The Blues by Bob Carson

Page 1

“This definitive and diverse natural history has something for everyone. Bob Carson brings landscapes of the Blue Mountains alive – with science, beautiful photos, decades of personal observations, and poetry. Whether you are new to the region or have lived there your whole life, this book is indispensable for understanding and exploring the Blues.”


es The Blu OREGON


“Robert Carson delivers yet another gift in this memorable tribute to the most beautiful corner of America. A wonderful companion to Many Waters, this is required reading for full appreciation of the Blue Mountain Region.” James N. Mattis, Retired U.S. Marine Corps general and southeastern Washington native

David L. Peterson, Professor of Forest Ecology, University of Washington, and co-editor of Climate Change and Rocky Mountain Ecosystems


“What a feast for the mind and eyes! How could such a place have survived for so long in our midst, resisting our seeming insatiable hunger for land and all its products? An intense devotion among a small number of people is the answer. I hope this book increases that number of devotees exponentially. It has put the Blues at the top of my list of natural wonders to explore.” Donald Worster, Author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir and A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell “My father hunted big game throughout the Blues and I thought I knew this region well, but Carson’s book has opened new vistas for me. Scores of splendid photographs enhance his clear and detailed prose. I predict that studying this terrific work will spur readers to plan an adventure, pack their hiking boots, and explore the terrain Carson understands so well.”

“A beautiful tribute, an elegy to a land that has so much to tell us about just how lucky we are to be stewards of the wild. With this comes a serious obligation, one clearly appreciated by the author of this marvelous book. We must understand and promote the science, appreciate yet never surrender to the politics, and retain always our fidelity to place.”


Craig Lesley, Author of Winterkill and The Sky Fisherman

Natural history of the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington

Wade Davis, British Columbia Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk, and author of Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest ISBN 9781879628540


53800 >



Natural history of the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington

ROBERT J. CARSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY DUANE SCROGGINS AND BILL RODGERS Additional photographs by David Frame, Kevin Pogue, Dave Powell, Mike and Merrylynn Denny, Clare Carson, Bob Carson, and others

Foreword by Don Snow Afterword by Scott Elliott Poems by Katrina Roberts and Janice King Cover photograph by Duane Scroggins: Looking southeasterly from near Oregon Butte. On the horizon, beyond the canyon of the Grande Ronde River, are the Seven Devils and Wallowa mountains.

Sandpoint, Idaho

Copyright © 2018 Robert J. Carson All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews and articles.

Published by Keokee Books, an imprint of Keokee Co. Publishing, Inc. 405 Church St., Sandpoint, ID 83864, 208-263-3573, COVER PHOTOGRAPH BY DUANE SCROGGINS CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHERS: Duane Scroggins and Bill Rodgers MORE PHOTOS: David Frame, Kevin Pogue, Dave Powell, Mike and Merrylynn Denny, Clare Carson, Bob Carson and others POETRY: Katrina Roberts, Janice King Foreword by Don Snow Afterword by Scott Elliott

Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication Data Carson, Robert J., author The Blues: Natural history of the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington/Robert J. Carson, author ; photography by Duane Scroggins and Bill Rodgers ; foreword by Don Snow ; afterword by Scott Elliott 209 pages: color illustrations, maps, index 1. Blue Mountains ( Oregon and Washington) – Geography 2. Natural history - Blue Mountains ( Oregon and Washington) 3. Blue Mountains ( Oregon and Washington) - Pictorial works Library of Congress Control Number: 2018960116 ISBN 978-1-879628-54-0

View from the summit of Diamond Peak (elevation 6,379 feet), Umatilla National Forest. (Bob Carson)

Dedication To Clare, my partner for almost a half century of Earth exploration.

Double rainbow over the foothills of the Blues. (Kevin Pogue)

Contents Foreword by Don Snow: Of stone sponges, boring old basalt, and one humongous fungus





The Blues, poem by Katrina Roberts

Introduction and geography: The Blues from Clarno, Oregon, to Clarkston, Washington


Eavesdropping, poem by Janice King


Elements above the rocks: Air, water, and soil



Ghost town Rondeau, poem by Katrina Roberts

Geology I: The Bedrock



John Day Fossil Beds, poem by Janice King

Geology II: The Quaternary

Wildflowers on Black Mountain, gallery by Clare Carson

83 112



Old-growth in the Blues, gallery by Dave Powell


Birds in the Blues, gallery by Mike and MerryLynn Denny


The future: The Blues and beyond



Large mammals in the Blues, gallery by David Frame

Afterword by Scott Elliott: Mountains and the idea of mountains: Seasonal rounds in the Blues


Acknowledgments 178 Bibliography 185 Biographies 195 Index Map of the Blues

201 29

LETTER FROM BLUE MOUNTAIN LAND TRUST Every book has its own story of how it came to be. Here is the story of The Blues’ origin. In December 2016, the Blue Mountain Land Trust released The Blues: Volume I. The photobook is a collection of 24 extraordinary photographs produced by Bill Rodgers, Esther Wofford, Greg Lehman, Mark Hussein, and George Herbert. A few days after its release, in mid-December, I got a phone call from Bob Carson. It went like this: Bob: “Tim, I just saw your new book.” Tim: “That’s great, Bob. What do you think of it?” Bob: “Oh, it’s a beautiful book and you all did a wonderful job. Congratulations! But it made me a little sad.” Tim: “Really? Why is that?” Bob: “Well, for a long time I’ve wanted to write a book about the natural history of the Blue Mountains. And I always wanted to call it The Blues. But you beat me to it.” Tim: “Okay . . . (long pause). So, Bob, do you have a copy of the book in front of you?” Bob: “I do.” Tim: “Well, read the cover and tell me what it says.” Bob: “It says The Blues.” Tim: “Keep reading.” Bob: “Like I said, it says The Blues. Oh . . . and just below it says Volume I.” Tim: “Bingo! Volume I. That means you’re looking at our first book, but not our last. We have volumes II and III in planning right now. But you could write Volume IV. What do you think of that?”



Bob: “Well, maybe . . .” Tim: “Bob, let’s have lunch on Friday and we’ll talk about it.” So, three days later, we had lunch at the Mill Creek Brew Pub. And in the time it took to eat two cheeseburgers, we set in motion a plan that created the book you have in your hands. This book is significantly different than our first three volumes. The Blues – Volumes I, II and III are short collections of beautiful photographs of the Blue Mountain region. This book – The Blues – contains extraordinary regional art but also includes Bob’s fascinating stories of the natural history of the Blue Mountains. With enormous appreciation, we thank Bob for his inspiration, vision and tireless work in writing this book and assembling a team of friends who contributed their profound talents. Bob’s substantial scholarship is greatly supported by the photographic works of Bill Rodgers and Duane Scroggins. Our sincere thanks go to them all for their investment of much time and energy in this volume. This opportunity to work with Bob and all of his colleagues has been a great and wonderful experience for our land trust. We hope you will love this book as much as we do.

About the Blue Mountain Land Trust The Blue Mountain Land Trust is dedicated to protecting the land we love – working farms and forests, watershed habitat, and scenic views – through voluntary partnerships with private landowners. Landowners work with our land trust to permanently protect the unique productive, ecological, scenic, historic, or recreational qualities of their land from unwanted uses. We serve landowners in 10 counties throughout southeast Washington and northeast Oregon. Our service area runs from Clarkston, Washington, through John Day, Oregon – the entire length of the Blue Mountains. We help landowners protect their land through conservation easements. We also assist farm and ranch operators to improve the health of their soil by employing regenerative practices including no-till, cover cropping, crop rotation, integrated pest management, water conservation, and managed grazing. The Land Trust also provides a wide array of natural-resourcebased education programs. This year, we presented tours, treks, and workshops to more than 2,000 guests in our Learning on the Land and Nature Kids series. Our third major initiative is the expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities. Inspired by the work of the Community Council of Walla Walla, we developed a set of robust online maps that display locations of over 1,000 recreation sites. Arranged by activity type, the maps provide

The Blue Mountain Land Trust is an independent nonprofit organization, headquartered in Walla Walla with an office in John Day, serving communities in Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin counties in Washington, and Umatilla, Union, Gilliam, Morrow, Grant, and Wheeler counties in Oregon. We are led by a regional board of directors, and our work is accomplished by a corps of energetic and committed volunteers. We invite all to join us as members, volunteers, and friends who wish to advance our goals of conservation, education, and recreation. Tim Copeland Executive Director Blue Mountain Land Trust October 2018

detailed location data and information about birding, hiking, biking, fishing, camping, water sports, and winter sports sites. We also formed the Blues Crew, an energetic group of dozens of volunteers who contributed hundreds of hours this year to reclaim and maintain many miles of Umatilla National Forest trails. Wheat fields. (Kevin Pogue)





have lived my life among mountains. Born at the foot of the Wasatch Plateau in central Utah, I was raised among the Alleghenies of western Pennsylvania, then spent college years in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies. Grad school took me to western Montana where I dwelled for 25 years, exploring the Bitterroots and Sapphires, the Beartooths, Gallatins, Tobacco Roots and others. In mountain country, I learned to appreciate the unpredictable – the shocking eruption of electrical storms above timberline, the perilous falling of rocks, the mysterious branching of unmarked trails when they reach boulder fields or talus slopes. In Montana

The grass-tree mosaic of the Blues is quite evident from Whiskey Creek Road, with forest dominating the northeast-facing moist valley side and grasslands on the southwestfacing slope. Behind these foothills are snowy, higher, more rugged mountains. (Bill Rodgers)

I found my favorite name for a mountain range: the Crazies. I thought all mountains were crazy, and here was proof, printed on a map. Then I came to Walla Walla in 2001 and met a different kind of mountain: the Blues. They seem so modest at first – seen from the verdant flats of the Walla Walla Valley. They seem a kind of Virginian Blue Ridge transplanted to the far West. No towering drama on the horizon, no craggy peaks or snowfilled couloirs, no sense of the brow of God glowering over town. Seen from afar, they present a vegetative paradox: tall, dark stands of evergreens edging against steep-faced grasslands and meadows, emerald in spring, tawny in summer and fall. The commonest Blue Mountain question I get from newcomers to Walla Walla is whether those open slopes up yonder, interspersed among the forests, have been clear-cut. “No,” I tell them, in terms



A thick Miocene Columbia River basalt flow lines the valley of West Birch Creek south of Pilot Rock. (Bill Rodgers)

The incised meanders of the Grande Ronde River reveal nearly horizontal Columbia River basalt flows. (Bob Carson)

that could well comport with the book you are holding in your hands, “what you’re looking at is the influence of aspect – the direction of slope relative to sun.” South- and west-facing slopes tend to be dry, north and east moist – and in semiarid country, that seemingly slight difference can cause a big shift in vegetation. After living so long amid dramatic mountains, it took me some time to realize the many, and often subtle, virtues of the Blues. They are a kind of just-right range. Not tall enough to have been glaciated, or to soar above timberline. Not low enough to have been sundered by the massive Glacial Lake Missoula floods. Not wet enough for the kind of temperate rainforest found in the Cascades. Not dry enough (yet!) for the shockingly massive evergreen die-offs we are now experiencing in the southern and central Rockies. If you’re an extreme skier, look elsewhere. If you’re a mountain lake enthusiast, forget about it: the Blues possess no natural lakes at all. So much of what I’m calling the Blues’ modesty has to do with basalt – the ubiquitous dark rock underlying the entire range. I have heard

geology majors at Whitman College refer to it as boring old basalt. The Blue Mountains represent only one expression of the mammoth Columbia River Basalt Group flows dating to around 16 million years ago. Of the six CRB formations which slathered into place much of today’s surface in eastern Washington and Oregon, the Grande Ronde flows were the most voluminous – and those were the ones which came to dominate the Blue Mountains province. The Blue Mountains anticline – the ridge-shaped fold of rising, stratified rock – lifted the northeast-trending block almost a mile above the surrounding terrain. The result was a 4,000-square-mile mountain range which began to be eroded into narrow canyons as soon as it was formed. If you canoe or raft down one of the several large rivers that drain the Blues – the Grand Ronde, the Snake, or the John Day – you’ll see the magnificent layer-cake effect which boring old basalt can provide. Tight, regularly spaced columns of dark brown rock cut across the steep, rumpled, puma-colored slopes. When I first floated the canyons of the



Oregon Butte Lookout, 1940. (USDA, Umatilla National Forest)

Grande Ronde above Troy, Oregon, I remember thinking I was looking at something like an ant’s-eye view of brown corduroy trousers tossed onto the floor. Very wide-wale corduroy, to this ant’s gaze. From another point of view – that of a conservationist – the domination by basalt is the Blues’ best friend. Basalt is notoriously mineralpoor. Except for a brief 1861 gold boom near Baker City, and a thick lignite deposit near Troy – a deposit too poor and deep to encourage commercial extraction – the Blues possess nothing to invite mining. As a lad who grew up in a mining family and lived among valuable mineral deposits all my life, I can attest to the sense of relief provided on that count by boring old basalt. It’s not that the Blues have been spared from commercial exploitation: Nancy Langston’s Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares (1995) offers an excellent chronicle of destructive logging and grazing in the Blues, and the virtual decimation of ponderosa pine forests in the range’s southern reaches. But the Blues have never suffered, and probably never will suffer, from the kind of exploitation frenzy engendered by

mineral and energy fuels extraction. Water, however, may be a different story. As Bob Carson’s essays here attest, the Blues’ basalt bedrock is “a colossal sponge,” soaking up rainwater and snowmelt then slowly releasing it to keep streams running through our scorching summers. I was not much aware of the basalt’s extraordinary sponge effect until a particularly delightful Forest Service employee, Julie Hentrich, pointed it out to me a few summers ago. Julie works as a fire lookout atop Oregon Butte, at 6,387 feet the highest point in the Blues. My wife Dorothy and I had heard of the Oregon Butte hike for many years before finally setting to it. Like many destinations in these modest mountains, the road to the trailhead is a lengthy, winding thing to what seemed on the maps to be a disappointingly short walk. It was anything but disappointing. To get there, you head toward the Bluewood Ski Area above Dayton, Washington. When you bypass the entry lane into the resort, you enter into a maze of national forest roads jogging off in every direction, many leading to destinations with colorful and often curious names: Little Turkey, and Goose Corral; Punjab and Preacher creeks; Danger Point, The Wheatfield, Tallow Flat, the Devil’s Eyebrow, and my favorite: Milk Shakes. The road ends at a spot called Teepee, and in short order, the trail to Oregon Butte enters the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, one of 765 little land conservation triumphs left to us by the 1964 Wilderness Act. The hike itself offers a kind of microcosm of the entire range. You start off in cool, damp forest populated mostly with Douglas-fir, spruce, and grand fir. As you climb, you gradually leave the woodland darkness and emerge not beyond timberline but onto an equally sun-drenched terrain, this one a dry ridgeline where bunchgrasses and forbs replace trees. The views are already thrilling, and they add to the anticipation of what’s to come when you finally top the Butte. An early summer hike will find you wallowing in wildflowers – penstemons of many species, Asteraceae of such variety they make you dizzy, wild buckwheat galore, oxytropes enough to kill even the cattle of your imagination. (If you think you know



Penstemon is abundant near Oregon Butte. (Larry Frank)



your wildflowers – I don’t – go hiking with a talkative botanist sometime.) By and by, the trail drops again for one more short burst of forest before you start the final ascent, eastward up a long, sere ridgeline to the lookout on top. Just before leaving that last little patch of cool forest, you encounter a very welcome spring. An ancient, rusty pipe pours a wrist-thick stream of water into a wooden trough alongside the trail – a reminder of how popular this place is to horse people. The water is achingly cold and utterly delicious. Nothing you carry in your by-now tepid Nalgene bottle can come close to its icy purity. “It’s called the Oregon Butte Spring,” Julie told us when we reached the top. “It’s the highest spring in the Blues, but there are a lot of springs in these mountains. Just look at your map, if you have one.” I did – a large, many-paneled map of the Umatilla National Forest. The northern Blues cover one side, the southern Blues the other. Much of the land lies within the boundaries of the Umatilla. With Julie’s words still humming in my ears, I started counting springs where the studious U.S. Forest Service cartographers had pinpointed them on paper. In the northern Blues alone, I counted 231. And again, many with wonderful names: Skookum Spring, and San Souci; Bear Wallow, Jelly, and Seven Sisters; Getaway, Moonshine, Stayawhile, and Pistol Spring. And I thought about it. I’m still thinking about it. Two hundred thirty-one places where water erupts or oozes or trickles from the ground in permanent enough configurations that they can be inked onto a map. My edition carries a 1992 copyright. That’s reliable water – and some of the purest, coldest, tastiest water I have ever gulped. Clean, constant water is clearly Earth’s greatest natural resource, and perhaps its most imperiled. Do we take it too much for granted? Will we reach a time when we’re willing to sell too much of the Blues’ spectacular spring waters to the industrial plastic bottlers? How secure is Blue Mountains spring water in the first place? One recent study of hydrological changes caused by climate change in the Blues presents a provocative picture. In the cold language

of the report, “Snowpack is expected to be particularly sensitive to future temperature increases, facilitating a change from snowmelt-dominant to transitional basins, and from transitional to rain-dominant basins” (https:// What does it mean? The predicted on-the-ground results may give us pause: less snowpack, more floods (especially in the northeastern portion of the Blue Mountains section, which Bob Carson’s first chapter here will define), increased forest mortality, increased risk of wildfires, increased landslide risk, increased risks to road and trail stability throughout the range, and lower summer flows in streams (which are already underway: from 19492010, Blue Mountain streamflows have been reduced, on average, 21 to 28 percent, according to the study). Microcosms again. Just as the Oregon Butte trail is a microcosm of the Blue Mountain range, the Umatilla and the Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur to the south are microcosms of the entire national forest system. These are our public lands – a legacy like no other on earth, and the bearers of a history richly worth reading. Take the Oregon Butte fire lookout, for instance, one of more than 8,000 lookouts the Forest Service built in the wake of the 1910 blow-up – the largest complex of wildfires in U.S. history. The Oregon Butte lookout, the destination on our hike, is of an endearingly simple design, known as the “L-4” in U.S. Forest Service lingo. I prefer its nickname, the “Aladdin.” It’s a 14-by-14 gable-roofed structure, pre-cut, as they all were, and moved onto the site in 1931. Illuminated at night, it does indeed look like an Aladdin kerosene lamp. Window walls on all four sides open to panoramic views which, from east to west, span 200 miles. On the clearest days, you can see from the Seven Devils to the east, past Mount Adams to the west. Hinged wooden panels shade the glass in summer and, fully lowered, protect them from winter blasts of ice and wind. From a World War II peak of 200 Aladdin lookouts in the Northwest, fewer than 15 still stand. Go see the Oregon Butte Aladdin soon, if you can. Take the kids, and grandkids. Standing in its shade on a hot July afternoon, you might find yourself thinking of Gifford Pinchot, founder of the U.S. Forest Service, in

ways that place that fusty old turn-of-the-century figure beyond the cobwebs of museum and cliché. In the first place, your on-site Forest Service host will be a young woman – not a uniformed, mustachioed male – full of naturalists’ knowledge and a kind of pure enthusiasm that might remind you of spring water. In the second place, the stunning views from the Butte might awaken a strange, unexpected sense of, well, patriotism. This land is your land, after all – it belongs to everyone, as a result of thousands of hard-fought battles by American conservationists, who managed to construct the world’s first democratic agency dedicated to the protection of natural resources. And if you know your Forest Service history at all, you know that one of the agency’s original missions was watershed protection. In the Blues, there’s a lot to protect – from the hundreds of perched aquifers that feed cold springs like Oregon Butte to the damp, if thin, soils of these temperate inland forests, to the stream

Armillaria mushrooms along Engelmann spruce root. (Dave Powell)



catchments themselves and the thousands of acres of erodible slopes that challenge hikers and bikers across the Blues. And in those marvelous forests, down in the southern reaches of the range, dwells what may be the largest organism on earth. It’s an example of a very widespread woodland fungus, Armillaria ostroyae, a complex creature found in temperate and tropical forests around the world. One eruption of it down in the Malheur National Forest of the southern Blue Mountains has been nicknamed the Humongous Fungus. A single organism, it covers 3.5 square miles, weighs 35,000 tons, and is thought to be about 8,600 years old – so not only the largest organism on the planet but also among the most ancient. Mushroom pickers know the Armillaria as the honey mushroom for the edible gilled caps it puts out, but the species is a lot more complex than it appears. While nearly all fungi grow as mycelia – the cottony tufts you sometimes find alarmingly in your fridge, reminding you of your college days – the Armillaria



can also sprout dark, rootlike rhizomorphs which spread underground through soils, seeking the nutrients found in wood ( Even if you have never gone to witness the Blues Mountains’ humongous fungus, you have probably seen the results: a dead tree bole lying on the ground with dislodged bark and something that looks and feels like white latex painted onto the inner wood. Those are the pale mycelial felts left by dense nets of Armillaria rhizomorphs, and they have girdled and killed the tree. Armillaria kills lots of trees. The book here in your hands will teach you a lot about Blue Mountains geology and geography. Professor Carson is, after all, a fine geomorphologist and a fine teacher. If you read carefully, you’ll learn an immense amount about a little-known and underappreciated mountain range – those modest slopes known as the Blues. And if you’re a veteran reader of geological texts, you’ll be treated once again to the stirring and

Sunrise from Oregon Butte. (Larry Frank)

provocative vocabulary of professional geology. It’s a language I find more delicious than the best Walla Walla wines: stitching plutons, slickenlines; grabens and thermokarst; pingos (what on earth are pingos?), terracettes, solufluction and slumping; dike swarm and flower stone. Even as I write these words, my spellchecker wants to melt down in a fit of pyroclastic magma. It’s a lexicon I treasure, a lexicon that pushes this word-loving mountain boy into all sorts of earthbound fantasies. In my Blue Mountains fantasy, I am a tall basalt outcrop standing atop Oregon Butte like a cairn. I am a stone-headed thing, an assembly of rock with consciousness and eyes. Of course I feel no pain – this is after all a pleasant fantasy. From my perch, I see in all directions; I see across time and countryside, and both swirl all around me in a haze measured by eons. My gaze is long, my mind as slow as soil. To the south, 20,000 years past, I watch as glaciers advance – majestic quilts of white gradually

enveloping the Blues’ sister mountains, the Wallowas and the Elkhorns. They stand higher – above the 7,500-foot grade, which allows for greater coldness, which in turn allows ice to overwhelm the mountain peaks and grind them into stirring shapes and personalities. I do see snow where I stand here – lots and lots of snow – but glaciers never form. Come summers, I am dry; wildflowers bloom all around. And dry feels like a kind of virtue here, for the other great things I see are floods. Floods of astounding proportions released from dozens, maybe hundreds, of Missoula ice dams. Far below. But neither water nor ice can ever deeply etch these just-right Blues. They somehow stand in the middle, and somehow that’s immensely comforting.



