If you’re around the Pacific Northwest for very long, one thing you ought to do is take a drive through the Columbia River Gorge. It is a very scenic trip that rivals any other that America has to offer. My family and I drove up the Gorge for Thanksgiving this week, on the heels of this year’s first major winter storm. I was reminded how beautiful the Gorge can be. I was also reminded how temperamental it can be (at least the weather).
The Columbia River Gorge is one of America’s largest river channels. It was formed during the last ice age when the ice dam that formed Lake Missoula broke, causing one of the biggest, most intense floods the world has ever seen. Water rushed out of the lake and across Eastern Washington, digging a network of deep channels in the earth. According to the Montana Natural History Center, the flow of water was 60 times greater than the Amazon River, the largest river in the world. Sixty times! The wall of water rushed through the region and left behind a trove of geological features. It created wonders such as Palouse Falls, Dry Falls (which were 3.5 times as wide and twice as high as Niagara Falls), the Channeled Scablands and Wallula Gap The waters spread out like a giant hand across Eastern Washington, coming together at Wallula and raging their way to the Pacific Ocean. It would have been quite a scene to see, assuming you were standing on ground above the flood plain.