly along the Castle Lake recessional cataract wall.
The hike is considered moderately difficult and requires participants to scale a decades-old iron ladder that leads into Castle Lake and the pothole bench below.
"Anybody that can climb a ladder shouldn't have a problem," Bjornstad said.
Bjornstad said the Bureau of Reclamation installed the ladders in the 1950s as part of a Columbia Basin irrigation project.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; email@example.com