Oregon Butte and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. (Duane Scroggins)

PREFACE “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalm 121


hat are the Blues? That long, high ridge just southeast of Walla Walla and Pendleton? A physiographic section, mostly in northeastern Oregon, which also includes the Wallowa and Elkhorn mountains? Music developed by African-Americans more than a century ago? The “mascot” for the St. Louis ice hockey team – and, more recently, Whitman College sports teams? In this book, the Blues are the mountain range stretching from Clarno in north-central Oregon to Clarkston in the southeastern corner of Washington. Why do mountains look blue? They look blue because of the scattering of sunlight in the atmosphere between the observer and the mountains. The farther you travel from the mountains, the more air between you and them, and the more blue they appear. If there were no atmosphere, from any distance the mountains would look green, yellow, and brown, the colors of trees, grasses, and soil. Some trees release into the atmosphere isoprene, which increases light scattering and makes the

mountains appear more blue. From a distance most mountains appear blue from time to time; hence the name “blue” is common. At the southeastern edge of the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to Georgia, the Blue Ridge is where I hiked up Bluff Mountain (my first) with my dad, newly returned from the Pacific theater of World War II. In New South Wales, Australia, the Blue Mountains are the site of magnificent landforms such as the Three Sisters sandstone cliffs and limestone caverns called Jenolan Caves. What is natural history? The synonyms for natural include innate, general, wild, native, and genuine; for this work I like wild or native because I like to think of the vegetation and wildlife of our Blues about two centuries ago, before widespread logging of giant trees and killing of large carnivores. The synonyms for history include account, chronicle, narrative, report, and story; hopefully this book reads like a story. I am a naturalist, a person who is interested in natural history. I am a geologist interested in



Above: Jubilee Lake, ice covered in late March, and below, surrounded by yellow western larches in late October. (Duane Scroggins)

Conifers above a basalt outcrop along Camas Creek. The needles of deciduous larches turn yellow before they drop in the autumn. (Bill Rodgers)



particularly impressive at sunrise and moonrise. When my family moved to Walla Walla in 1975, we again could see blue mountains to the southeast. The Blue Ridge of the Appalachians is about the width of our Blues, but an order of magnitude longer because it stretches from Pennsylvania to Georgia. With more precipitation, Virginia’s Blue Ridge is mostly forested except for small, scattered farms. The Blues of eastern Oregon and Washington are characterized by conifers on northern and eastern slopes with grasses and wildflowers on drier southern and western slopes.

A carpet of flowers in the grass-tree mosaic of the Blues. (Bill Rodgers)

the Blue Mountains not only in terms of rocks, fossils, and landforms, but also ecology, forestry, botany, zoology, meteorology, and hydrology. Why a book on the natural history of the Blue Mountains? The rocks of the Blues are mentioned in much of the literature about the geology of the Pacific Northwest. Although most of the rocks at the surface are basalt, beneath are older, more complex rocks. The forests and vegetation of these mountains are described in many books. In our relatively dry climate, the trees do not grow to be the giants of the temperate rainforest in western Oregon and Washington. Every spring and summer the Blues exhibit grand gardens of glorious wildflowers. My goal is a book addressing landforms, rocks, and the uncommon grass-tree mosaic of the Blues. I would not have undertaken this venture without the essential help of two of the finest photographers I know, Duane Scroggins and Bill Rodgers. Born in the Great Valley of Virginia, I was raised in a home on a hill with a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the southeast,

View southeast across the Great Valley of Virginia to the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Bob Carson)

The nearby Blue Mountains are a paradise for a geomorphologist, a geologist who studies landforms. The landforms of the East are clothed with forests. In our Blues, at least where there are grasslands, I can see the naked landforms, the flat uplands and sharp ridges, the spectacular



canyons. I love to hike in the mountains: the many trails on the ridges and in the valleys of our Blues are peaceful and uncrowded. Where there are prairies and where the trees are not thick, one does not even need a trail. The uplands are ideal for snowshoes and cross-country skis. I am fascinated by plants; particularly striking is each old-growth ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir. I love rivers, especially floating down them. Although most of my boating has been in rivers peripheral to our Blues (Hells Canyon of the Snake River, the John Day River, and the Grande Ronde River), occasional high spring flows allow kayaking and even canoeing on smaller streams like Mill Creek and the Tucannon River. In the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, my wife Clare and I have camped on a ridge guarded by our dog outside the tent. Many grass-covered, north-south oriented ridges provide uninterrupted views of both sunset and sunrise. The Blues are sparsely populated. One can drive the roads for miles, seeing more deer than vehicles. A herd of elk may graze in a meadow on a ridge in the grass-tree mosaic. A black bear may be moving slowly along a slope, looking for food. A coyote may run, then turn back to look at the visitor. Unlike other mountain areas in the Pacific Northwest, rarely does one see others when hiking in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. Sheep Creek Falls hosts at least two dipper nests. (Bob Carson)



American dipper or water ouzel. (Duane Scroggins)

Walk along one of the many clear streams in the Blues. Look for a water ouzel bobbing on a rock, or flying low over the water. John Muir devotes an entire chapter of The Mountains of California to his favorite bird, which is common along and in our mountain streams. The ouzel or water thrush or American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) “is a singularly joyous and lovable little fellow, about the size of a robin, clad in a plain waterproof suit of bluish gray, with a tinge of chocolate on the head and shoulders. In form he is about as smoothly plump and compact as a pebble that has been whirled in a pot-hole, the flowing contour of his body being inter-

rupted only by his strong feet and bill, the crisp wing-tips, and the upslanted wren-like tail. … Find a fall, or cascade, or rushing rapid anywhere upon a clear stream, and there you will surely find its complementary Ouzel, flitting about in the spray, diving in foaming eddies, whirling like a leaf among the beaten foam-bells; ever vigorous and enthusiastic, yet selfcontained, and neither seeking nor shunning your company (Muir, 1894, p. 276).”



Wheat fields. (Bill Rodgers)



THE BLUES My boy is making a bird. From gravel and grass, he’s gathered

sequin of shattered glass, filigree of rust, gleaming bulbs that burst

thirty-two feathers, a clutch in his outstretched fist, five clumps

back through dirt after long winter? What each surface hid was not

of down fluff he ruffles with breath, a dusty pinion he thrusts

mine to own; what depths held, not revealed until I let feet sink

toward me to ask: Is this enough? Beneath a dense canopy limbs

into wet clay. A favorite cup, a cap packed in a rucksack. One door

of a lone elm make, he stands, still as a morning lake, waiting for

shuts, and a window yawns to reveal a sky burning like a bowl of

answers. Is this enough? I had to leave one life to find another.

clementines. Emissaries of pure green poke from desert soil to

Dove silver, magpie black. What makes a life? Had to let wither

form a vegetal crown. Patience matters. I’m invasive, sprawling

the ones I couldn’t trickle with water, had to let those who preached

as brambles of blackberry, drawing blood in my defense. Or, I am

a faith I couldn’t muster, linger in their silent circle wagging fingers.

instead the picker, a constellation of pricked tears where barbs seize

It was trust brought me back. An elemental vision of sheer color,

my pale forearms. Sometimes fat clusters lie beyond reach, availing

splendor wrenched from refuse, a labeled crate tossed from a truck.

themselves to no one, despite deep hunger. He brings on his palm

That, and luck. Across state lines, it cradled books, then splintering,

a ragged half-dome of summer sky. The scrawny cat carves infinity

its bottom dropped out. Maybe all there is is grit. And the way

around his shins. Native of sorrow, this boy blooms where

squinting lets me see more clearly than gaping, as gold chaff shoots

spilled. He warbles, Mama, see? Oh, love. My word. This tattered

from the sun’s wide-mouthed faucet. Now, my haloed boy cocks

world, the whole splattered mess of it. I couldn’t have known,

his ear to catch the tune of one aloft defying sight, hovering

letting go, what awaited me. Sheltering foothills, a lily’s feathered

on a draft. A single glimpse might plant the promise of a ring

foliage, each fragment shell, fear flown. If something’s broken

of cobalt hills, soft knuckled, a lustrous comb to catch the will-

open, another might fly. My boy composes his bird to set it free.

o-wisp strands I brush from yellow braids. To shield his eyes

-- Katrina Roberts

past a larval ooze of maggots writhing from the wound of a stillliving thing, I step forward. What makes a life? A quill, a chipped


INTRODUCTION AND GEOGRAPHY: The Blues from Clarno, Oregon, to Clarkston, Washington “Why do we travel to remote locations? To prove our adventurous spirit or to tell stories about incredible things? We do it to be alone amongst friends and to find ourselves in a land without man.” Peter & Leni Gillman, 2001, The Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory


ative Americans have lived in and around the Blue Mountains, and hunted and gathered there, for thousands of years. A short distance to the north, near the mouth of the Palouse River, is evidence of human occupation at the Marmes Rockshelter. The oldest artifacts and human bone fragments there are associated with ash from the eruption of Glacier Peak 13,125 years ago (calibrated radiocarbon age) (Hicks, 2004). One of the earliest accounts of white migration and westward European expansion to this area was in the 1811-12 Wilson Price Hunt overland expedition from St. Louis, Missouri, to Astoria, Oregon. The party of 32 whites, four Indians, two children, and five pack horses, all suffering from exposure, starvation, and exhaustion, left Farewell Bend of the Snake River on December 24 (Evans, 1990). The French trapper and interpreter Spray (population 150, elevation 1,772 feet) sits on the northeast side of the John Day River. The cliff behind the town is reddish Columbia River basalt flows overlying lightcolored John Day tuffs. (Bill Rodgers)

Pierre Dorion, his wife Marie, their two children, and the others traveled north across the Powder River Valley and then the Grande Ronde Valley. Leaving present-day La Grande on January 2, “they traveled due west for five days, crossing ridges, climbing over fallen timber, wallowing through snow that was often knee deep on open ground and waist deep in the hollows. The weather was bitterly cold and the sky overcast. On 6 January they crossed the final summit and glimpsed the plain that lay beyond (Evans, 1990, p. 17).” In the vicinity of East Birch Creek or the south fork of McKay Creek, they escaped the Blues to find milder weather and green grass. This difficult winter journey across the Blues did not portray the mountains in their best light. The Hunt party reached the mouth of the Walla Walla River on January 21, 1812. After a year at Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, the Dorion family and trappers set out for “Snake River country” where they were attacked by members of the Bannock tribe. The only







survivors were Marie Dorion and her two children who survived the winter of 1813 in the Blue Mountains, hiding out near Hilgard, east of La Grande (sign at Madame Dorion Memorial Park near Wallula, Washington).


The Columbia Plateau physiographic province (colored orange, brown, tan, and two shades of green) is bordered by the Cascades in light blue on the west, the Rockies in dark blue and purple on the east, and the Basin and Range in orange on the south. The figure eight-shaped Blue Mountains physiographic section is colored pink. (U.S. Geological Survey)

The Blue Mountains are a collage of forests and grasslands, pines and firs, shrubs and wildflowers, streams with fish, tens of mammal species, hundreds of bird species, and thousands of invertebrates, and streams with fish. Many of the plants and animals are endemic. Meltwater from deep winter snowfall feeds creeks and rivers both directly and indirectly. The basalt bedrock is a colossal sponge soaking up the snowmelt and releasing the groundwater to streams that continue to flow after summer months without rain. Trees in the Blues use this groundwater, particularly during abundant summer sunlight. Irrigated agriculture in the valleys and lowlands around these mountains is dependent on the surface and groundwater.



Columbia Plateau and parts of adjacent physiographic provinces, drawn by GuyHarold Smith. (Fenneman, 1931, p. 226)

Physiographic divisions The Blue Mountain physiographic section is a portion of the Columbia Plateau physiographic province as originally defined by Fenneman (1931) and subsequently used by Thornbury (1965), Hunt (1974), and others. Physiographic divisions of a continent are defined primarily by landforms but also by elevation, climate, water bodies, geologic structures, rocks, soils, vegetation, and land use. In his preface, Fenneman (1931, p. v) writes that both geologists and geographers are interested in landforms. He argues that to the geologist, land-forms are a final product depending “on all the physical processes of geology,” whereas geographers consider landforms a beginning on which “almost everything else depends … in some measure.” Fenneman goes on to state that landforms influence “climate and life and habitation and civilization.” For example, the relatively high mountains of northeastern Oregon and adjacent states are cooler and wetter than the neighboring lowlands, resulting in different soils and vegetation, allowing, among other uses, timber harvest. Most of the bedrock of the Columbia Plateau physiographic province, drained by the Columbia River and its tributaries, is young volcanics. On the map of U.S. physiographic provinces, the Blue Mountain physiographic section is the tan area lying nearly entirely in northeastern Oregon. This mountainous section includes the Blue Mountains straddling the Oregon-Washington state line and these Oregon ranges: the Wallowas, the Elkhorns, the Greenhorns, the Strawberries, the Ochocos, and the Aldrich Mountains. A few authors include Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains on the east side of Hells Canyon of the Snake River (for example, Vallier and Brooks, 1986, and Johnson, 2004). Regarding the mountainous portion of the Columbia Plateau, Fenneman (1931, p. 237) wrote, “In northeastern Oregon, is the Blue Mountain section. It consists of a nucleus of old mountains not covered by the floods of lava. Later uplift has raised the mountains and domed the lava surface to a height of 7,000 ft. As these higher parts of the lava surface have been roughened by erosion they are here included in the

Blue Mountain section.” For this section as a whole, the key words are mountains and erosion.

The canyon of the South Fork of the Walla Walla River. (Bill Rodgers)

Mountains in and near the Blue Mountain physiographic section of the Columbia Plateau physiographic province Elev. (feet)


Physiographic Division


Highest peak name


Blues section


Fields Peak




Blues section


Oregon Butte





Blues section


Rock Creek Butte




Blues section


Vinegar Hill




Blues section


Lookout Mountain



Seven Devils

Northern Rockies


She Devil, He Devil




Basin & Range


Steens Mountain




Blues section


Strawberry Mountain




Blues section


Sacajawea Peak





The John Day River, flowing north at Clarno. (Duane Scroggins)

In this book, the term “the Blue Mountains” means the Blue Mountains physiographic section as defined by Fenneman and others (1931). The term “the Blues” means the northern part of the section, the long ridge of uplifted volcanic rocks straddling the Oregon-Washington border. The Blues, as described below, are a good example of doming of the lava flows, but have only a few outcrops of rocks of the old mountains. The Blues, too low to have been glaciated, are characterized by canyons eroded by rivers, whereas the higher southern ranges in the Blue Mountains, like the Wallowas and Elkhorns, have valleys carved by glaciers. The Blues are the mountains trending northeast-southwest from southeastern Washington to north-central Oregon. This large topographic



ridge (an anticlinal structure) stretches from Clarkston 197 miles to Sand Spring Butte (elevation 2,926 feet) in Wheeler County near the John Day River (halfway between Twickenham and Clarno). The long uplift, dissected by streams, is about 30 to 40 miles wide. The relief of the Blues is more than a mile, ranging from 807 feet at the northeast (Clarkston) to 6,387 feet at Oregon Butte (in Washington, but with a view of Oregon to the south). In the southwestern Blues, elevations vary between 1,719 feet at Service Creek and 5,932 feet at Black Mountain. The divides between drainage systems are at intermediate altitudes. In Oregon the pass on State Highway 244 (northeast of Lehman Hot Springs), at the drainage divide between the Grande Ronde and the John Day, has an elevation of 4,891 feet. In Washington, Alpowa Summit, the divide between Pataha and Alpowa creeks, sits at 2,785 feet. The USDA Forest Service publishes a map of the Umatilla National Forest at a scale of 1:126,720 (1 inch = 2 miles). This map shows roads and trails, mountains, streams and lakes, campgrounds, and points of interest. Also published is a topographic map of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness at a scale of 1:63,360 (1 inch = 1 mile). The United States Geological Survey has published topographic maps of this area at a scale of 1:250,000, 1:62,500, and 1:24,000, all in English units of measurement. Relatively new topographic maps are metric with a scale of 1:100,000. The Bureau of Land Management editions of these 1:100,000 maps show “surface management status” (reservations, federal, state, and county lands, and recreation areas).

Oregon and Washington highway maps with the boundaries of our Blues marked by a yellow line along rivers and roads.


The border of the Blues The Blues straddle parts of these Washington counties (from east to west): Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, and Walla Walla. The counties in Oregon, more or less from east to west, are: Wallowa, Union, Umatilla, Morrow, Grant, Gilliam, and Wheeler. A tour around the Blues can be by paddled watercraft on the rivers and motorized or nonmotorized vehicles on the roads. Let’s start at Clarkston, Washington, where the Clearwater River meets the Snake River, and go in a clockwise direction around our Blues. Go up the Snake past Asotin, Washington, to the mouth of the Grande Ronde River. My favorite place on the Grande Ronde, only a few miles upstream from the Snake, is The Narrows. At high flow, the river is wide; in the middle are standing waves big enough to flip a raft. At low flow, the river is entirely within a deep channel topped by furious whitewater.



Clarkston, Washington, (on the right) sits across the river from Lewiston, Idaho, where the Clearwater River (on the left) meets the Snake River. Due to local deformation, Miocene basalt flows dip steeply to the south toward the two cities, then rise gently to the crest of the Blues on the horizon. (Duane Scroggins)

From The Narrows go upstream along the Grande Ronde past Troy and La Grande almost to the community of Starkey, Oregon (which had a post office from 1879 until 1935). Take Oregon State Highway 244 from Starkey to Ukiah (which had Oregon’s coldest ever temperature of -54°F in 1933); this eastern portion of Highway 244 is more or less along the route of the old Mt. Emily Lumber Company railroad. Just to the south of this highway are Lehman Hot Springs on the north flank of the 29-million-year-old Tower Mountain caldera.

The Narrows of the Grande Ronde River. All the lava flows are Miocene Columbia River basalts. (Jeff Yanke)

Troy is located where the Wenaha River joins the Grande Ronde River. (Duane Scroggins)

View from Mount Emily, elevation 6,063 feet, south to the city of La Grande, elevation 2,785 feet. The fault scarp separates the uplifted Blues from the down-dropped La Grande Valley. (Duane Scroggins)

View west from above Spray, a small town at the southern edge of the Blues. The John Day River has cut a valley into Tertiary volcanic rocks. Mount Jefferson (10,502 feet) and Olallie Butte (7,215 feet), Pleistocene Cascade volcanoes, appear behind the Ochoco Mountains. (Bill Rodgers)



A deer crosses the North Fork of the John Day River. (Duane Scroggins)

From Ukiah, go down cascading Camas Creek to the North Fork of the John Day River and follow this fast river downstream past Monument to Kimberly. Here the North Fork joins the main John Day River, which flows past Spray, Service Creek, and Twickenham to Clarno, Oregon (elevation 1,312 feet). Here we leave the John Day River and proceed up Oregon State



Highway 218 along Pine Creek to Fossil (in this town you may search for 30-million-year-old leaves behind the high school). Near the southwestern end of the Blues are three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument: Picture Gorge and Sheep Rock are south of Kimberly; the Painted Hills are northwest of Mitchell; and the Clarno Nut Beds are west of Fossil. The northwestern boundary of the Blue Mountains between Fossil, Oregon, and Clarkston, Washington is not distinct. Streams flow from the crest of the Blues to the Columbia and Snake rivers. To drive this northwest flank, follow Oregon State Highways 19 to Condon, 206 to Heppner, and 74 to the community of Nye (the post office opened in 1887 and closed in 1917). From Nye, drive along U.S. Highway 395 to Pendleton and Oregon Highway 11 to the state line just south of Walla Walla, Washington. After tasting a little wine in the Walla Walla Valley, continue northeast on U.S. Highway 12 through Waitsburg, Dayton, and Pomeroy to Clarkston. With many ups and downs, elevations along this highway range from over 3,000 feet at Cummings Hill and Jones Hill summits to about 1,000 feet at Pendleton and Walla Walla and 800 feet at Clarkston. From Waitsburg to Clarkston, most of U.S. Highway 12 is along the Lewis and Clark Trail, the route that the expedition followed returning from Fort Clatsop, Oregon, to St. Louis, Missouri. The exception is between Dayton and Pomeroy, where U.S. 12 bends northwest toward Starbuck. After camping just east of Dayton on May 2, 1806, the explorers traveled northeast, crossed the Tucannon River valley, and reached Pataha Creek west of Pomeroy. Part of the rail network of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Co. was more or less along this route. To get an idea of the path that Lewis and Clark took, take Turner Road to Marengo, and then Marjorie Road and Marengo Road over the ridge between the Tucannon River and Pataha Creek; of course, the explorers did not see the wheat fields and windmills.

1909 Columbia County map. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Elgin, population 1,756, lies in a small valley along the Grande Ronde River. In the background are the north end of the much larger La Grande Valley and Mt. Emily in the Blues. (Duane Scroggins)

Communities in the Blues The population of the tiny towns and farm communities within the periphery of the Blues is small. At the northeast end, Anatone, Washington (elevation 3,258 feet), had 38 residents in 2010. In the far southwest, Lonerock, Oregon (elevation 2,846 feet), had an estimated population of 22 in 2012. The 2000 census of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (east of Pendleton) counted the tribal population at 2,927, with approximately half living on the reservation. An additional 300 Native Americans from other tribes and 1,500 non natives live there. This total of perhaps 3,300 people is only about 12 persons per square mile. Within the reservation are the towns of Mission, Cayuse, and Gibbon. State highway maps show other small communities and ghost

towns in the Blues. In Washington, Cloverland is northwest of Anatone, and Kooskooskie, near the state line, is on Mill Creek upstream of Walla Walla. Heading southwest into Oregon, Tollgate lies near the crest of the Blues between Weston and Elgin. Bingham Springs is just downstream of the Forks of the Umatilla River. Between Pendleton and La Grande are Meacham, Kamela, Hilgard, and, in an incised meander of the Grande Ronde River, Perry. Albee is seven miles north of Ukiah. From 1922 to 1990 the population of Hardman, south of Heppner, dropped from 193 to 20. The ghost towns of Wetmore and Winlock are hidden in the far southwestern end of the Blues.



Lone Rock is listed as a ghost town (Miller, 1977). The village sits on the north side of the southwestern end of the Blues. (Duane Scroggins)

National forests and wilderness areas Much of the Blue Mountains physiographic province is national forest. Crowning our Blues, the Umatilla National Forest stretches from near Clarkston, Washington, to just east of Fossil, Oregon. To the south of the Umatilla National Forest, in other mountain ranges of the physiographic province, are the Wallowa-Whitman, Malheur, and Ochoco national forests. The Wenaha National Forest was created in “1905 using lands withdrawn from homestead entry in 1902 and 1903” (Bright, 1913). Lying between Pomeroy, Washington, and La Grande, Oregon, the Wenaha National Forest was combined with the Umatilla National Forest in 1920.



Divide at northwest edge of Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. (Duane Scroggins)

The large Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, created in 1978, occupies much of what was the Wenaha National Forest. Surrounding this wilderness are many roadless areas. Designated in 1984, the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness, the smallest in Oregon, occupies the headwaters of the Umatilla River upstream of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The North Fork John Day Wilderness, shared by the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests, includes parts of the Blue, Elkhorn, and Greenhorn mountains. In part because of the location of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, no roads cross the Washington portion of the Blues. From northeast to southwest in Oregon, the main roads over the Blue Mountains are: • Oregon State Highway 204 from Weston to Elgin has a summit elevation of 5,380 feet near Tollgate.

The Umatilla National Forest is outlined with a dark green line. (USDA Forest Service)

• Interstate 84 from Pendleton to La Grande has a summit elevation of 4,193 feet near Meacham. • U.S. Highway 395 crosses the Blues at the Battle Mountain summit (elevation 4,270 feet) north of Ukiah. The key clash of the Bannock War, the last significant insurrection by Native Americans in the Northwest, was fought near Battle Mountain in 1878. • Part of the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway goes across the Blue Mountains between Heppner and Ukiah; the eastern half of this road is not maintained in winter. • Oregon State Highway 204 extends across the Blues from Heppner to Spray; the pass in the Umatilla National Forest has an elevation of 4,612 feet. • Near the southwest end of the Blues, State Highway 19, another

Larch needles turn golden in autumn in the valley of the North Fork of the Wenaha River. (David Frame)



The North Fork Umatilla Wilderness along the river in the spring. (Duane Scroggins)

Oregon Scenic Byway, crosses Butte Creek Pass (elevation 3,788 feet) between Fossil and Service Creek. Only one railroad line crosses the Blues, that of the Union Pacific. The rails follow the Umatilla River from Pendleton to Gibbon, then wind up Meacham Creek to a high point at 4,208 feet. From the crest of the Blues the line is parallel to Interstate Highway 84, going down Railroad Canyon and along the Grande Ronde River to La Grande. This last part of a transcontinental railroad from Portland, Oregon, to Omaha, Nebraska, and beyond was completed in 1884.



The Union Pacific route across the Blues follows Meacham Creek, which cuts through nearly horizontal Columbia River basalt flows. (Bob Carson)

Native Americans used the Blues for hunting, fishing, and gathering various plants for homes, food, and medicine. Until they were nearly extinct, beavers were the first resource taken from the Blues. There may have been a dozen beaver dams per mile on many creeks. These dams held water, trapped sediment and nutrients, formed productive wetlands, and reduced extreme variation in stream discharge. The next resource extraction from the other mountain ranges of the Blue Mountains physiographic province was gold; little mining occurred in our Blues because they are almost entirely capped by thick basalt bedrock. The grasslands

of the Blues provide ample forage not only for elk, deer, and other wild herbivores, but also for sheep and cattle. Despite relatively slow growth compared with trees closer to the Pacific Ocean, our inland forests have been a major source of timber; indeed, the ponderosa pines are highly valued. As was true thousands of years ago, one of today’s primary values of the Blues is for hunting and fishing. To these activities add camping, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing, rock climbing, boating (particularly on the Grande Ronde and John Day rivers), birdwatching, and enjoying the scenic views. The geography of the Blues, with variation in elevation, slope, aspect, and moisture, has for millions of years resulted in a great diversity of plants and animals. For hundreds of years this diversity has provided many opportunities for obtaining food, forest products, and other necessities, as well as allowing for many different forms of recreation.

Deadman Peak (elevation 5,873 feet) is at the north edge of the Mill Creek Watershed. (David Frame)



Battle Mountain. (Bill Rodgers)



Eavesdropping Sage roots reach so deep they wick water up to arid land The wind hums familiar tunes through broken windows in the old schoolhouse and Penelope is on the hill Yellow roses and sagebrush have rooted into her making her part of the stubblefield The story wicks up A melancholy girl in a wedding dress Too much childbirth and a fever Grandma left with a cold stepmother Black-billed magpie. (Mike Denny)

It must look much the same from this grave dried cow dung and thistles magpies lifting out of green wheat young pheasants running through the gully A dust devil the size of a barn is coming The dry sod in Penelope’s head stirs an urge to hurry to close the windows --Janice King




ELEMENTS ABOVE THE ROCKS: AIR, WATER, AND SOIL “I can’t imagine anything more important than air, water, soil, energy and biodiversity. These are the things that keep us alive.” David Suzuki


he forests of the Blues breathe clean air, take in clean water, and grow on young soils. The people living in the Blues are accustomed to clean air and water, basic human necessities not enjoyed by all people. These mountains show an unusual relationship between landscape and climate, particularly with respect to the influence of aspect (the direction a slope faces) on moisture and vegetation. Climate and weather, basalt bedrock, windblown silt, ash fall, and topography (elevation, steepness of slope, aspect) all influence natural resources and land use. These factors have led to a low human population, a generally abundant water supply, streams ideal for fish, productive forests, and many mammals, both wild and domestic. Facing page: Clouds above the North Fork of the John Day River. (Bill Rodgers)

Deadman Peak from Russell Creek. It can be winter in the Blues while it is fall or spring in the Walla Walla Valley. (Kevin Pogue)




Elevation (feet)

Mean annual precipitation (in.)

Condon Dayton Elgin Fossil Heppner La Grande Milton-Freewater Pendleton Pilot Rock Pomeroy Ukiah Walla Walla

2,861 1,660 2,660 2,650 1,883 2,760 971 1,482 1,723 1,857 3,360 942

14.10 19.05 23.73 15.11 14.04 17.18 14.43 12.02 13.64 17.28 16.19 20.86

Mean temperature (°F) January July 31.0 34 29.7 32.5 33.7 30.6 34.7 33.5 33.8 32 25.3 35

66.1 71 66.8 64.3 69 69.3 73.9 72.9 70.1 69 61.3 75.5

Oregon data from: Taylor and Hannan, 1999 Washington data from:

Clouds and corniced ridges atop the Blues. (David Frame)

Climate and Weather “The climate of these Hills is too severe for agriculture. Frosts are common during the summer and in September snow frequently falls and lies until in July, and even later on some of the higher ridges. The summer months, however, are delightfully pleasant and bring many campers into these Hills to escape the heat and dust of the plains to the north and west (Kent, 1904, p. 2).” Due to many factors, particularly the great range of altitude, weather and climate in the Blue Mountains are quite variable. Lying in the rain shadow of both the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascades, the Blues get much less moisture than western Oregon and Washington. Strong correlations exist between elevation and climatic factors such as temperature and precipitation, with higher areas being colder and getting more rain and snow. South-facing slopes may be so hot and dry in the summer that trees cannot grow, whereas adjacent cooler, moister north-facing slopes are forested.



In and near the Blue Mountains are Oregon’s extreme temperature records (Taylor and Hannan, 1999). On February 10, 1933, the temperature dropped to -54°F in Ukiah. In 1898, just to the north and west of the Blues, Hermiston (July) and Redmond (August) had high temperatures of 122°F. Considering global climate change, it is surprising that these high temperature records have not been broken in recent decades. The temperature extremes for the Washington portion of the Blues are not as great as those for Oregon. In reports on snowfall in the Blues, it is not always stated whether measurements are in snow thickness or water equivalent. The following is extracted from “Climate of Oregon” by the Western Regional Climate Center at the Desert Research Institute (2010). The Blue Mountains receive a total of between 150 and 300 inches of snow, persisting from December through April above 4,500 feet. Typical snow depths are 25 to 65 inches at the end of January and 5 to 45 inches at the end of April. (In July, snow banks may be encountered on the road and trail to Oregon Butte, at 6,387 feet the highest point in the Blues.) Weather and climate may have short- and long-term consequences for the Blue Mountains. Strong winds, heavy snowfall, and ice storms break branches and overturn trees. Warmer temperatures and occasional droughts

may increase the frequency and size of forest fires. In 1925-31, lightning storms, which start most forest fires in the Pacific Northwest, occurred three to six times per 100,000 acres per year in the Blues (Morris, 1934). Washington: Mean annual precipitation for southeastern Washington (1961-1990). Orange = <10”, tan = 10-20”, yellow = 20-30”, light green = 30-40”, dark green = 40-50”, blue = 60-70”. The greatest precipitation is in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness of the Umatilla National Forest. (Jenny Weisberg, Spatial Climate Analysis Service, Oregon State University, 2000)

Tracks through new snow in the Blues. (David Frame)

Oregon: Mean annual precipitation for northeastern Oregon (1961-1990). Red = <20”, orange = 20-40”, yellow = 40-60”, green = 60-80”. The northern yellow area is the Blues; the yellow and green area is the Wallowa Mountains. (Jenny Weisburg, University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences, 1997) Lightning over the Blues. (David Frame)



Grande Ronde River near La Grande. (Duane Scroggins)

Water The mountains of the western United States are critical to the supply of surface and groundwater in nearby lowlands and all the way to the oceans. Each mountain range is like a somewhat permeable giant roof, with some water seeping into the sponge in the attic and other water dripping from the eaves. The aquifers are sponges being recharged: rainfall and snowmelt percolate down through the soil and into the basalt flows of the Blues. This water slowly migrates down and through the dipping lava flows to get beneath valley floors where it is the deep basalt



Many springs supplying Sheep Creek in easternmost Columbia County fall over the lower colonnade of one lava flow and then the flow-top breccia below. Because the Columbia River basalts are a giant aquifer with many springs, most streams in the Blues stay relatively cool and rarely dry up in the summer. (Eric Pfeifer)

aquifer. Radiocarbon dating of well water in Walla Walla indicates that it took the water we drink about 20,000 years to move approximately 40 miles from the recharge area atop the Blues; that’s about 10 feet per year! Rain and snowmelt also move across the land surface directly to creeks. Gravity pulls the water downstream to ever larger water bodies, in this area eventually to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Why don’t local streams dry up if there is no rain for two hot summer months? The surface water is supplied by groundwater issuing as springs and oozing into streams through their beds and banks. In other words, the surface water is in hydraulic continuity with the groundwater. When a stream is in flood, part of the discharge percolates through the channel and floodplain sediments into the groundwater; this transfer not only reduces the magnitude of the flood but also recharges the shallow aquifer. The City of Walla Walla gets its water primarily from Mill Creek but also from seven wells drilled into the deep basalt aquifer. The city owns the oldest water right on Mill Creek, which has minimum instream flow requirements for fish. When Mill Creek is low (or sediment laden), the city pumps water from one or more wells. Because the water table in the deep aquifer was declining, Walla Walla instituted a very successful Aquifer Storage and Recovery program. Excess winter water in Mill Creek is treated and flows (by gravity) down two of the city wells, raising the water table in the deep aquifer. Our Blues are bordered by three major rivers. At the extreme northeast end is the Snake; if Lower Granite Dam, downstream of Clarkston, were ever breached, this reach of the Snake would be excellent for canoeing. Huge amounts of sediment have accumulated in the Snake and Clearwater rivers in the vicinity of Clarkston and Lewiston. This sediment reduces the water depth so much that floods could inundate the two cities. Potential solutions include breaching Upper Granite Dam, raising the Army Corps of Engineers levees along the two rivers, and dredging. Where would dredged material be placed?


Kayaking through the lock of Lower Granite Dam. (Sam Norgaard-Stroich)



Rafting the Grande Ronde River near Troy. The ridge at the far end of the beach is a Columbia River basalt dike. (Bob Carson)

The southern edge of the Blues is blessed with two of the longest undammed rivers in the United States: the Grande Ronde and the John Day. We are fortunate that both are part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, an honor bestowed on less than one quarter of one percent of our nation’s rivers. Despite their lack of big rapids, both these rivers are popular for rafting, especially in the spring. Fishing is also popular on the John Day and the Grande Ronde: steelhead in fall and winter, Chinook salmon in spring, trout and bass in summer. The periphery of our Blues is characterized by innumerable creeks and small rivers and their tributaries flowing radially from the top of these mountains. On the northwest flank of the Blue Mountains from near Condon, Oregon, to Dayton, Washington, are Rhea Creek, Willow Creek, Butter



Fishing in the North Fork of the John Day River. (Duane Scroggins)

Creek, Birch Creek, McKay Creek, Meacham Creek, the Umatilla River, the Walla Walla River, Mill Creek, Coppei Creek, and the Touchet River which all flow into the Columbia River. At the northeast end of the Blues, the Tucannon River, Pataha Creek, Alpowa Creek, Asotin Creek, and George Creek drain to the Snake River. The Grande Ronde River, at the southern base of the northeastern Blues, captures the Wenaha River, Lookingglass Creek, Gordon Creek, Phillips Creek, Dry Creek (reflecting low discharges in late summer, multiple streams in this area have this name), Five Points Creek, McCoy Creek, and Waucup Creek. The southern edge of our Blues is the John Day River, whose tributaries include Camas Creek, Potomas Creek, Ditch Creek, Skookum Creek, Big Wall Creek, Alder Creek, and, at the west end of the Blues, Service Creek, Lake Creek, Butte Creek, Thirtymile Creek, and Rock Creek.

Waterfalls Considering the resistant nature of the Columbia River basalts it is surprising that the Blues have so few waterfalls. The most impressive, North and South Coppei Falls, lay upstream Waitsburg.


Height (ft)


Tributary of



Sheep Creek Falls


Sheep Creek

Tucannon River



Hompegg Falls


North Fork

Touchet River



North Coppei Falls


North Fork

Coppei Creek

Walla Walla


South Coppei Falls


South Fork

Coppei Creek

Walla Walla


Lookingglass Falls


Lookingglass Creek

Grande Ronde River



Camp Creek Falls


Camp Creek

Meacham Creek



West Birch Creek Falls


West Birch Creek

Birch Creek




Thompson Creek

Stony Creek



Thompson Falls

A microecosystem including maidenhair ferns surrounds Sheep Creek Falls and nearby springs. (Bob Carson)



Top left: North Coppei Falls in summer. (Greg Brown) Bottom left: North Coppei Falls. (Mike Denny) Above: Winter ice climbing on South Coppei Falls. (Kevin Pogue)



Coppei Falls, believed to be South, in summer, long ago. (Joe Drazan’s Bygone Walla Walla Project)

Coppei Falls, believed to be South, winter 1909. (Joe Drazan’s Bygone Walla Walla Project)



Lake Penland sits near the crest of the Blues about halfway between Heppner and Dale. (Duane Scroggins)

Rainbow Lake, one of nine small reservoirs along the upper Tucannon River. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife acquired the 60,481 acres of the W. T. Wooten Wildlife Area between 1941 and 1994. (Bill Rodgers)

Reservoirs Because the Blues were not glaciated, these mountains have few if any natural lakes. However, some small reservoirs provide habitat diversification and recreational opportunities. Half of the reservoirs are adjacent to the upper Tucannon River, known for mammals, birds, and three endangered fish species – bull trout, chinook salmon, and steelhead.

South end of McKay Reservoir, located in McKay National Wildlife Refuge just south of Pendleton. The 165-foot-high dam was built by the Bureau of Reclamation from 1923 to 1927. Because an earth-rock dam must never be overtopped during a flood, the spillway was enlarged in 1978-1979. (Bill Rodgers)




Area (acres)

Elevation (feet)

Year Dammed


Tributary of



Spring Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Blue Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Rainbow Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Deer Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Watson Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Beaver Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Big Four Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Curl Lake




Tucannon River

Snake River



Donnie Lake



after 1983

Tucannon River

Snake River



Jubilee Lake




Mottet Creek

Lookingglass Creek



Langdon Lake




Morning Creek

Lookingglass Creek



Bennington Lake

52 (summer)



off Mill Creek

Russell Creek

Walla Walla


Indian Lake


after 1967

Jennings Creek

Ensign Creek



McKay Reservoir




McKay Creek

Umatilla River



Lake Penland




Mallory Creek

North Fork John Day



Willow Creek Reservoir




Willow Creek

Columbia River



Bull Prairie Lake



Bull Creek

Wilson Creek






Wineland Lake


Cattails along the shore of Bull Prairie Lake northeast of Spray. (Bill Rodgers)



Mazama ash (primary accumulation) on weathered basalt occurs on flat uplands of the Blues, such as here at Andies Prairie. (Duane Scroggins)

Soils The Earth’s lithosphere or crust is tens of miles thick, with soils being only the uppermost few feet. Because of generally steep slopes, mass wasting (such as slumps and debris flows), dynamic streams, and recent ash fall, the soils of the Blue Mountains are thin and young. Thick, mature soils require stability, minimal erosion by streams or mass movement, and not too much deposition by wind or water. The steep, rocky slopes of canyons have little soil development. Due to the dry climate of eastern Oregon and Washington, much of the soil, particularly at lower elevations, contains caliche (calcium carbonate). According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture), the dominant soil orders of the Blue Mountains are mollisols and andisols. In the central United States, mollisols are prairie soils characterized by thick, fertile, organic-rich horizons suitable for growing wheat and corn. The dry climate east of the Cascades limits the amount of organic material that can accumulate in the soils. For the past two million years limited loess (windblown silt) has been deposited on The Blues; this loess is considerably thicker in the



Palouse Hills to the north. At middle elevations in the Blues, especially where slopes are steep, most of the fine-grained material, such as loess and volcanic ash originally deposited there, has washed downhill. The loess commonly mixes with basalt fragments to make a soil of silt and rock. The ash may accumulate in gullies, alluvial fans, and floodplains; such secondary accumulations of ash are common in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Higher elevations of the Blues, particularly where slopes are gentle, are characterized by andisols, soils developed on volcanic ash. Farren (1996) noted that the forest soils of the northeastern Blues are derived from four components: the basalt bedrock, loess, ash, and forest litter. In places, the lowest part of the soil contains clay and iron oxides/hydroxides due to chemical weathering of the basalt, much of which is about 15 million years old.

Light-colored Mazama ash in a road cut along East Birch Creek south of Pilot Rock. This ash fell on the Blues during the eruption which formed Crater Lake 7,630 years ago. Within decades most of the ash washed off the steep slopes of the Blues and accumulated in nearby valleys. (Bill Rodgers)

Immature, rocky soils are common in the Blues. These steep slopes are at the northeastern end of the mountains, between Pomeroy and Anatone. (Duane Scroggins)



Throughout the late Cenozoic, eruptions of Cascade volcanoes showered pyroclastics across the Pacific Northwest. Pumice and cinders fell near the volcanoes with ash (particles smaller than 2 mm in diameter) blown downwind hundreds of miles. In the southern Oregon Cascades, the volcano Mount Mazama erupted, exploded, and collapsed to form Crater Lake 7,630 years ago. This date has been determined by radiocarbon dating of Mazama ash in lakes in British Columbia (Hallett et al., 1997) and in the Greenland Ice Sheet (Zdanowicz et al., 1999). While doing fieldwork with Ed Farren, I was surprised that we found apparent primary accumulations of Mazama ash as much as 3 feet thick on the flat uplands of the Blues (Farren, 1996). My surprise was because Howel Williams’ (1942) map of the distribution of Crater Lake pumice shows the thickness decreasing to 6 inches at a distance of 46 miles east-southeast of the volcano, and 2 feet at a distance of 63 miles to the east-northeast. How could the Mazama ash be as much as 3 feet thick at a distance of 280 miles to the northeast of Crater Lake? First, if the ground is close to horizontal, the ash will not wash away. One suggestion is that wind locally concentrated the ash on the top of the Blues, like wind concentrates sand into dunes. However, the ash deposits up there are widespread as well as being relatively uniform in thickness. Also, the Blues were probably forested at the time of the eruption as they are today; this reduces the effectiveness of wind at ground level. In addition the ash is so fine-grained that it is relatively cohesive; wind strong enough to erode it would put the ash in suspension so that it would fall as a blanket rather than moving along the ground to potentially form dunes. Pollen analysis of Mazama ash in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana indicates that the ash “first fell in the autumn and 4.6 centimeters of ash was deposited before the following spring” (Mehringer et al., 1977). I suggest that weather conditions over the Blues at the time of the huge eruption may have caused primary ash fall to be thicker there than at lower elevations to the west. Perhaps precipitation over the Blues, or a weather front caused an abnormal thickness. How long might these weather conditions have lasted?



Soil near Table Rock in the Umatilla National Forest. The light-colored material filling the oval animal burrow is Mazama ash from Crater Lake. (Bob Carson)

Whatever the reason, primary ash is thick and widespread on level places atop the Blues. Little ash was detected on slopes. Secondary ash is locally prominent as gully fills and in talus slopes, alluvial fans, and floodplains. Particularly interesting are two thick layers of ash along the Grande Ronde River between Perry and Hilgard. What is the explanation for this unique occurrence? The outcrop records two explosive volcanic eruptions, with the lower ash from Glacier Peak about 13,000 years ago and the upper ash from Mount Mazama 7,630 years ago. Volcanologists from the University of Bristol in England are studying ash that fell far from Cascade volcanoes (Buckland et al., 2018; Carson and Buckland, 2018). The earth is not static. Although it missed the Blues, the ash from another Cascade volcano, Mount Saint Helens, fell on eastern Washington in 1980. Although this area is unlikely to experience a destructive earthquake, small earthquakes are occasionally felt. The Blues are relatively immune from tornadoes, but winds of more than 100 mph have uprooted

trees. Especially with changing climate, this region will be subject to more floods, landslides, and forest fires.

Isopach map showing the thickness of the pumice erupted from Mount Mazama in 5677 B.C. (Williams, 1942)

Two layers of ash are exposed in floodplain deposits on the south bank of the Grande Ronde River between Hilgard and Perry. (Bob Carson)



Camas Prairie. (Bill Rodgers)



GHOST TOWN RONDEAU The serviceberry blooms for no one’s eyes near Camas Creek. Thornless, its limbs spread wide, arrayed with snags of snow (no, cloud, soft tufts) meaning to some the ground is thawed enough to take a body in. Others decide a steep trail’s serviceable. Clarifies Stegner, “We have become too [tears aside] efficient at destruction.” But our love for vistas of blue sugarplums blooms on. No one lives close; whom or what might one find nestled near headwaters? Mountains abide

Serviceberry along Camas Creek. (Bill Rodgers)

longer than saskatoon-full pails, or stuff of human hands, or hands themselves, rough from labors served for no one but the sun. -- Katrina Roberts





“… in its general aspect the region consists of closely folded Paleozoic and early Mesozoic strata, shattered by large masses of intrusive rocks, partly covered by Neocene lavas.” -W. Lindgren, 1901, The Gold Belt of the Blue Mountains of Oregon (This Lindgren quote refers to the Blue Mountains physiographic section as a whole. In our Blues, exposures of Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks are not common; most of this area is covered by Cenozoic volcanics. With respect to the quote from Lindgren, faulting is not prominent, but the anticlinal fold has a structural relief of greater than one mile.)


xcellent summaries of the geology of northeastern Oregon may be found in books by Baldwin (1981), Bishop (2003), Orr and Orr (2012), and Miller 2014. Thirty-seven articles in U.S. Geological Survey Profes-

sional Papers 1435, 1437, 1438, and 1439 present details of geology in the Blue Mountains region (Vallier & Brooks, 1986, 1994, 1995; Walker, 1990).

Facing Page: Lava flows of Columbia River basalt overlie ash layers of John Day tuff. This exposure is along the John Day River between Kimberly and Spray. (Bill Rodgers)



streams and waves produces sediments of all sizes, from boulders to mud; sand accumulates in beaches. Calcium carbonate in solution in the ocean becomes the homes of reef-dwellers and microscopic single-celled organisms. Volcanic eruptions produce silica particles which dissolve and are then precipitated by microscopic siliceous organisms. These finest-grained particles accumulate on the seafloor as calcareous or siliceous ooze.

Permian-Triassic metavolcanic rock on the summit of Black Mountain, at 5,932 feet, the highest peak in the southwestern Blues. (Bob Carson)

Pre-Cenozoic geology At the very beginning of their volume on the Paleozoic and Mesozoic paleontology of the Blue Mountains region, Vallier and Brooks (1986) state that the pre-Cenozoic rocks “were formed in a complex island arc within a low-latitude faunal realm and subsequently moved northward and accreted to the North American continent.” Imagine the island chains of the western Pacific Ocean. The volcanoes begin with submarine eruptions until they build above sea level, and then continue to grow with pyroclastics (bombs, blocks, cinders, pumice, and lots of ash) and both fluid and viscous lava flows. The islands are surrounded by reefs of coral and other marine organisms. When eruptions stop, an island’s elevation decreases due to wave erosion and/or subsidence; if the old volcano’s top drops below sea level, it is covered by reefs. The erosion of the volcano by



Accreted terranes of northeastern Oregon and adjacent Washington and Idaho. In the Blues, these rocks are exposed in Washington’s Tucannon drainage, and from upper Birch Creek to Battle and Black mountains in Oregon. (Orr and Orr, 2012)

The lava flows were already solid rock. Eventually, most of the pyroclastics and sediments were buried deeply enough to become rocks: sand to sandstone, mud to shale, reefs and calcareous ooze to limestone, siliceous ooze to chert, and ash to tuff. Meanwhile, the island arcs were

continent in the general vicinity of today’s northeastern Oregon. The fossils in some of these terrane rocks are more like those of southeastern Asia than those of North America. The terrane rocks have different lithologies than the Precambrian rocks to the northeast in Montana, the Paleozoic

being transported across the ancient Pacific for an appointment with North America. Paleozoic and early Mesozoic rocks crashed against what is now the western border of Idaho in the late Mesozoic, roughly 100 million years ago. The convergence and collision happened at a speed of about an inch a year, or as slow as our fingernails grow. All sorts of geologic phenomena occurred. Strata were tilted and folded, broken by joints and faults; some rocks were subducted, others were uplifted into mountains. The heat and pressure caused metamorphism of some of the rocks: shale to schist, limestone to marble, iron-rich volcanic rocks to greenstone. Parts of the earth’s crust got so hot that melting led to intrusions, now exposures of granitic rocks particularly common in central Idaho. A fundamental knowledge of plate tectonics is helpful to understand the assembly of the Blue Mountains region. A terrane is a “faultbounded body of rock of regional extent, characterized by a geologic history different from that of contiguous terranes or bounding continents (Jackson, 1997).” Collisions sutured four terranes to the North American

sedimentary rocks to the southeast in Idaho, and the Cenozoic volcanics which were erupted in Oregon. Paleomagnetic research indicates that the terrain rocks formed at approximately 15° latitude, quite different from the present 45° latitude of northern Oregon. The combination of paleontology and paleomagnetism indicates that the Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks of northeastern Oregon came from far away. In addition, the terrane lithologies are partly volcanics and partly deep-water sediments, not sediments deposited in shallow water at the western edge of North America. Each of the four terranes has faults separating it from adjacent terranes and/or the North American continent. The first terrane to be named in northeastern Oregon was called Wrangellia, of mostly volcanic and sedimentary rocks. Fragments of this island arc from the western Pacific stretch from Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains to Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains. These Permian through Jurassic rocks are now called the Wallowa terrane, which underlies the northeastern Blues.

Wallowa Terrane Jurassic Coon Hollow Formation Non-marine mudstone, sandstone, and conglomerate Triassic-Jurassic Hurwal Formation Deep-water marine turbidites (mudstones) with channel fillings of conglomerate Triassic Martin Bridge Limestone Shallow-water carbonates including reefs Permian and Triassic Clover Creek Greenstone (and Seven Devils volcanics and sedimentary rocks)

Stratigraphy of the Wallowa Terrane

The Permian/Triassic Clover Creek greenstone (left) is the oldest rock underlying the Blue Mountains region. Greenstones are metamorphosed basalts and related igneous rocks that contain green minerals. The original basalt was erupted from volcanoes in an island arc like the Aleutians, but at a latitude closer to the equator. This greenstone has the local name “flower stone” because of the clumps of radiating plagioclase crystals. Triassic Martin Bridge Limestone (center). Triassic-Jurassic Hurwal Formation (right). (Bob Carson)



The southwestern Blues may be underlain by the Baker terrane, a subduction complex of Devonian to Jurassic rocks which have been partly metamorphosed; the metamorphism occurred as sedimentary and volcanic rocks dove beneath North America at a convergent plate boundary. Part of the Baker terrane is subdivided into a northern Bourne subterrane and a southern Greenhorn subterrane based on differences in lithology and degree of metamorphism (Ferns and Brooks, 1995). Once called the Grindstone terrane, Devonian through Permian sedimentary rocks are now considered part of the Baker rock assemblage (Orr and Orr, 2012). The Baker terrane also includes the serpentinite-bearing Canyon Mountain complex, a Permian ophiolite, or slice of oceanic crust with spreadingcenter igneous rocks and seafloor sediments.

The relatively dense Farallon plate of oceanic crust or lithosphere was being subducted northeasterly beneath the more buoyant North American plate of continental lithosphere. This map represents the plate configuration 80 to 100 million years ago, when the collision caused mountain building in western North America. (Digital Atlas of Idaho, after Orr and Orr, 2002)

Metamorphic rocks of the Baker(?) terrane exposed at an elevation of about 4,000 feet along Yellow Jacket Road south of Pilot Rock. (Bill Rodgers)

Two terranes farther south also stretch from northeastern Oregon across Hells Canyon into westernmost Idaho; each consists of Triassic and Jurassic rocks. The Olds Ferry terrane is an island arc assemblage of volcanic and sedimentary rocks. The Izee terrane consists of mostly marine sedimentary rocks; because some of its sediments are eroded from and deposited on the Baker terrane, the Izee rocks may not represent a separate terrane (Miller, 2014).



This granite near Lookout Mountain in the Wallowas is fresh because it was overridden by ice during Pleistocene glaciations. (Bob Carson)

The accretion of these terranes to North America in the Mesozoic caused mountain building, certainly in eastern Oregon and Idaho, and likely much farther east. The Cordillera are the mountains of the western Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. The Andes, the volcanoes of

eroded down to more or less sea level before burial by Cenozoic volcanism. The terrane rocks are the first record of mountain building in eastern Oregon, but mountains in the Cordillera formed both before and after the Mesozoic. Associated with mountain building were deformation, meta-

Central America, the Coast Ranges and Rockies of the United States and Canada, and the other mountains are due to subduction. Today, for the most part, only oceanic crust or lithosphere is being subducted beneath the western edge of the North America and South America plates. Imagine subducting island arcs, bigger battering rams. The mountains of eastern Oregon that don’t quite reach an elevation of 10,000 feet must have been much higher in late Mesozoic time. These high mountains were

morphism, and intrusion. Large bodies of granitic magma intruded the Earth’s crust, stitching together the four terranes and the North American continent. These stitching plutons varied in size from the gigantic Idaho batholith to the relatively small Bald Mountain batholith of the Elkhorn Mountains. The rock compositions include tonalite, granodiorite, and true granite. The Wallowa batholith was intruded between 160 and 120 million years ago.

Sheared Metamorphic Rocks of the Wallowa Terrane

U.S. Forest Service Road 4713 near the confluence of Panjab Creek with the Tucannon River Only five small areas of the Wallowa accreted terrane crop out in Washington. Surrounded by exposures of Miocene Grande Ronde Basalt, the terrane lithologies are argillite, greenstone, quartzite, metasedimentary rocks, and amphibolitic schist, phyllite, metagabbro, and plagiogranite (Schuster et al., 1997). Four of these areas of sheared terrane rocks are in the upper Tucannon River drainage southeast of Dayton. The forest here is composed of Engelmann spruce, ponderosa pine, western larch, Douglas-fir, large grand fir, alders along the river, and much Pacific yew. Reference: Babcock and Carson, 2000 Mesozoic metamorphic rocks from the quarry near the Tucannon River. (Bob Carson)

Rocks of the Wallowa terrane in an old quarry near the Tucannon River. (Bob Carson)



An angular unconformity where Eocene Clarno volcanics overlie tilted Cretaceous marine sandstones and shales, eastern Ochoco Mountains. (Bob Carson)

Early Cenozoic volcanism and sedimentation Exposed southeast of Pilot Rock, the oldest Cenozoic rocks in our Blues are fossil-bearing sandstone, siltstone, and shale with Paleocene plant fossils (Walker and Robinson, 1990). The Denning Spring flora, located along Pearson Creek, includes hazelnut, water elm, and species in the citrus, birch, and laurel families. The paleoecology is interpreted as near a lake in climate cooler than later in the Eocene. These earliest Cenozoic sedimentary rocks are not extensively exposed in the Blues. In contrast, volcanic rocks associated with a variety of eruptions from explosive rhyolite and quiet basalt dominate these mountains. At least in part, the rocks of the earlier Clarno and John Day Formations originated in three gigantic “craters:” the Crooked River Caldera (including Smith Rock State Park) and the Wildcat Mountain Caldera in eastern Oregon, along with the Tower Mountain Caldera in northeastern Oregon (Orr and Orr, 2012). The rocks of the later Columbia River Basalt Group and Powder River Volcanic Field are part of a large igneous province with eruptions between 17 and 2 million years ago.



The granite at Battle Mountain is deeply weathered because the Blues were not glaciated. (Bill Rodgers)

Granite at the Crest of the Blues

Battle Mountain Forest State Park U.S. Highway 395 between Pilot Rock and Ukiah This state park (elevation 4,270 feet) is interesting in terms of geology, botany, and history. Road cuts just to the north expose granitic rock surrounded by a sea of Columbia River basalt. The granite probably experienced physical and chemical weathering both before and after the lava flows erupted. Intruded deep in the Earth’s crust, uplift and erosion brought the granite to the Earth’s surface for exposure to the elements. Later buried by the dark basalt, the light-colored rock was exposed again as the Blue Mountains were uplifted and eroded. The decayed granite is grus, loose angular fragments of mostly feldspar and quartz. The forest includes ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, grand fir, Engelmann spruce, and western larch. The Bannock War was the last major uprising of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. The decisive engagement of this war was fought in the foothills of Battle Mountain in 1878 (Battle Mountain Historical Marker).

Paleocene sandstone and shale crop out along East Birch Creek southeast of Pilot Rock. (Bill Rodgers)

The Paleocene Denning Spring flora includes Planera (water elm), Onoclea (fern), Equisetum (horsetails), Evodia (citrus), Glyptostrobus (water pine), Corylus (hazelnut), and Dryopterus (sword fern). (Orr and Orr 2009, after Gordon, 1985)

Geologists can imagine what the Oregon-Washington Cascade Range will look like in about 50 million years by studying rocks at the southwestern end of our Blue Mountains. The model is the Eocene Clarno Formation of volcanic rocks between 55 and 40 million years old (Walker and Robinson, 1990). Oceanic crust or lithosphere being subducted beneath the Pacific Northwest resulted in volcanism similar to but east of that in today’s Cascades. The landscape was dotted with at least two dozen volcanoes with central vent rocks surrounded by lava flows and pyroclastics. Descending from the volcanoes were andesite and basalt flows, lahars (volcanic debris flows), and streams, as is the case with modern Cascade volcanoes. Mass-wasting events and streams deposited coarse colluvium and alluvium, respectively. The lahar deposits are considered poorly sorted because boulders are mixed with mud. The alluvium is relatively well sorted; beds vary in grain size as stream discharge and velocity changed.

Andesite of the Eocene Clarno Formation along Pine Creek east of Clarno. (Bill Rodgers)



The Clarno Formation contains both lahars and lava flows. A lahar, here on top, is a volcanic debris flow like those which occurred at Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.

The Palisades of the Clarno Formation. (Duane Scroggins)

A Look at the Cascades 50 Million Years in the Future Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Oregon State Highway 218 between Fossil and Antelope

A fascinating exposure of the Eocene Clarno Formation is The Palisades, a cliff along Oregon 218. The rocks here are mostly lahar deposits, boulders and cobbles mixed with sand and mud. Nearby are the famous Clarno Nut Beds. The plant fossils indicate a semi-tropical rainforest environment, quite different from today’s climate in which junipers, sagebrush, grasses, and wildflowers grow.



Hoodoos of the Clarno Formation at Clarno. In places the lahars were reworked by streams. (Bob Carson)

Black Butte, elevation 5,027 feet (not the much younger and higher Cascade volcano) is west of Mitchell. This Clarno volcano was buried by John Day ash, and then later exhumed by erosion. (Bob Carson)

Outcrops of early Tertiary rocks (Paleocene?, Eocene, and lowermost Oligocene?) in the Blue Mountains region. More than two dozen volcanoes erupted in the southwestern Blues. (Walker and Robinson, 1990)

In the warm, moist climate of Clarno time grew many angiosperms like walnuts, chestnuts, oaks, bananas, magnolias, and palms. Vertebrates living there included horses, turtles, catfish, ancestors of tapirs and rhinoceroses, and carnivorous crocodiles and creodonts. Clarno fossils also include birds and insects. The most famous of these Eocene fossils are the Clarno Nut Beds, forest vegetation preserved when buried by lahars (about 44 million years ago). The petrified wood, nuts, seeds, and leaves are a record of more than 175 plant species, one of the most diverse ecosystems anywhere at any time. Visit the Clarno unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to learn about Eocene volcanoes, plants, and



animals. One of the few collections from the Clarno Nut Beds is on display in the Hall of Science at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. The resistant rocks in the conical Clarno volcanoes were later buried in thick volcanic ash. Much later, as the area was uplifted and eroded, much of the young, relatively unconsolidated ash was removed by stream erosion and related geomorphic processes. The resistant volcanoes were exhumed, resulting in prominent peaks where the western Blues meet the eastern Ochocos.

be quickly erupted, rolling across the terrain as a fiery cloud. If the ash flow material is thick enough and hot enough, the particles weld together, forming a solid rock called an ash flow tuff or ignimbrite. During the 1980 eruptions of Mount St. Helens, ash flows swept down the sides of the volcano, whereas ash falls drifted hundreds of miles downwind. The John Day Formation is rich in Oligocene fossils: leaves, insects, snails and clams, fish, salamanders, turtles, and birds; the preservation and variety of mammals is perhaps the best in North America (Orr and Orr, 2009). The paleosols (buried fossil soils) in the Clarno and John Day Formations show a gradual cooling and drying during the Eocene and Oligocene. The lowest soil in the Clarno Formation formed in a wet subtropical climate whereas soil development in John Day time developed in a dry temperate setting (Retallack et al., 2000).

Mount St. Helens from the west on April 13, 1980. In this eruption some ash is drifting north away from the volcano, but most is in a dense cloud flowing down toward Spirit Lake. (Bob Carson)

Stratigraphically just above the Clarno Formation (Eocene) is the John Day Formation; at 37 to 20 million years old this tuff is Oligocene and partly Miocene (Walker, 1990). Tuff, consolidated volcanic ash, is erupted in two main ways. For the most part the John Day Formation consists of air fall tuff, ash blown high into the sky, cooling as it drifted downwind, and falling across the landscape, perhaps into water. However, in large violent eruptions, ash flows may occur; huge amounts of ash may



In the foreground is tuff of the Miocene Mascall Formation, through which the John Day River has cut a wide floodplain. The Mascall Tuff, about 15 million years old, lies on top of the Picture Gorge Basalt. Downvalley the river has knifed through the resistant lava flows to make Picture Gorge. (Bob Carson)

years ago) occurred at the time of the Siberian Traps (basalt flows), and the end Mesozoic mass extinction (goodbye, dinosaurs) coincided with the Deccan Traps of India (as well as the meteor impact on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, 66 million years ago). No mass extinction is known to have taken place when most of the volume of the Columbia River basalts was erupted about 16 million years ago. Seventeen million years ago the hotspot eruptions began at McDermott Caldera in north-central Nevada. The volcanism moved quickly north across eastern Oregon and into southeastern Washington, as well as slowly northeast along Idaho’s Snake River Plain to northwestern Wyoming, and northwest to Newberry Volcano in central Oregon (Jordan et al., 2004). The earliest (17 million years ago) lava flows of the Columbia River basalts are at Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon. The other formations of the Columbia River Basalt Group, erupted from 17 to 6 million years ago, are the Imnaha Basalt (exposed in the vicinity of Hells Canyon), Lava flows of the Columbia River basalts along the Grande Ronde River between Lookingglass and Troy. (Duane Scroggins)

Columbia River basalts A large igneous province is a huge accumulation of igneous rocks, particularly basalt. The youngest of the dozen or so large igneous provinces on Earth is the Columbia River basalt of Washington, Oregon, and eastern Idaho. Large igneous provinces are associated with hotspots or mantle plumes, places where magma rises from the base of Earth’s mantle through the lithosphere to the surface. This results in mostly basaltic lava flows and rhyolitic ash. Young volcanics associated with the Northwest’s large igneous province include basalt at Craters of the Moon National Monument and rhyolite at Yellowstone National Park. The bulk of the volcanics of a large igneous province is erupted within a relatively short geologic time of a million years or so, and may be a cause of mass extinctions (very short timespans when at least 50 percent of life on Earth becomes extinct). The end Paleozoic mass extinction (95 percent of species disappeared 250 million

Shaded relief map of the Pacific Northwest showing the extent of the Columbia River basalts in yellow, and the dikes that fed these flows in dark blue lines. The light blue dashed line indicates the western margin of ancestral North America. (Victor Camp and Martin Ross)



John Day Fossil Beds Alders grow above fossils of themselves A tap cleaves rock to reveal a flurry of leaves forever falling

--Janice King



the Picture Gorge Basalt (fed by the Monument dike swarm), and the Grande Ronde, Wanapum, and Saddle Mountains Basalts.

The Chief Joseph dike swarm includes all the routes that magma took through Earth’s crust to become the flows of the Grande Ronde, Wanapum, and Saddle Mountains basalts. The law of crosscutting relationships dictates that a dike is younger than the rock it intrudes. The Miocene basaltic dikes cut through the Mesozoic granitic rocks of the Wallowa Mountains. In many places in the Blues and elsewhere younger Miocene dikes intrude older Miocene lava flows. Usually the dikes are more resistant than the surrounding rocks and therefore can be quite prominent landforms. Like others, this large magmatic province is characterized by hundreds or even thousands of lava flows. Most flows have a base of large regular columns called the colonnade, and an upper portion of smaller, less regular columns called the entablature. Formed by contraction during cooling, the columns have four, five, six, or seven sides. The top of a basalt flow may be oxidized to a reddish color; also, the chilled crust may be brecciated, broken by movement of molten lava beneath. Many flows formed lava lakes in the Columbia Basin; some were lava rivers extending through ancestral Columbia River gorges all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Some of the lava flowed into water to make pillow basalts. Basalt, composed mostly of the minerals pyroxene and calcium-rich plagioclase, is dark and fine-grained. A very strong rock, it is quarried for large blocks to slow landslides and erosion by rivers and waves, and crushed to make gravel for roads and concrete.

Stratigraphy of the Columbia River basalts. Magnetic polarity refers to the orientation of Earth’s magnetic field when individual basalt flows were erupted. For the last 780,000 years our magnetic field has been normal, that is with compass needles pointing toward the north magnetic pole. Iron-bearing minerals, especially magnetite, orient themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field as a lava flow cools. The most recent reversed magnetic epoch lasted from 2.5 billion to 780,000 years ago. If you took the time to watch a compass while Earth’s magnetic field reverses, you would see the needle rotate 180 degrees.



A river of basalt is draining a lava lake in Halemaumau Crater, Kilauea volcano, Hawaii, December 1967. (Bob Carson)

Over time the volume and frequency of the eruptions decreased. Greater time between eruptions allowed rivers to cut canyons into the lava flows. The next lava flow may have been so small that it could fill only a canyon; it did not have the volume to spread over the floor of the Columbia Basin. These long, narrow, thick bodies of basalt are called intracanyon lava flows. Almost all of the Columbia River basalt was erupted as quiet lava flows, but occasionally the magma had enough gas or the lava encountered water so that explosions occurred, making pyroclastics like ash and cinders. In the far corner of southeastern Washington these pyroclastics formed cones that survived more than 10 million years of erosion: Puffer Butte (in Fields Spring State Park), Big Butte, and Little Butte. (Schuster et al., 1997; Babcock and Carson, 2000, p. 226-230).



Siliceous cobbles in the Grande Ronde basalt flow atop Oregon Butte. (Bob Carson)

A most unusual basalt flow crowns Oregon Butte, at 6,387 feet, the highest point in the Blues. Near the top of the colonnade of this lava flow are rounded cobbles of chert, sandstone, and quartzite (Heimgartner et al., 2004). How old are these siliceous cobbles, and how did they get incorporated into this 16-million-year-old basalt? These lithologies are not common in the Mesozoic exotic terrain rocks or granitic intrusions beneath the basalts of the Blues. Most likely, more than 16 million years ago a river crossed Idaho to bring the cobbles to this vicinity. Among the possibilities for the source of the sedimentary rocks, two are: Paleozoic rocks in mountains in southeastern Idaho; Precambrian rocks in northern Idaho and western Montana. The rising magma came through cobble-bearing sediments beneath or within older basalt flows, or this particular lava flow burrowed into these siliceous cobbles.

Columbia River basalt dike northeast of Tollgate. In general, dikes form walls because they are more resistant to erosion than are lava flows. (Duane Scroggins)



Above: Chimney Lake in the Wallowa Mountains gets its name from this resistant Miocene Columbia River basalt dike that intruded Mesozoic granitic rock. (Bob Carson) Top right: Basalt flow in quarry near Mission. These are not multiple lava flows, but rather a single flow with color bands of unknown origin. McDuffie (1987) determined that the ratio of crystals to glassy groundmass varies within each band, suggesting changes in the rate of solidification of the magma. Such changes are likely due to variation in the cooling rate. The Miocene lava flows were erupted in a subtropical moist climate. If this area had alternating wet and dry seasons, the thermal gradient between the ground surface and the still-liquid magma would vary in an annual cycle. Solidification might occur more quickly during the wet season, resulting in more glassy groundmass; during the dry season a lower temperature gradient might result in more crystallization. The prominence of the bands may be due to differences in weathering based on the ratio of crystals to groundmass. (Duane Scroggins) Right: Vesicular basalt on Diamond Peak. Vesicles, here a few millimeters in diameter, are gas bubble cavities. (Bob Carson)



Above: Miocene basalt flows and dike along Washington State Highway 129 at Oasis. This Columbia River basalt dike cuts through older lava flows; it fed younger lava flows no longer present because the Grande Ronde River eroded its valley here. Contrast the horizontal polygonal columns of the dike with the vertical columns of the basalt flows. (Duane Scroggins) Right: Climbing up and rappelling from a basalt dike next to Burnt Cabin Creek. Note that the polygonal columns are horizontal, parallel to the direction of heat flow from the magma in the fracture to the walls of the host rock. (Kevin Pogue)



The north slope of the Blues is parallel to the underlying lava flows that were tilted as the anticline grew. (Kevin Pogue)

During and after the emplacement of the Columbia River basalts, deformation occurred. The crust of the Pacific Northwest was compressed, faulted, folded, and tilted. The most impressive example of faulting is along the Olympic-Wallowa lineament on the northeast side of the Wallowa Mountains; a mile or more of vertical offset placed the same lava flows that are beneath Joseph on top of nearby Chief Joseph Mountain.



Anticlines are prominent as ridges and valleys in the vicinity of Yakima and Ellensburg, and are exposed in cross-section in the Columbia River Gorge. The Blues are a giant anticline, a broad upwarp of Columbia River basalts, with basalt flows not only beneath Walla Walla and La Grande but also at 6,387 feet on top of Oregon Butte. Facing Page: Incised meanders of the Grande Ronde River at the east end of the Blues. The circular valley in the foreground is the former route of the Grande Ronde River, abandoned when a cutoff occurred. In the center, at the top of the canyon, is Fields Spring State Park. Ancient Columbia River basalt pyroclastic cones are present there (Puffer Butte) and on the left horizon (Big Butte). (Duane Scroggins)



Powder River volcanics at Cricket Flat east of Elgin. The reddish lower pyroclastics were baked by the overlying basalt flow. (Bob Carson)

Powder River volcanics and later Overlapping in time with and continuing after the Columbia River basalts are the Powder River volcanics, prominent between Baker City and La Grande. Whereas the Columbia River basalts are found almost everywhere in the Blues, only the northernmost Powder River volcanics are



Rock climbing on andesite of the Powder River volcanics at Spring Mountain. The polygonal columns are vertical, parallel to the heat rising from the lava flow to the atmosphere above. (Kevin Pogue)

The Rockwall north of Elgin is an andesite flow with enormous columns. The ridge in the foreground has slumped away from the main cliff. (Duane Scroggins)



present here, specifically just north of La Grande. The volcanics include flows, tuff breccias, tuffs, and pumicites of basaltic, andesitic, and dacitic composition (Carson et al., 1989). Of particular interest are two features just north of Elgin. Large-scale slumping has exposed the giant columns

of the andesite flow at The Rockwall, a challenging cliff for rock climbers. Nearby Jones Butte, a 2-million-year-old pyroclastic cone, is the site of the youngest volcanism east of the Cascades, north of Newberry Volcano, and west of Yellowstone.

Jones Butte, a pyroclastic cone northwest of Elgin, is only 2 million years old. (Bill Rodgers)



Near Pendleton is the late Miocene McKay Formation, 9 to 5 million years old. The basaltic gravels, shed during the uplift of the Blues, and finer-grained sediments have abundant vertebrate fossils, such as frogs, birds, squirrels, rabbits, carnivores and other mammals (Orr and Orr, 2009).

On top of far-traveled Paleozoic (?) and Mesozoic rocks of great variety are widespread Cenozoic strata born in North America. These younger strata include resistant lava flows, erodible tuffs, and sediments lithified to varying degrees. This foundation of the Blues ranges from more than 250 million years ago to about 2 million years ago. The stage is set for climate change and shaping of the present landscape.

Sandy gravel of the Miocene McKay Formation south of Pendleton. More than 99 percent of the cobbles are basalt shed northward during uplift of the Blues. (Bill Rodgers)



During the Quaternary, streams cut ever-deeper canyons into the original flat top of the crest of the Blues. (Bill Rodgers)




“Daily it is forced home on the mind of the geologist that nothing, not even the wind that blows, is so unstable as the level of the crust of this Earth.” Charles Darwin, 1839, The Voyage of the Beagle


he ages of rocks range from about 4 billion years old to the lava erupting in Hawaii today. In contrast, landscapes on Earth are young – mostly younger than 20,000 years. One of the oldest landforms is the Great Escarpment of southern Africa, which probably began as sea cliffs along faults; uplift and erosion in the past 20 million years has resulted in retreat inland of the marine escarpment by about 93 miles (Norman and Whitfield, 2006). Some volcanic cones, river valleys, and other landforms are millions of years old, but most landscapes are much younger. Consider the condition of the Earth only 20,000 years ago.

One third of the land area was covered by glaciers; perhaps another 10 percent of the continents were undergoing intense freezing and thawing; the oceans were 400 feet lower. Since then ice, except in Antarctica and Greenland, has mostly disappeared, leaving a surface of erosional depositional glacial landforms. Climate has warmed, dunes have formed, and eruptions have made new lava flows and volcanoes. As glaciers melted, sea level rose quickly until about 6,000 years ago, inundating the continents. Waves are now making new sea cliffs, beaches, and other erosional and depositional landscapes.



Vertical fault along Camas Creek between Ukiah and Dale. From right to left are columnar-jointed Columbia River basalt, resistant course fault breccia, slickenlines, and fault gouge. The subhorizontal slickenlines indicate strike-slip (sideways) movement along this fault. (Bill Rodgers)

Earthquakes, faults, and folds For hundreds of millions of years plate tectonics has been causing “drifting” (relatively horizontal motion), uplift, subsidence, and rotation of portions of Earth, including the Pacific Northwest. The deformation includes tilting, folding, and various types of fractures. Tectonic fractures include joints, cracks with little movement, and faults, which exhibit significant vertical, oblique, or horizontal displacement. Inclusion of this subject in the second chapter on geology is because this deformation continues today. A local example related to faulting within the Earth’s crust is the magnitude 6 Stateline earthquake that occurred in the vicinity of Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater on July 15, 1936 (Brown, 1937). This earthquake occurred along the Olympic-Wallowa lineament (OWL), discovered by Erwin Raisz (1945). The lineament extends west-



northwest from the northeast flank of the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon to the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Elements of the OWL may also lie southwest of the Wallowa Mountains, represented by the faults down dropping the La Grande graben and causing uplift along the northeast flank of the Elkhorn Mountains (Bishop, 2003). Portions of the OWL have experienced late Cenozoic faulting. Columbia River basalts in the Wallowa Valley are lower than those in the Joseph Upland to the northeast, and a mile below those atop the Wallowa Mountains to the southwest (Spencer and Carson, 1995). The OWL does not have prominent geomorphic expression across the Blues. Farther northwest, one segment of the OWL is the Cle Elum-Wallula deformed zone, which stretches from the Blues to the Cascades (Reidel et al., 1989). In the Cascades and Puget lowland, the OWL may be related to the Straight Creek fault and/or the Seattle fault zone. The Dabob Bay and Bon Jon Pass fault zones, which lie along the Olympic-Wallowa lineament on the northeastern Olympic Peninsula and northern Kitsap Peninsula, cut Pleistocene sediments (Polenz et al., 2013; Contreras et al., 2014). The Blues, a long northeast-trending ridge rising almost a mile above the surrounding lowlands and valleys, are the result of uplift of the Blue Mountains anticline over millions of years. The limbs of this anticlinal fold, composed almost entirely of Miocene Columbia River basalt flows, dip away from the central axis. The core of the anticline holds the oldest rocks, like the Mesozoic granite at Battle Mountain Summit.

Tilted basalt flows on the north limb of the Blue Mountains anticline (south of Pilot Rock). (Bill Rodgers)

The faults along the Olympic-Wallowa lineament and the Blue Mountains anticline are the dominant structures in the vicinity of the Blues, but there are many smaller folds and faults. Examples are the Walla Walla syncline (a downwarp) and the Hite fault, which extends north to Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. As soon as the Blue Mountains anticline began rising, this big topographic ridge started to be eroded. Streams descended from the uplands, cutting narrow canyons into the Blues and transporting sediments toward the Columbia and Snake rivers to the north and the Grande Ronde and John Day rivers to the south. Mass wasting, including everything from soil creep to large landslides, and small tributary creeks attacked the steep

canyon sides, making V-shaped valleys. The high-gradient streams eroded not only down but also laterally, forming narrow floodplains. Relief of nearly half a mile between valley floors and nearby uplands is relatively common in the Blues. Compared with most mountain ranges, the Blues have had relatively little dissection; large, relatively flat areas have survived between the canyons, both along the crest and the flanks. Much of the rain and snowmelt on these nearly level upland areas percolates into the ground rather than running off and eroding. The water reaches the aquifer, which supports an abundance of cold springs in the Blues. Repeated movement of the Hite Fault shattered Miocene basalt flows to make a fault breccia exposed on Broken Grade Road near the Tucannon River. The fault extends northeast from near MiltonFreewater to Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. (Bill Rodgers)



Middle Sister, Oregon Cascades, August 2016. Although mountains less than 100 miles west still have glaciers and permanent snowfields, the Blues are not high enough to have ever been glaciated. (Bob Carson)

Glaciation The Cordilleran Mountain Ice Sheet, centered in British Columbia, and the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which covered most of the rest of Canada, did not extend far enough south to reach the Blues. Higher mountain ranges in the Blue Mountains physiographic section, such as the Wallowa (Allen, 1975) and Elkhorn mountains, experienced multiple intense alpine glaciations during the most recent ice age. The lowest cirque floor elevations indicate that snow line was at approximately 7,200 feet; during the last glaciation cirque glaciers fed valley glaciers that reached as low as 3,400 feet. With a maximum elevation of 6,387 feet at Oregon Butte, the Blues are too low to have supported glaciers. The terms “Pleistocene” and “Quaternary” are associated with



the “Ice Age.” This means the last ice age, because Earth has had five ice ages: two in the Precambrian, two in the Paleozoic, and another in the last 2 million years. For the earth to be cool enough to experience an ice age, a large enough continent must be close enough to a pole to accumulate enough ice to reflect a lot of solar energy. In the late Paleozoic, a supercontinent called Gondwana was at the South Pole. Today, northern North America, Greenland, and northern Eurasia are close to the North Pole. Unfortunately, many use the terms ice age and glaciation as synonyms. They are not! An ice age lasts millions of years. Within each ice age are alternating glaciations, with one third of Earth’s land covered by ice, and interglaciations, when climate is like today’s. Because the ultimate source of Earth’s glaciers is the ocean, sea level drops 400 feet during glacial maxima, the last of which occurred 20,000 years ago. Alternating glaciations and interglaciations are believed to be controlled by Milankovitch cycles, three changes in Earth-Sun geometry with periods of tens of thousands of years. These changes result in different amounts of solar energy at different latitudes in different seasons. Slackwater sediments deposited by the Missoula floods are called the Touchet beds. These rhythmically bedded sands and silts are exposed in Smith Hollow, a tributary to the Tucannon River. From east of where the Palouse River enters the Snake River (elevation 541 feet), the Missoula floods rushed up the valley of the Tucannon River to an elevation of more than 950 feet. (Bill Rodgers)

Missoula floods in the Pacific Northwest. The Blues lie between Pendleton and La Grande. The Cordilleran mountain ice sheet advanced south from British Columbia, crossing the international border from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Glacier National Park. In the northeast corner of this map is the southwestern edge of the Laurentide continental ice sheet, which stretched from Greenland to Alberta and Montana. Note that inundation by the Missoula floods extended far up the Snake River, and that the coast is farther west because sea level was lower. (USDA, Forest Service)

The Missoula floods The most dramatic and widespread geomorphic effects of glaciation in the Pacific Northwest are not only the spectacular effects of erosion and deposition by mountain glaciers in the Olympics and North Cascades, at Wallowa Lake, and elsewhere, but also the landforms created by erosion and deposition by the Missoula floods. These world-class floods were the result of repeated failures of the ice damming the Clark Fork River at Cabinet Gorge on the Idaho-Montana border to create glacial Lake Missoula, the size of a Great Lake. At intervals of decades, the immense floods inundated eastern Washington and northernmost Oregon for thousands of years. The torrents eroded the Channeled Scabland and deposited

both giant gravel bars with huge ripple marks as well as rhythmic slackwater sands and silts called the Touchet beds. The floods roared along the Palouse, Columbia, and lower Snake rivers at depths as much as 900 feet and velocities as much as 60 miles per hour. Touchet beds deposited by floodwaters rushing upstream along the lower Grande Ronde River. Each bed represents a separate flood from distant glacial Lake Missoula. (Bob Carson)



Ice-rafted erratic boulder at an elevation of approximately 1,050 feet. This granitic boulder rode in an iceberg from where the Missoula floods originated on the IdahoMontana border to Smith Hollow, a tributary to the Tucannon River. (Bill Rodgers)

In part because of constrictions along the Columbia River, most notably at Wallula Gap, the floods also rushed up tributary valleys like the Walla Walla, Yakima, and Willamette. From the mouth of the Palouse River (pre-dam elevation 480 feet), the floods rushed up Tucannon River to U.S. Highway 12 (elevation 918 feet), up the Grande Ronde River to above the



mouth of Chief Joseph Creek (elevation 880 feet), and up Hells Canyon of the Snake River to the mouth of the Salmon River (elevation about 910 feet). Farther west, the Missoula floods deposited Touchet beds and/or ice-rafted erratics 60 miles up the John Day River (Carson, 1990). Radiometric and other absolute dating of features at high latitudes and high elevations demonstrates that the last glacial maximum occurred about 20,000 years ago, with the penultimate glaciation about 140,000 years ago. The last series of perhaps 90 Missoula floods occurred between about 19,000 and 15,000 years ago. However, some flood sediments have reversed magnetism; details indicate that catastrophic floods have crossed eastern Washington for at least 1.1 million years (Pluhar et al., 2006). Although the floods reached the northwestern edge of the Blues, they did not affect the mountains, nor were the Blues glaciated. Nevertheless, changes in temperature and precipitation occurred in the Blues with the coming and going of each glaciation and interglaciation.

During the flood of February 1996, Mill Creek, the largest tributary to the Walla Walla River, undermined and partially inundated this new cedar home. (Bob Carson)

Historic floods

Muddy Mill Creek in eastern Walla Walla, February 9, 1996. The sediment is from two main sources: runoff from fields without plant cover, and small mudflows which reached creeks in the foothills of the Blues. (Bob Carson)

Floods of the 20th century were the result of steady rains for days or weeks, or cloudbursts with intense downpours for minutes or hours. The long-duration events usually occur in winter and may melt a lot of snow, greatly increasing stream discharge. One such event occurred in early February 1996, when warm moist air dumped rain from the Oregon coast to Montana’s mountains, creating floods across much of the Pacific Northwest. Floods on streams radiating from the Blues inundated much land and many buildings and damaged many roads and bridges. One particularly hard-hit area at the foot of the Blues was the drainage basin of the Walla Walla River (Carson, 2015, p. 26-27).

Clinton Street bridge in Walla Walla during the March 1931 Mill Creek flood. (Joe Drazan’s Bygone Walla Walla Project)



Bennington Lake, the off-stream reservoir designed to reduce the flooding hazard in Walla Walla. The 120-foot-high earth-rock dam was constructed after the major flood on Mill Creek in March 1931. (Duane Scroggins)



December 1964 – January 1965 flooding along the Walla Walla River near MiltonFreewater. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Joe Drazan’s Bygone Walla Walla Project)

Heppner just after the flood of June 14, 1903. (Bert Sigsbee photo, courtesy Christopher Sigsbee George)

The short sudden downpours, or cloudbursts, usually occur during the summer and may result in flash floods. Oregon suffered its worst disaster in 1903 when 238 of the 1,290 people living in Heppner died as the result of a flash flood (Byrd, 2009). There had been previous floods in 1883 and 1888. Here is the approximate precipitation data for June 14: between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., 1.5 inches of rain, accompanied by hail the size of chestnuts, fell over an area of 20 square miles in the upper drainage basin of Willow Creek. A 20- to 30-foot-high wall of water, with a discharge of 36,000 cubic feet per second, roared through Heppner. Although masonry buildings survived the onslaught, most wooden buildings were destroyed (Byrd, 2009). Willow Creek Dam was completed in 1983, eight decades after the tragedy in Heppner [Byrd, 2009). Built of roller-compacted concrete, the Army Corps of Engineers dam is intended primarily for flood control but is also used for irrigation, recreation, and wildlife. The controversial dam and reservoir have had problems: leakage, anoxic water, and the politics of a small town like Heppner being used to experiment with new construction technology (Larson, 2008).

Willow Creek Dam and reservoir are just upvalley of Heppner. (Bill Rodgers)



and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. McKay Creek has been subject to cloudbursts (Gardenhire, 2000); approximately 10 percent of the reservoir capacity is for flood control. The concrete spillway was modified in the late 1970s to allow for greater discharge during floods. (One of the most important principles of engineering geology is that an earth-rock dam must never be overtopped because the torrent would knife through the dam causing a disastrous flood.) Willow Creek Dam and reservoir provide recreation and flood protection. (Bob Carson)

Most towns at the foothills of the Blues are susceptible to winter rain-on-snow events and/or summer flash floods. Two dams have been built on the northwest edge of the Blues: one principally for irrigation, the other mainly to reduce the flood hazard. These are the only two major dams in the Blues, but small diversion dams exist on some streams, for example in the Walla Walla River drainage basin (Carson, 2015, p. 61-64). Indeed, the rivers on the southeast edge of the Blues, the John Day and the Grande Ronde, are two of the longest undammed rivers in the United States. McKay Dam is an earth-rock structure on McKay Creek south of Pendleton. The irrigation dam, built by the Bureau of Reclamation in the 1920s, is 165 feet high and 2,700 feet long. McKay Reservoir, which hosts a national wildlife refuge, is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation



Dozens of dark scars where mudflows occurred during the February 1996 rain-on-snow event. Note other, less prominent scars from decades of earlier heavy rainfalls in the foothills of the Blues. (Bob Carson)

Fill on the outside of a logging road became saturated and failed during the February 1996 flood.

Slope failures in the Blue Creek drainage near Walla Walla. During the February 1996 rain-on-snow event, small failures occurred near the top of this steep slope. A viscous mixture of rocks, mud, and water then flowed downhill.

Historic mass wasting Mass wasting may accompany heavy rainfall. For example, thousands of small mudflows occurred in the foothills of the Blues during the 1996 flood. In the first week of February the temperature was as low as -20°F, so the ground was frozen. About 3 feet of snow was present at lower elevations in the mountains, where the typical Earth surface material is a few feet of silt (loess and soil that has crept downhill). Then came the “pineapple express” from the southwest: warm (as high as 66°F), moist air off the Pacific Ocean. Warm rains melted most of the snow in the foothills. Rain and snowmelt saturated the loess, which flowed down the steep hillsides, leaving shallow scars with parallel tracks below. The mud reached streams, making them look like chocolate milkshakes.

The narrow upper part of the valley was denuded and scoured by the debris flow.



In the middle of the night the uphill side of the first floor of this A-frame house was buried by a large debris flow. Four students living there were evacuated.

Logjam just above the mud and rocks which blocked the road along Mill Creek. (All 1996 photos by Bob Carson)

At least one particularly large debris flow occurred during the mass wasting and floods of February 1996. In four places fill on the outside of a logging road failed, sending mud and rocks downslope into a narrow valley. Although this valley near Kooskooskie is usually dry, the heavy runoff, mixed with the mud, rocks, and vegetation, caused a fastmoving debris flow to half bury a house and block the only road along Mill Creek.

Prominent landslide north of the fairgrounds at La Grande. The debris flowed more than 1,100 feet down to the edge of the Grande Ronde Valley. (Duane Scroggins)



The tan hills covered with grasses and scattered juniper trees are the toe of an ancient landslide from a steep slope underlain by incompetent John Day tuff. This landslide complex covers approximately 70 square miles along the John Day River north and west of Clarno. Columbia River basalt flows cap the ridge. (Bill Rodgers)

Prehistoric mass wasting Many landslides are shown on the geologic map of eastern Oregon, scale 1:500,000 (Walker, 1977). Areas particularly susceptible to mass wasting (downslope movement of the earth materials, including everything from slow soil creep to giant rock falls) are concentrated at the western end of the Blues between Clarno and Oregon Highway 207, and in the eastern Blues north of the Grand Ronde River. When did these landslides first move, and are they still active? Did the mass wasting occur primarily during periods of more precipitation? The likelihood of landsliding is dependent on three main factors:

climate, slope, and geologic circumstances. The climate of the Blues is relatively dry, but higher elevations get more moisture, and even lower elevations may experience flash floods and rain-on-snow events. The slopes are relatively gentle for a mountain range, with prominent exceptions everywhere rivers have cut steep-sided valleys. One might suspect that landslides would not be common in an area where the bedrock is mostly strong, resistant basalt. However, between and beneath the lava flows are weaknesses such as soils and pyroclastics. In the western Blues are large areas of mass wasting where weak tuffs of the John Day Formation are present. In particular, where rivers cut into erodible tuffs at the edges of their valley floors, the resulting steeper gradients increase the likelihood of slope failure (Clausen and Carson, 2001).



1993 aerial photograph of the Big Sink. A horseshoe of cliffs is present on the west, north, and east sides of the depression. A ridge, likely a natural levee, lies along the east edge of the westernmost clear-cut. Mottet Creek is present on the west and south sides of the Big Sink. (Photo courtesy of Pendleton headquarters, Umatilla National Forest)

Slump block of columnar basalt within the Big Sink. (Bob Carson)

Two of the most prominent features in the eastern Blues are the Rockwall north of Elgin and the Big Sink east of Tollgate. Located in areas that are not particularly steep, both are a result of the stratigraphy: lava flows over pyroclastics. At the Rockwall, an andesite flow of the Powder River Volcanics is slumping toward the Grande Ronde River because of underlying tuff.



Downvalley of the Big Sink, riprap (large boulders) has been placed to combat the mass wasting that occurred where basalt overlies pyroclastics. (Bob Carson)

The Big Sink is an excellent location to practice the method of multiple working hypotheses (Chamberlin, 1890). About one square mile in area, the depression has cliffs as much as 100 feet high on three sides. No limestone or marble is present within miles, so it is not a sinkhole. The elevation is too low for the feature to be a glacial cirque. It is not a stream valley eroded by nearby Mottet Creek, nor has it been carved by wind or waves. The Big Sink is located where one or more Columbia River basalts have slid, slumped, and flowed downhill on pyroclastics (Hinderliter and Carson, 2006). It is not known when this depression originated or how long the mass wasting lasted.

Mounds near Ukiah (elevation 3,400 feet). (Bill Rodgers)

Patterned ground Much of the Earth’s surface has somewhat symmetrical linear or equidimensional patterns, often emphasized by differences in vegetation and/or sediment size. Although the Carolina Bays, meandering and braided rivers, dune fields, and other features may exhibit a pattern, the

term “patterned ground” usually refers to smaller-scale landforms, like the Mima Mounds of western Washington. On moderate slopes the features are usually straight, either steps across a slope or stripes down a slope; on level ground and gentle slopes, the pattern commonly is a network of circles or polygons (Washburn, 1973).



1. They were built by rodents, perhaps large Pleistocene gophers, for homes. 2. A blanket of silt overlying the basalt was shaken by earthquakes to make the pattern. 3. During the cold periods of the Pleistocene, ice wedges grew in a polygonal pattern in a blanket of silt; thawing of the ice wedges resulted in the inter-mound depressions. 4. Swelling while freezing and shrinking during thawing produced a polygonal pattern. The mounds are the surviving centers of the polygons. 5. Similarly, shrinking during desiccation and swelling with moisture resulted in a polygonal pattern that somehow became circular. 6. A blanket of silt was dissected, most likely with runoff from rain, snow melt, and/or thawing of frozen ground. (This mechanism works well on gentle slopes.) Stone-ringed silt mounds between Pilot Rock and Battle Mountain. (Bill Rodgers)

Mounds Circular and oval mounds are one of the two principal types of patterned ground in the Blues. Composed of silt, the mounds are typically about three feet high, usually circular on horizontal terrain and oval on gentle slopes. These mounds and others ringed by stones are common at high elevations on the plateau in north-central Oregon and atop the ridges of the Yakima Fold Belt in central Washington. Mound landscapes consist of both the mounds themselves (positive topography) and the inter-mound depressions (negative topography). Many hypotheses have been proposed for the origin of such mounds, including their being shark nests, whale wallows, or Native American burial mounds. One farmer believed that the Mima Mounds are ejecta from Mount Rainier. Here are some more reasonable proposals, none mutually exclusive of the others:



7. Sediment with scattered clumps of vegetation was dissected, leaving mounds where the ground was anchored by vegetation. “Runoff erosion combined with vegetation anchoring may best explain Mima mounds (Washburn, 1988, p.48).� 8. The underlying basalt or other bedrock had slightly irregular topography. The loess (windblown silt) that accumulated in the depressions retained enough moisture to enhance the growth of grasses and other plants. These plants trapped more loess, further raising the surface. Positive feedback leads to more moisture, more plants, and more loess. As the mounds get higher, their tops get drier, making it more difficult for plants to survive. Wind erosion and deposition are balanced, limiting the height of the mounds. This mechanism dependent on positive feedback results in topographic inversion: the original slight depressions on the bedrock are the sites of the mounds.

The Mima Mounds in Thurston County, Washington. (Bob Carson)

Much of the Earth’s patterned ground is at high latitude or high elevation subject to repeated freezing and thawing, but that is not necessarily the case in the Blues. However, the circular and oval mounds may be a relic of colder Pleistocene climate. Repeated freezing and thawing on high mountains and plateaus and in northern Eurasia and North America continues to make periglacial features, including some patterned ground.

Where there is new land, such as the Mackenzie Delta, freezing creates giant ice masses called pingos. Global warming is greatest at high latitudes; the melting of frozen ground causes differential subsidence and a topography called thermokarst.



the origin of stone stripes, consider a slope with an uneven initial distribution of stones and fines. Some areas may have more stones because they are below rockfall chutes in cliffs above. The areas with more fines retain more moisture, enhancing the growth of vegetation, which helps to hold the slope in place and trap more silt, which may bury the scattered stones. The areas with more stones are more permeable, allowing water flowing down the slope to erode some of the fines. A positive feedback occurs in which stones get concentrated where more water runs down the hill, whereas fines become more abundant between the stone stripes (like the rich getting richer).

Stone stripes near Fossil, Oregon. (Bill Rodgers)

Stone stripes Almost always found on steep slopes, stone stripes in eastern Washington and Oregon are easily recognized because of the linear pattern of dark accumulations of basalt cobbles separated by grasses and other vegetation, usually tan in color except in spring. Stone stripes, called sorted stripes by Washburn (1956), go downslope, whereas terracettes are across slope. The source of the angular cobbles is upslope, commonly but not necessarily from basalt outcrops. Washburn (1956) used the term “stone” to refer to coarse clasts in an area of patterned ground, for example, basalt cobbles; he used the term “fines” to describe sediment sand-sized and smaller; for example, silt. In the Blues, freezing and thawing of the basalt bedrock produces coarse fragments; fines are dominated by loess (windblown silt). To understand



Commonly, terracettes have the same size and spacing both across and between stone stripes, as here between Vinson and Lena. (Bill Rodgers)

Terracettes on the valley side of the Tucannon River east of Starbuck. Are the terracettes on the right side of the fence more prominent because more animals have grazed there more recently? Or are the terracettes left of the fence less prominent because they are hidden by the vegetation? Difficult to see is a trail parallel to and just right of the fence. (Bill Rodgers)


Stone stripe of basalt cobbles between Pilot Rock and Battle Mountain. (Bill Rodgers)

Another form of patterned ground are steps or small terraces. Terracettes are like a flight of stairs with alternating treads (benches) and risers. Geologists and geographers have been describing terracettes and debating their origin for more than a century. Rarely they are described as shorelines, but the usual explanation is that they are “organic” and/or “tectonic” (Sharpe, 1938, p. 73). Organic means related to animals (and possibly vegetation); tectonic refers mainly to mass wasting, such as creep, solifluction, and slumping (and possibly vegetation). Although he did not use the term “terracettes,” Darwin (1881, p. 282-283) clearly saw the features in England:



“The steep, grass-covered sides of a mountainous valley … was marked in many places with innumerable, almost horizontal, little ledges, or rather lines of miniature cliffs. … Nor … was the formation of these little cliffs at all closely connected with the trampling of cows or sheep. … It appeared as if the whole superficial, somewhat argillaceous earth … had slided a little way down the mountain sides; and in thus sliding, had yielded and cracked in horizontal lines, transversely to the slope.” The origin(s) of terracettes can be divided into four groups: (1) strictly “organic,” caused by animals alone; (2) initiated by animals, then followed by mass wasting; (3) caused by mass wasting, then accentuated by animals; and (4) strictly “tectonic,” caused by mass wasting alone. Sharpe (1938) favors numbers 2 and 4, with slumping most important.

“The most favorable topographic conditions for the development of terracettes are found on a slope of unconsolidated materials the base of which is free to flow or slide outward because of undercutting (A). The author has seen no field evidence to support the extreme rotation of individual blocks described by Ødom (B). The steps appear in some places to result from movement on a series of small block faults which may be considered as offshoots of a larger slip zone of low-angle normal fault type (C). The most common cause for the development of terracettes appears to be typical slumping (D).” (Sharpe, 1938, p.71-74)



Corrao (2016, p. 2) summarized origins and descriptions as follows (Corrao’s references are omitted): “The origin of terracettes and their respective formational processes is believed to encompass either geomorphic processes such as solifluction, slumping, soil creep, vegetation control, or biologic influences such as hoof impacts from grazing animals ... Previous terracette studies have described bench dimensions of 15 to 76 cm and riser heights of 5 to > 120 cm on slope gradients between 9 and 60° with individual feature lengths of 3 to > 300 cm, variable vegetative cover conditions, and occurrence across a wide range of soil conditions and environments.” (Solifluction is the slow flow of saturated Earth materials and is particularly prominent in areas of permafrost where water cannot seep into the underlying frozen ground.)

Terracettes in Whitman County. (Mark Corrao)

1. Consider a fence running up and down a hillside which appears to have uniform aspect (direction the slope faces), slope gradient, vegetation, and Earth materials. In places, terracettes are present on one side of a fence but not the other. A logical explanation is that the side with terracettes has been grazed. 2. One argument against an organic origin is that there are terracettes in high, rocky places that would be inaccessible to large mammals. Having seen domestic and wild sheep, goats, and other herbivores at high elevations in the Mongolian Altai, the Peruvian Alps, the Swiss Alps, Yukon’s Kluane Ranges, and Oregon’s Elkhorn and Wallowas mountains, I believe that few places with grass are inaccessible to large herbivores.

Terracettes caused by slumping on Pat O’Hara Peak, western Wyoming. These terracettes are developed on incompetent tuffaceous Eocene Absaroka volcanics. Notice that, unlike most herbivore pathways, the risers/scarps are discontinuous. (Bob Carson)

Sharpe (1938) favors “tectonic,” meaning slumping with possible animal influence. I have seen such terracettes in only two places. One is in the Darhad Depression of northern Mongolia, where river erosion is undermining lake beds in which permafrost is thawing (Carson, 2015, p. 43). The other is in the northern Absaroka Mountains of northwestern Wyoming, where slopes underlain by incompetent volcanics are failing. In both cases the risers are almost vertical and without vegetation; the grasscovered treads slope downhill. Yet most terracettes have sloping risers and treads that are more or less horizontal.

3. Where I have measured terracettes in New Zealand, Mongolia, and the Pacific Northwest, the spacing between adjacent risers is always between 3 and 6 feet. This is approximately the side-to-side span over which cattle (longer necks) and sheep (closer to the ground) graze while walking along a hillside, no matter the composition of the Earth material. Indeed, individual terracettes cross stone stripes of coarse angular cobbles with the same spacing as the terracettes. 4. The dimensions and spacing of slumps (and many mass wasting features) are dependent on a number of factors, including stratigraphy (layering) and competence (strength) of the underlying earth materials, slope gradient, vegetation, and moisture content. As these factors vary, one would expect the size and spacing of slumps to vary, as they do. Slumps have dimensions from less than a foot to hundreds of feet. Yet the size and spacing of terracettes is quite uniform.

When I ask ranchers and farmers about the origin of the terracettes on their sloping fields, a common reply is, “You mean those cattle tracks?” I agree on an “organic” origin for most terracettes: animals, mostly mammals, mostly herbivores, both domestic and wild.




Sheep and cattle on terracettes near Skogar, southern Iceland. Note the small slump in the lower center, and the large complex slumping in the upper right. The size and scale of the slump features differ greatly from the geometry of the terracettes.

5. Note that the four diagrams in Sharpe’s (1938) classic text on mass wasting all show sloping treads; they are not horizontal. Yet the treads of most terracettes are nearly horizontal. Do animal hoofs change sloping treads to horizontal pathways, or do the animals determine the terracette geometry in the first place? 6. Also note that in these four diagrams the risers are very steep, which is the usual case in slumps and solifluction lobes. However, the risers of terracettes are more or less at the angle of repose (about 35°) for many earth materials.

Terracettes crossing stone stripes and the intervening grass-covered mixtures of silt and rocks. (Bob Carson)



7. The risers or scarps of slumps are generally arcuate and discontinuous, whereas the risers and treads of organic terracettes are mostly straight and continuous.

are degrading the terracettes, how could the same processes create the terracettes?

Trench across a terracette in Ninemile Canyon, Walla Walla County. The nearly barren horizontal tread extends diagonally from upper left. The adjacent uphill riser is toward the upper right from the measuring tape. The trench extends down to the lower left. No displacement is visible in the loess. (Bob Carson)

8. If terracettes are caused by slumping, a trench cut perpendicular to them should show some evidence of displacement of surficial materials. A trench on a steep slope where at least three feet of silt overlies bedrock revealed no such displacement.

In the past, the north side of the Twin Sisters had prominent terracettes. This postcard is labeled Oregon, but these buttes are in Washington. A website suggests that the photo was taken c. 1920, but the presence of McNary Reservoir indicates a date of 1954 or later. (Postcard courtesy of Lyn Topinka)

9. After portions of slopes in the Pacific Northwest were denuded by mudflows during the flood of February 1996, terracette-like features appeared on the steep bare ground within a year. These small nearly horizontal landforms are perfectly aligned with the terracettes on the immediately adjacent slopes that were not denuded. Cattle, deer, and elk found it easier to cross the mass-wasting scars than to go around them (Carson, 2015, p. 44). 10. Places in the Pacific Northwest where cattle were excluded from slopes in the 1980s have had prominent terracettes almost completely disappear in a few decades. The process degrading the terracettes is soil creep: material from the risers is slowly moving downhill to completely cover the treads. If mass wasting processes

In 2018, after cattle have been excluded from the Twin Sisters area for more than three decades, the terracettes have nearly disappeared. (Bob Carson)



Horizontal and crisscrossing diagonal patterns of terracettes at Lena between Pilot Rock and Heppner. (Bill Rodgers)

Finally, not all terracette-like features are similar to horizontal stair steps. They may be unevenly spaced, diagonal across a hillside, braided, and/or crisscrossing. In summary: “Where terracettes are caused by mini-slumps, you would expect the resulting features to be discontinuous, except by



accident, with scarps separated by variable distances depending on the geometry of the slope. If the terracettes are caused by animals, you would expect the ‘tread’ part of the features to be continuous, so that an animal could use them as paths. You would also expect the treads to be separated by a consistent vertical distance so that grazers can reach all parts of the hill in order to eat (Nick Bader, Whitman College Department of Geology, personal communication, 2018).”

Meandering Grande Ronde River downstream of La Grande. As this river follows the southeast margin of the Blues, it alternates between incised meanders in canyons and “normal� meanders on floodplains. At La Grande, the river leaves basalts and other resistant rocks of the Elkhorn Mountains to wander across the erodible floodplain sediments of the Grande Ronde Valley. This valley is a graben, a down-dropped fault block; stretching from left-center to the upper right corner, a fault scarp is emphasized by snow on triangular truncated spurs. (Duane Scroggins)



View north of cutoff ingrown meander at Perry. From south to north are interstate Highway 84, the east-flowing Grande Ronde River, the old two-lane road, and a train on the Union Pacific railway tracks. The community of Perry is to the east of the hill in the center of the photograph. In prehistoric time the Grande Ronde River flowed north, east, and then south through Perry. The river changed its course to south of the hill as it cut off and abandoned the ingrown meander. A frozen oxbow lake lies on the old floodplain west of the hill. (Duane Scroggins)

River meanders Most of us are familiar with rivers that wind across floodplains. Such meandering is evident on the small floodplain of the lower Walla Walla River and in aerial photographs of the giant floodplain of the lower Mississippi River. Meandering is a common natural phenomenon not only of rivers with low gradients and relatively erodible banks, but also of other currents, for example, the Gulf Stream. Because the meanders grow at different rates toward the outsides of their bends, occasionally two meanders intersect, resulting in a cutoff meander and an oxbow (lake); later floods gradually fill the lake to leave a meander scar. We are also familiar with deep, steep-sided valleys incised into bedrock, like the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. In most cases such deep incision is due to uplift of the land leading to downcutting by the stream, but other factors may be important: climate change, lowered sea level, and/or incision by a downvalley larger river.



More dramatic than rivers meandering on a floodplain are incised meanders, in a narrow bedrock canyon with a winding pattern. In theory these streams started meandering on erodible materials like ash or alluvium (Leopold et al., 1964); due to uplift and/or other factors, the streams cut down into the bedrock. Some geomorphologists divide incised meanders into two categories: entrenched meanders occur where the river ceases to meander, resulting in relatively symmetrical valleys; ingrown meanders form where the river continues to meander, producing asymmetric valleys. Commonly the stream is so locked into its course by the resistant rocks that meandering stops; the vertical erosion is accompanied with very little horizontal erosion, resulting in entrenched meanders. These canyons are more or less symmetrical, with slopes of equal steepness on both sides of the river. At the southern and western edges of the Blues are stretches of two rivers with ingrown meanders: the Grande Ronde and the John Day. The winding pattern was probably superimposed on the Columbia River basalts as the land in northeastern Oregon and adjacent states was uplifted, causing the rivers to downcut. The combination of vertical and horizontal erosion led to asymmetric valleys, gentler on the inside of the meander bends and steeper on the outside. These ingrown meanders are so pronounced that they may be given names, such as “Horseshoe Bend” on both rivers and “The Gooseneck” on the John Day.

Great Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah: uplift of the Colorado Plateau has led to incised meanders as the river cut down into Pennsylvanian limestone, shale, and sandstone. (Bill Rodgers)

Ingrown meanders of the Grande Ronde River at Horseshoe Bend, Grande Ronde River. Here at the Oregon-Washington border, the river is flowing eastward from right to left. (Bob Carson)

In the center foreground is a cutoff ingrown meander along the Grande Ronde River (flowing eastward from left to right) at Deer Creek. Note the hill that was the core of the ingrown meander, and the narrow ridge across which the river cut. Downstream in the right background is an older cutoff ingrown meander which has been partially filled with sediment derived from the valley sides. (Bob Carson)



With continued lateral erosion as a river downcuts, the opportunity exists for two meander loops to approach each other; their intersection will result in a cutoff ingrown meander. Then, as the nearby river continues to vertically erode, the former channel is left high and dry. The geomorphic evidence for this type of cutoff is a C-shaped valley with a hill in the center; this horseshoe-shaped valley remains between the new river course and one side of the canyon. On the Grande Ronde River at least four cutoff ingrown meanders have survived, one at Perry, the other three near Deer Creek. The elevation difference between the modern river and the abandoned meander, and other topographic measurements, allow one to determine the chronological order in which these cutoffs occurred (Gerber and Carson, 2000-2001).

The Grande Ronde River flows toward us from where the cutoff occurred through a narrow ridge. Here, near Deer Creek, is a circular valley around the core of the cutoff ingrown meander. (Bob Carson)



Terrace capped by boulders just downstream of the cutoff at Deer Creek. Almost all gravel bars along the Grande Ronde River are composed of cobbles. The boulders may have been transported here as the river broke through the ridge to form the cutoff. (Bob Carson)

Cutoff ingrown meander along the John Day River. The tan valley floor is the former course of the river as it circled around the basalt-capped hill. Here at the mouth of Thirtymile Creek, the John Day River is flowing north. (Bob Carson)

Much of the landscape of the Blues was shaped by geomorphic processes during the Pleistocene epoch of the Quaternary period. The Pleistocene, which ended 11,700 years ago, was followed by the Holocene epoch. Based on evidence at the Marmes Rockshelter near the mouth of the Palouse River, humans have occupied southeastern Washington for at least 13,000 years (Hicks, 2004). However, it was not until the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions reached the Pacific Northwest that humans had significant effects on the land. Some argue that our impact has been so great that a new epoch, the Anthropocene, has begun. Deadman Peak from a vineyard along Russell Creek. (Kevin Pogue)



GALLERY OF BLACK MOUNTAIN FLOWERS by Clare Carson At 5,932 feet, Black Mountain is the highest peak in the southwestern half of the Blues. A good trail, mostly through forest, leads north from Forest Service Road 5326 to the summit. The mountain hosts many species of flowers, shrubs, and conifers. The photographs were taken June 22, 2018.


Yellow prairie violet



Heart-leaved arnica

Death camas

False hellebore


Large-flowered collomia


Nodding onion



Indian paintbrush



Oakleaf buckwheat

Ocean spray

Red columbine

Woodland star

Spreading phlox

Sticky geranium

Sulfur buckwheat

Blue elderberry

Umbrella buckwheat

White clematis





“Disturbance is an integral process in natural ecosystems, and management of forest ecosystems must take into account the chance of natural disturbance by a variety of agents. … Today’s plant communities reflect species assemblages in transition, each reacting with different lag times to past changes in climate, and each migrating north or south, up or downslope.” James K. Agee, 1993, Fire Ecology of Pacific Northwest Forests


he Blues provide magnificent scenery in every season: snow-covered forests in winter, flower-filled meadows in spring, occasional lightning storms in summer, and golden larches in autumn. Prairies alternate with forests; uplands are gouged with canyons. The tree-covered ridges are green nearby, but shift to blue in the distance; the light blue sky at the horizon brightens to deep blue overhead. Facing page: Spruce and other conifers in the northwestern Umatilla National Forest. (David Frame)

Natural disturbance is common: lightning ignites forest fires from late spring to early fall; rain-on-snow events and summer cloudbursts initiate erosion and mass wasting; hurricane-force winds topple trees. As they traveled through the forests, Native Americans and explorers were no doubt slowed by trees downed by these disturbances. But the early written records of the Blues focus on the size of the trees and the variety of the plants.



From the journal of John Charles Fremont

Western larch and other conifers near the canyon of the Grande Ronde River. (Bill Rodgers)

Can you imagine traveling from Kansas to the Oregon Territory in 1842? Can you imagine crossing the Blues from La Grande to Walla Walla in late October 1842? Can you imagine seeing trees as much as 21 feet in diameter and almost 200 feet tall? The journal of John Charles Fremont, who commanded four expeditions in the western United States, describes his exploration of the Blues. Born in Georgia in 1813, he died in New York in 1890. Fremont was an Army major during the Mexican-American war, a U.S. senator from California (1850-1851), the Republican candidate for president in 1856, a Union general during the Civil War, and the territorial governor of Arizona (1878-1881). Known as The Pathfinder, in June-October 1842 Fremont led 25 men, including guide Kit Carson, from the Great Plains across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia Plateau. This part of his journal (Jackson and Spence, 1970, p. 547-551) emphasizes the forests of the Blues (words in brackets have been added to the original):



[October 18, 1842.] Some in­different observations placed the camp in longitude 117° 28’ 26”, latitude 45° 26’ 47”; and the elevation was 2,600 feet above the sea. October 19. – This morning the mountains were hidden by fog; there was a heavy dew during the night, in which the exposed ther­mometer at daylight stood at 32°, and at sunrise the temperature was 35°. We passed out of the Grand Rond by a fine road along the creek, which, for a short distance, runs in a kind of rocky chasm. Crossing a low point, which was a little rocky, the trail conducted into the open valley of the stream – a handsome place for farms; the soil, even of the hills, being rich and black. Passing through a point of pines, which bore evidences of being much frequented by the Indians, and in which the trees were sometimes apparently 200 feet high and 3 to 7 feet in diameter, we halted for a few minutes in the afternoon at the foot of the Blue mountains, on a branch of the Grand Rond river, at an elevation of 2,709 feet. Resuming our journey, we com­menced the ascent of the mountain through an open pine forest of large and stately trees, among which the balsam pine made its ap­pearance; the road being good, with the exception of one steep ascent, with a corresponding descent, which might both have been easily avoided by opening a way for a short distance through the timber. It would have been well had we encamped on the stream where we had halted below, as the night overtook us on the moun­tain, and we were obliged to encamp without water, and tie up the animals to the trees for the night. We had halted on a smooth open place of a narrow ridge, which descended very rapidly to a ravine or piney hollow, at a considerable distance below; and it was quite a pretty spot, had there been water near. But the fires at night look very cheerless after a day’s march, when there is no preparation for supper going on; and, after sitting some time around the blazing logs, Mr. Preuss and [Kit] Carson, with several others, volunteered to take the India rubber buckets and go down into

It appeared to have snowed yesterday on the mountains, their summits showing very white to-day. October 20. – There was a heavy white frost during the night, and at sunrise the temperature was 37°. The animals had eaten nothing during the night; and we made an early start, continuing our route among the pines, which were more dense than yesterday, and still retained their magnificent size. The larches cluster together in masses on the sides of the mountains, and their yellow foliage contrasts handsomely with the green of the balsam and other pines. After a few miles we ceased to see any pines, and the timber consisted of several varieties of spruce, larch, and balsam pine, which have a regularly conical figure. These trees ap­peared from 60 to nearly 200 feet in height; the usual circumference being 10 to 12 feet, and in the pines sometimes 21 feet. In open places near the summit, these trees became less high and more branching, the conical form having a greater base. The instrument carriage occasioned much delay, it being frequently necessary to fell trees and remove the fallen timber. The trail we were following led up a long spur, with a very gradual and gentle rise.

Oregon old-growth ponderosa pine. (Bob Carson)

the ravine in search of water. It was a very difficult way in the darkness down the slippery side of the steep mountain, and harder still to climb about half a mile up again; but they found the water, and the cup of coffee (which it enabled us to make) and bread were only enjoyed with greater pleasure. At sunset the temperature was 46°; the evening remarkably clear; and I obtained an emersion of the first satellite, which does not give a good result, although the observation was a very good one. The chronometric longitude was 117° 28’ 34”, latitude 45° 38’ 07”, and we had ascended to an elevation of 3,830 feet.

Western larch in fall color atop the Blues near Lookout Mountain. (Duane Scroggins)



At the end of three miles, we halted at an open place near the summit, from which we enjoyed a fine view over the mountainous country where we had lately travelled, to take a barometrical ob­servation at the height of 4,760 feet. After travelling occasionally through open places in the forest, we were obliged to cut a way through a dense body of timber, from which we emerged on an open mountain side, where we found a number of small springs, and encamped after a day’s journey of 10 miles. Our elevation here was 5,000 feet. October 21. – There was a very heavy white frost during the night, and the thermometer at sunrise was 30°. We continued to travel through the forest, in which the road was rendered difficult by fallen trunks, and obstructed by many small trees, which it was necessary to cut down. But these are only acci­dental difficulties, which could easily be removed, and a very excel­lent road may be had through this pass, with no other than very moderate ascents or declivities. A laborious day, which had advanced us only six miles on our road, brought us in the afternoon to an opening in the forest, in which there was a fine mountain meadow, with good grass, and a large clear-water stream – one of the head branches of the Umatilah river. During this day’s journey, the barometer was broken; and the elevations above the sea, hereafter given, depend upon the temperature of boiling water. Some of the white spruces which I measured today were twelve feet in cir­cumference, and one of the larches ten; but eight feet was the average circumference of those measured along the road. I held in my hand a tape line as I walked along, in order to form some cor­rect idea of the size of the timber. Their height appeared to be from 100 to 180, and perhaps 200 feet, and the trunks of the larches were sometimes 100 feet without a limb; but the white spruces were gen­erally covered with branches nearly to the root. All these trees have their branches, particularly the lower ones, declining.



Engelmann spruce and huckleberries in autumn. (Duane Scroggins)

October 22. – The white frost this morning was like snow on the ground; the ice was a quarter of an inch thick on the creek, and the thermometer at sunrise was at 20°. But, in a few hours, the day became warm and pleasant, and our road over the mountains was delightful and full of enjoyment. The trail passed sometimes through very thick young timber, in which there was much cutting to be done; but, after travelling a few miles, the mountains became more bald, and we reached a point from which there was a very extensive view

Pikes Peak from Russell Creek on a beautiful Christmas day. (Kevin Pogue)



BIBLIOGRAPHY Forests Agee, J.K., 1993, Fire ecology of Pacific Northwest forests: Washington, D.C., Island Press, 493 p. Arno, S.F., and R.H. Hammerly, 1977, Northwest trees: Seattle, The Mountaineers, 161 p. Bever, D.N., 1981, Northwest conifers: A photographic key: Portland, Oregon, Binford and Mort, 102 p. Bolsinger, C.L., and K.L. Waddell, 1993, Area of old-growth forests in California, Oregon, and Washington: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Resource Bulletin PNWRB-197, 27 p. Bright, G.A., 1914, An extensive reconnaissance of the Wenaha National Forest in 1913 (D.C. Powell, ed., 2008): USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Umatilla National Forest F14SO-06-08, 65 p. Clifford, James, 2015, In the ecotone – The UC Santa Cruz campus: Santa Cruz, California, Bay Tree Bookstore, 57 p. Egan, Timothy, 2009, The big burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the fire that saved America: Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 324 p. Franklin, J.F., and C.T. Dyrness, 1973, Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington: USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-8, 417 p. Gast, W.R., D.W. Scott, Craig Schmitt, David Clemens, Steven Howes, C.G. Johnson, Robert Mason, Francis Mohr, and R.A. Clapp, 1991, Blue Mountains forest health report: New perspectives in forest health: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, 387 p.

Heimgartner, M.N., J.D. Winter, and R.J. Carson, 2004, Siliceous cobbles in a Grande Ronde Basalt flow, Oregon Butte, Blue Mountains, Washington: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 36, no. 4, p. 90. Heyerdahl, E.K., and J.K. Agee, 1996, Historical fire regimes of four sites in the Blue Mountains, Oregon and Washington: Seattle, University of Washington, College of Forest Resources, 178 p. Horner, C.E., and E.S. Booth, 1953, Spring flowers of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon: College Place, Washington, Walla Walla College Publications of the Department of Biological Sciences and the Biological Station, v.3, no.1, p. 1-172. Jensen, E.C., 2010, Trees to know in Oregon: Corvallis, Oregon State University Extension Service, 152 p. Jensen, E.C., W.R. Randall, R.F. Keniston, and D.N. Bever, 2015, Manual of Oregon trees and shrubs: Corvallis, Oregon, John Bell and Associates, 306 p. Johnson, C.G., 2004, Alpine and subalpine vegetation of the Wallowa, Seven Devils, and Blue Mountains: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, R6-NR-ECOL-TP-03-04, 611 p. Johnson, C.G., and R.R. Clausnitzer, 1992, Plant associations of the Blue and Ochoco mountains: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, R6-ERW-TP-36-92, 164 p. Kauffmann, M.E., 2013, Conifers of the Pacific slope: A field guide to the conifers of California, Oregon, and Washington: Kneeland, California, Backcountry Press, 144 p. Kent, W.H.B., 1904, The proposed Wenaha Forest Reserve, Washington and Oregon: USDA Bureau of Forestry, 13 p.



Little, E.L., 1971, Atlas of United States trees: USDA Forest Service, Miscellaneous Publication no. 1146 (v. 1, Conifers and important hardwoods). Little, E.L., 1976, Atlas of United States trees: USDA Forest Service, Miscellaneous Publication no. 1314 (v. 3, Minor western hardwoods). Lyons, C.P., 1999, Trees and shrubs of Washington: Vancouver, British Columbia, Lone Pine Publishing, 160 p. Lyons, C.P., and Bill Meriless, 1995, Trees, shrubs and flowers to know in Washington and British Columbia: Vancouver, British Columbia, Lone Pine Publishing, 375 p. Malkemus, D.A., and R.J. Carson, 2004-2006, Holocene forest fire history of the Blue Mountains, Oregon: Eastern Oregon Science Journal, v. 19, p. 43-51. Parish, Roberta, Ray Coupe, and Dennis Lloyd, 1999, Plants of southern interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest: Edmonton, Alberta, Lone Pine Publishing, 464 p. Peattie, D.C., 1950, A natural history of western trees: Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 751 p. Pojar, Jim, and Andy Mackinnon, 2013, Alpine plants of the Northwest: Wyoming to Alaska: Edmonton, Alberta, Lone Pine Publishing, 528 p. Powell, D.C., 2000, Potential vegetation, disturbance, plant succession, and other aspects of forest ecology: USDA, Umatilla National Forest, F14-so-TP-09-00, 88 p. Powell, D.C., 2008, A brief history of the Umatilla National Forest: USDA, Umatilla National Forest, 9 p. Powell, D.C., 2008, Early timber harvesting in the Blue Mountains: USDA, Umatilla National Forest, 8 p. Spellenberg, Richard, C.J. Earle, and Gil Nelson, 2014, Trees of western North America: Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 560 p.



Taylor, R.J., and G.W. Douglas, 1995, Mountain plants of the Pacific Northwest: a field guide to Washington, western British Columbia, and southeastern Alaska: Missoula, Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company, 437 p. Thomas, J.W., ed., 1979, Wildlife habitats in managed forests, the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington: USDA Forest Service Agriculture Handbook, no. 553, 512 p. Turner, Mark, and Ellen Kuhlmann, 2014, Trees and shrubs of the Northwest: Portland, Oregon, Timber Press, 448 p.

General Byrd, J.G., 2009, Calamity: The Heppner flood of 1903: Seattle, University of Washington Press, 202 p. Carson, R.J., ed., 2015, Many waters: Natural history of the Walla Walla Valley and vicinity: Sandpoint, Idaho, Keokee Books, 224 p. Evans, J.W., 1990, Powerful rockey: the Blue Mountains and the Oregon Trail, 1811-1883: La Grande, Eastern Oregon State College, 374 p. Fremont, J.C., 1845, Report of the Exploring Expedition of the Rocky Mountains in the year 1842, and to Oregon and north California in the years 1843-44: Washington, printed by order of the Senate of the United States, 696 p. Hicks, B.A., ed., 2004, Marmes Rockshelter: A final report on 11,000 years of cultural use: Pullman, Washington State University Press, 446 p. Jackson, Donald, and M.L. Spence, eds., 1970, The expeditions of John Charles FrĂŠmont (volume 1, Travels from 1838 to 1844): Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 854 p. Langston, Nancy, 1995, Forest dreams, forest nightmares: The paradox of old-growth in the Inland West: Seattle, University of Washington Press, 368 p.

Miller, D.C., 1977, Ghost towns of Washington and Oregon: Boulder, Colorado, Pruett Publishing Company, 127 p. Moulton, G.E., ed., 1991, The definitive journals of Lewis and Clark: Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, v. 7 (From the Pacific to the Rockies), 383 p. Muir, John, 1884, The mountains of California: New York, The Century Co., 381 p. Nisbet, Jack, 2009, The collector: David Douglas and the natural history of the Northwest: Seattle, Sasquatch Books, 290 p. Sullivan, W.L., 2014, Oregon’s greatest natural disasters: Eugene, Oregon, Navillus Press, 264 p. Tucker, G.J., 1940, History of the northern Blue Mountains: USDA Umatilla National Forest (unpublished), 99 p.

Geologic maps Madin, I.P., 2009, Oregon: A geologic history: Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Interpretive Map 28, scale 1:633,600. Schuster, J.E., C.W. Gulick, S.R. Reidel, K.R. Fecht, and Stephanie Zurenko, 1997, Geologic map of Washington – southeast quadrant: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources GM-45, scale 1:250,000. Swanson, D.A., and T.L. Wright, 1983, Geologic map of the WenahaTucannon Wilderness, Washington and Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Field Studies Map MF-1536, scale 1:48,000. Walker, G.W., 1973, Reconnaissance geologic map of the Pendleton quadrangle, Oregon and Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-727, scale 1:250,000. Walker, G.W., 1977, Geologic map of Oregon east of the 121st meridian: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-902, scale 1:500,000.

Walker, G.W., 1979, Reconnaissance geologic map of the Oregon part of the Grangeville quadrangle, Baker, Union, Umatilla, and Wallowa counties, Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-1116, scale 1:250,000. Walker, G.W., and N.S. MacLeod, 1991, Geologic map of Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey, scale 1:500,000.

Geology Allen, J.E., 1975, The Wallowa “Ice Cap” of northeastern Oregon: The Ore Bin, v. 37, no. 12, p. 189-202. Baldwin, E.M., 1981, Geology of Oregon: Dubuque, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 170 p. Bestland, E.A., P.E. Hammond, D.L.S. Blackwell, M.A. Kays, G.J. Retallack, and J. Stimac, 1999, Geologic framework of the Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, central Oregon: Oregon Geology, v.61, no. 1, p.3-19. Bishop, E.M., 2003, In search of ancient Oregon: A geological and natural history: Portland, Timber Press, 288 p. Brown, B.H., 1937, The State-Line earthquake at Milton and Walla Walla: Seismological Society of America Bulletin, v. 237, p. 205209. Burgess, S.D., J.D. Muirhead, and S.A. Bowring, 2017, Initial pulse of Siberian Traps sills as the trigger of the end-Permian mass extinction: Nature Communications 8, Article number: 164, doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00083-9. Carson, R.J., 1990, Iceberg deposit at Hoot Owl Rock, John Day River, Oregon: Proceedings of the Oregon Academy of Science, v. 26, p. 58-61. Carson, R.J., ed., 2015, Many waters: Natural history of the Walla Walla Valley and vicinity: Sandpoint, Idaho, Keokee Books, 196 p.



Carson, R.J., and K.R. Pogue, 1996, Flood basalts and glacier floods: Roadside geology of parts of Walla Walla, Franklin, and Columbia counties, Washington: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 90, 47 p. Carson, R.J., P.K. Spencer, S.E. Hubbard, B.W. Thurber, 1989, Late Cenozoic volcanology, sedimentology, tectonics, and geomorphology of Elgin-Enterprise area, northeastern Oregon: Washington, D.C., Abstracts, 28th International Geological Congress, v. 1, p. 247. Chamberlin, T.C., 1890, The method of multiple working hypotheses: Science, v. 15, p. 92-96. Cheney, E.S., 2016, ed., The geology of Washington and Beyond: From Laurentia to Cascadia: Seattle, University of Washington Press, 336 p. Clausen, M.P., and R.J. Carson, 2000-2001, Geomorphic evolution of the Main Fork of the John Day River, Oregon: Eastern Oregon Science Journal, v. 16, p. 41-46. Contreras, T.A., A.I. Patton, G.L. Paulin, Recep Cakir, and R.J. Carson, 2014 Geologic map of the Quilcene 7.5-minute quadrangle, Jefferson County, Washington: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Map Series 2014-03, scale 1:24,000. Corrao, Mark, Robert Heinse, Jan Eitel, Barbara Cosens, and Tim Link, 2016, Soil moisture differences between terracette benches and risers on semiarid rangeland hillslopes: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 15, no. 1, p. 1-10. Darwin, Charles, 1881, The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms, with observations on their habits: London, John Murray, 326 p. Farren, E.C., 1996, The origins of forest soils in the northern Blue Mountains, Oregon and Washington: Walla Walla, Washington, Whitman College honors thesis, 58 p. Ferns, M.L., 1985, Preliminary report on northeastern Oregon lignite and coal resources, Union, Wallowa, and Wheeler counties: Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Open-File Report



0-85-2, 19 p. Ferns, M.L., and H.C. Brooks, 1995, The Bourne and Greenhorn subterranes of the Baker terrane, northeastern Oregon: Implications for the evolution of the Blue Mountains island-arc system, in T.L. Vallier and H.C. Brooks, eds., 1995, Petrology and tectonic evolution of pre-Tertiary rocks of the Blue Mountains region: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1438, p. 331-358. Ferns, M.L., V.S. McConnell, I.P. Madin, and J.A. Johnson, 2010, Geology of the upper Grande Ronde River basin, Union County, Oregon: Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Bulletin 107, 65 p. Gerber, Molly, and R.J. Carson, 2000-2001, Geomorphic evolution of the Grande Ronde River, northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington: Eastern Oregon Science Journal, v. 16, p. 56-62. Hallet, D.J., L.V. Hills, and J.J. Clague, 1997, New accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon ages for the Mazama tephra layer from Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada: Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 34, p. 1202-1209. Hinderliter, J.M., R.J. Carson, and B.T. Jordan, 2004-2006, The Big Sink: A large landslide in Oregon’s Blue Mountains: Eastern Oregon Science Journal, v. 19, p. 52-60. Hooper, P.R., 1997, The Columbia River flood basalt province: Current status, in J.J. Mahoney and M.F. Coffin, eds., Large igneous provinces: Continental, oceanic, and planetary flood volcanism: American Geophysical Union, Geophysical Monograph 100, p. 1-27. Jackson, J.A., 1997, Glossary of geology: Alexandria, Virginia, American Geological Institute, 769 p. Jordan, B.T., A.L. Grunder, R.A. Duncan, and A.L. Deino, 2004, Geochronology of age-progressive volcanism of the Oregon High Lava Plains: Implications for the plume interpretation of Yellowstone: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 109, B10202, 19 p.

Kerr, R.A., 2013, Mega-eruptions drove the mother of mass extinctions: Science, v. 342, issue 6165, p. 1,424. Larson, D.W., 2008, “Reliably safe”: The history of one problematic dam in Oregon teaches us how not to manage risk: American Scientist, v. 96, no. 1, p. 6-8. Leopold, L.B., M.G. Wolman, and J.P. Miller, 1964, Fluvial processes and geomorphology: San Francisco, W.H. Freeman and Company, 522 p. Lund Snee, Jens-Erik, and R.J. Carson, 2009, Terracettes: Animal, vegetable, or mineral?: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, no. 5, p. 37. McDuffie, S.M., 1987, Petrographic and geochemical analysis of a banded basalt flow, Dayton, Washington: Whitman College B.A. thesis, 39 p. McKee, Bates, 1972, Cascadia: The geologic evolution of the Pacific Northwest: New York, McGraw-Hill, 394 p. Mehringer, P.J., Eric Blinman, and K.L. Petersen, 1977, Pollen influx and volcanic ash: Science, v. 198, p. 257-261. Norman, Nick, and G. Whitfield, 2006, Geological journeys: A traveller’s guide to South Africa’s rocks and landforms: Cape Town, Struik Publishers, p. 290-300. Orr, E.L., and W.N. Orr, 2012, Oregon geology: Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 304 p. Orr, W.N., and E.L. Orr, 2002, Geology of the Pacific Northwest: Long Grove, Illinois, Waveland Press, 337 p. Pluhar, C.J., B.N. Bjornstad, S.P. Reidel, R.S. Coe, and P.B. Nelson, 2006, Magnetostratigraphic evidence from the Cold Creek bar for onset of ice-age cataclysmic floods in eastern Washington during the Early Pleistocene: Quaternary Research, v. 65, p. 123-135.

Polenz, Michael, G.T. Petro, T.A. Contreras, K.A. Stone, G.L. Paulin, and Recep Cakir, 2013, Geologic map of the Seabeck and Poulsbo 7.5-minute quadrangles, Kitsap and Jefferson counties, Washington: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Map Series 2013-02, scale 1:24,000. Raisz, E.J., 1945, The Olympic Wallowa Lineament: American Journal of Science, v. 243A, p. 479-485. Reidel, S.P., V.E. Camp, M.E. Ross, J.A. Wolff, B.S. Martin, T.L. Tolan, and R.E. Wells, eds., 2013, The Columbia River flood-basalt province: Geological Society of America Special Paper 497, 440 p. Reidel, S.P., K.R. Fecht, M.C. Hagood, and T.L. Tolan, 1989, The geologic evolution of the central Columbia Plateau, in S.P. Reidel and P.R. Hooper, Volcanism and tectonism in the Columbia River floodbasalt province, Geological Society of America Special Paper 239, p. 247–264. Reidel, S.P., and P.R. Hooper, eds., 1989, Volcanism and tectonism in the Columbia River flood-basalt province: Geological Society of America Special Paper 239, 386 p. Reidel, S.P., and T.L. Tolan, 2013, The late Cenozoic evolution of the Columbia River system in the Columbia River flood basalt province, in S.P. Reidel, V.E. Camp, M.E. Ross, J.A. Wolff, B.S. Martin, T.L. Tolan, and R.E. Wells, eds., The Columbia River flood-basalt province: Geological Society of America Special Paper 497, p. 201-230. Retallack, G.J., E.A. Bestland, and T.J. Fremd, eds., 2000, Eocene and Oligocene paleosols of central Oregon: Boulder, Colorado, Geological Society of America Special Paper 344, 196 p. Sharpe, C.F.S., 1938, Landslides and related phenomena: A study of mass-movements of soil and rock: New York, Cooper Square Publishers, 137 p.



Stoffel, K.L., 1984, Geology of the Grande Ronde lignite field, Asotin County, Washington: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Report of Investigations 27, 79 p. Sullivan, W.L., 2008, Oregon’s greatest natural disasters: Oxford, Mississippi, Nautilus Press, 264 p. Vallier, Tracy, 1998, Islands and rapids: A geologic story of Hells Canyon: Lewiston, Idaho, Confluence Press, 151 p. Vallier, T.L., and H.C. Brooks, eds., 1986, Geologic implications of Paleozoic and Mesozoic paleontology and biostratigraphy, Blue Mountains province, Oregon and Idaho (part of Geology of the Blue Mountains region of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1435, 101 p. Vallier, T.L., and H.C. Brooks, eds., 1994, Stratigraphy, physiography, and mineral resources of the Blue Mountains region (part of Geology of the Blue Mountains region of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1439, 198 p. Vallier, T.L., and H.C. Brooks, eds., 1995, Petrology and tectonic evolution of pre-Tertiary rocks of the Blue Mountains region (part of Geology of the Blue Mountains region of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1438, 540 p. Walker, G.W., ed., 1990, Cenozoic geology of the Blue Mountains region (part of Geology of the Blue Mountains region of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1437, 135 p. Walker, G.W., and P.T. Robinson, 1990, Paleocene(?), Eocene, and Oligocene(?) rocks of the Blue Mountains region, in Walker, G.W., ed., 1990, Cenozoic geology of the Blue Mountains: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1437, p. 13-27. Washburn, A.L., 1956, Classification of patterned ground and review of suggested origins: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 67,



p. 823-865. Washburn, A.L., 1973, Periglacial processes and environments: New York, St. Martin’s Press, 320 p. Washburn, A.L., 1988, Mima mounds: An evaluation of proposed origins with special reference to the Puget Lowland: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Report of Investigations 29, 53 p. Williams, Howell, 1942, The geology of Crater Lake National Park Oregon, with a reconnaissance of the Cascade Range southward to Mount Shasta: Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication 540, 162 p. Zdanowicz, C.M., G.A. Zielinski and M.S. Germani, 1999, Mount Mazama eruption: Calendrical age verified and atmospheric impact assessed: Geology, v. 27, p. 621-624.

Geology road and trail guides Babcock, Scott, and Bob Carson, 2000, Hiking Washington’s Geology: Seattle, The Mountaineers, 272 p. (republished as Carson and Babcock, 2009, Hiking guide to Washington geology: Sandpoint, Idaho, Keokee Books) Bishop, E.M., 2004, Hiking Oregon’s geology: Seattle, The Mountaineers, 272 p. Miller, M.B., 2014, Roadside geology of Oregon: Missoula, Montana, Mountain Press, 380 p. Miller, M.B., 2017, Roadside geology of Washington: Missoula, Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company, 379 p.

Paleontology Gordon, Ian, 1985, The Paleocene Denning Spring flora of north-central Oregon: Oregon Geology, v. 47, no. 10, p. 115-118. Hergert, H.L., 1961, Plant fossils in the Clarno Formation, Oregon: The Ore Bin, v. 23, no. 6, p. 55-62.

Orr, E.L., and W.N. Orr, 2009, Oregon fossils: Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 300 p. Pigg, J.H., 1961, The lower Tertiary sedimentary rocks in the Pilot Rock and Heppner areas, Oregon: Eugene, University of Oregon, M.S. thesis, 67 p.

Physiography Fenneman, N.M., 1931, Physiography of western United States: New York, McGraw Hill Book Company, 534 p. Hunt, C.B., 1974, Natural regions of the United States and Canada: Severn Cisco, W.H. Freeman and Company, 713 p. Thornbury, W.D., 1965, Regional geomorphology of the United States: New York, John Wiley & Sons, 609 p.

Soils Buckland H.M., K. Cashman, A. Rust, R. Carson, and K. Nicolaysen, 2018, The deposition and remobilisation of Mazama ash (~7ka) in eastern Oregon and Washington: poster presented at Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group Meeting (Leeds, UK, January 3-5). Carson, R. J., and Hannah Buckland, 2018, Distribution of late Quaternary tephra east of the Cascade Range: Olympia, Washington, Northwest Scientific Association abstracts, p. 41. Farren, E.C., 1996, The origins of forest soils in the northern Blue Mountains, Oregon and Washington: Whitman College B.A. thesis, 58 p. Harrison, E.T., N.C. Donaldson, F.R. McCreary, and A.O. Ness, 1957, Soil survey of Walla Walla County, Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 138 p. Johnson, D.R., and A.J. Makinson, 1988, Soil survey of Umatilla County area, Oregon: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 388 p.

Weather and climate Canyan, D.R., S.A. Kammerdiener, M.D. Dettinger, J.M. Caprio, and D.H. Peterson, 2001, Changes in the onset of spring in the western United States: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 82, p. 399-415. Halofsky, J.E., and D.L. Peterson, eds., 2017, Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the Blue Mountains region: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-939, 332 p. Mass, Cliff, 2008, The weather of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle, University of Washington Press, 280 p. Morris, W.G., 1934, Lightning storms and fires of the national forests of Oregon and Washington: Monthly Weather Review, v. 62, no. 10, p. 370-375. Mote, P.W., 2003, Trends in temperature and precipitation in the Pacific Northwest during the twentieth century: Northwest Science, v. 77, no. 4, p. 271-282. Peterson, D.L., J.M. Vose, and Toral Patel-Weynand, eds., 2014, Climate change and United States forests: New York, Springer, 261 p. Phillips, E.L., 1970, Washington climate for these counties, Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Walla Walla: Pullman, Washington State University, 93 p. Retallack, G.J., D.G. Gavin, E.B. Davis, N.D. Sheldon, J.M. Erlandson, M.H. Reed, E.A. Bestland, J.J. Roering, R.J. Carson, and R.B. Mitchell, 2016, Oregon 2100: Predicted Climatic and Ecological Changes: University of Oregon, Bulletin of the Museum of Natural History Bulletin no. 26, 21 p. Taylor, G.H., and Chris Hannan, 1999, The climate of Oregon: From rainforest to desert: Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 211 p. Taylor, G.H., and R.R. Hatton, 1999, The Oregon weather book: A state of extremes: Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 242 p.



Wuebbles, Donald, D.W. Fahey, and K.A. Hibbard, 2018, How will climate change affect the United States in decades to come?: EOS (Earth & Space News), v. 99, no. 1, p. 18-23.

Wildlife Alderfer, Jonathan, 2006, Field guide to birds, Washington and Oregon: Washington, D.C., National Geographic, 272 p. Aversa, Tom, Richard Cannings, and Hal Opperman, 2016, Birds of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle, University of Washington Press, 460 p. Corkran, C.C., and Chris Thoms, 1996, Amphibians of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia: A field identification guide: Edmonton, Alberta, Lone Pine Publishing, 175 p. Dauble, D.D., 2009, Fishes of the Columbia Basin: Sandpoint, Idaho, Keokee Books, 210 p. Eder, Tamara, 2002, Mammals of Washington and Oregon: Edmonton, Alberta, Lone Pine Publishing, 351 p. Haggard, Peter, and Judy Haggard, 2006, Insects of the Pacific Northwest: Portland, Oregon, Timber Press, 296 p. Maser, Chris, 1998, Mammals of the Pacific Northwest: From the coast to the high Cascades: Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 406 p. Nehls, Harry, Mike Denny, and Dave Trochell, 2008, Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies: Olympia, Washington, R.W. Morse Company, 422 p. Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie, and R.M. Storm, 1983, Amphibians and reptiles of the Pacific Northwest: Moscow, University Press of Idaho, 332 p. Sibley, D.A., 2003, The Sibley guide to birds of western North America: New York, Alfred A. Knoph, 473 p.



St. John, A.D., 2002, Reptiles of the Northwest: California to Alaska, Rockies to the Coast: Edmonton, Alberta, Lone Pine Publishing, 272 p. Wydoski, R.S., and R.R. Whitney, 1979, Inland fishes of Washington: Seattle, University of Washington Press, 220 p.

Common whitetail dragonfly. (Larry Frank)

Sunset from Godman Spring in the Umatilla National Forest. (David Frame)



The North Fork Umatilla Wilderness in September. (Duane Scroggins)



BIOGRAPHIES Bob Carson is Phillips Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies, Emeritus at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. After he earned a Bachelor of Arts in geology from Cornell University, he worked for Texaco Inc. His other geology degrees are a Master of Science from Tulane University and a doctorate from the University of Washington. Summer employment included Washington’s Department of Ecology and Division of Geology and Earth Resources. A whitewater boater and member of the American Alpine Club, he has led field trips in Africa, Australia, Eurasia, South America, Zealandia, and throughout North America. His other books include Where the Great River Bends: A Natural and Human History of the Columbia at Wallula (2008), Hiking Guide to Washington Geology (2009), East of Yellowstone: Geology of Clarks Fork Valley and the Nearby Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains (2010), and Many Waters: Natural History of the Walla Walla Valley and Vicinity (2015).

Michael E. Denny, born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, spent most of his childhood in southeast Africa where he developed an acute appreciation for the natural world. He later attended high school in Burns, Oregon, and Caldwell, Idaho, and studied biology and art at Walla Walla University. Mike has worked as a private wildlife contractor for the U.S. Forest Service, studying birds and other small vertebrates and making vegetative surveys, and as the riparian habitat coordinator for four conservation districts in Whitman and Garfield counties. He illustrated A Birder’s Guide to Idaho (1997) and co-authored A Birders Guide to Washington (2003), Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies (2008), The Birds of Interior BC and the Rockies (2009), Where the Great River Bends: A Natural and Human History of the Columbia at Wallula (2008), and Many Waters: Natural History of the Walla Walla Valley and Vicinity. He and his wife, MerryLynn, bird and live in College Place, Washington.



Scott Elliott began his Blue Mountain adventures in 2004 when he joined the faculty at Whitman College. He is the author of the novels Coiled in the Heart (Putnam, 2004) and Temple Grove (University of Washington Press, 2013). His short fiction and articles have appeared in the Antioch Review, the Louisville Review, Juked, Mayday, the New York Times, and elsewhere. He is Professor of Creative Writing and Literature and administers the Walla Walla Whitman Imaginative Writing Partnership.



David Frame grew up in Dayton, Washington, where he worked on his grandfather’s ranch as a summer ranch hand. After high school he attended Washington State University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. David then worked for an advertising agency based in Kansas City, Kansas, as a field producer creating still images as well as motion pieces for outdoor/hunting companies. Other work has consisted of operating cameras as a drone inspector of wind turbines. He is now a freelance photographer feeding his passion for the outdoors and wildlife, spending most of his time filming and photographing wildlife and wild spaces.

Janice King was born into a family of homesteaders and ranchers in northeastern Oregon. She split her life evenly between the Hudson Valley and the Northwest. After a succession of 37 jobs she settled on bookselling when her daughter was a child. While working in bookstores, she developed a creative writing program at Woodstock Day School, worked with homeless and autistic youth, was employed in the New York Poets in the Schools Program, and volunteered in Napanoch, Danbury, and Walla Walla prisons. Over the years she has collaborated with other poets, painters, and musicians in performance. Her poems have appeared in various journals and in her book Taking Wing (a Wyatt Book for Golden Notebook Press). Living in Walla Walla, she is the book acquisition person for the Whitman College Bookstore.

Kevin Pogue is a professor in the Department of Geology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where he teaches classes on the geological history of the western United States, weather and climate, structural geology, and terroir. He also regularly contributes lectures on terroir and leads field trips for the Enology and Viticulture program at Washington State University. Kevin has conducted research and led field trips in the Pacific Northwest for over 25 years. His research is focused exclusively on terroir, concentrating on the relationship between topography and vineyard temperature variations and the influence of basalt, eastern Washington’s ubiquitous bedrock, on vineyard climate and soil chemistry. Kevin has presented papers at national and international terroir conferences and has authored a field trip guide that describes the geological influences on the terroir of the Columbia Basin. His terroir studies have been featured in the New York Times and on National Public Radio’s “Science Friday.”



Dave Powell is a silviculturist with the U.S. Forest Service in Pendleton, Oregon. He graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in forest management and earned a graduate certificate from Oregon State University in Sustainable Natural Resources. He has been a member of the Society of American Foresters for 40 years, currently serving in the Blue Mountains chapter. He worked with the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Forest Service. His 37-year Forest Service career includes service in Colorado (on the Western Slope and the southern Front Range) and Oregon (more than 25 years in the beautiful Blue Mountains, in both John Day and Pendleton with the Malheur and Umatilla national forests). After retiring from full-time work in 2015, he continued his strong interest in climate change as vice chair of a new nonprofit group called the Eastern Oregon Climate Change Coalition, and he also enjoys serving as chair of Pendleton’s Tree Commission.



Katrina Roberts has published four books of poems: Underdog, Friendly Fire, The Quick, and How Late Desire Looks, and edited the anthology: Because You Asked: A Book of Answers on the Art & Craft of the Writing Life. She teaches at Whitman College, curates the Visiting Writers Reading Series, and co-founded/operates Tytonidae Cellars and the Walla Walla Distilling Company with Jeremy Barker. Amidst the music of their three children and many animals, she writes and draws on a small farm in the foothills of the Blues.

Bill Rodgers grew up in Spokane, Washington, and graduated from Whitman College in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. After teaching high school science in Alaska and Canada for several years, Bill attended the University of Washington where he earned a degree in Geology. Bill spent the next 10 years following his passion for prospecting for base and precious metal deposits, and a subsequent 25 years in the environmental consulting industry in the U.S., Canada, and Central America. Since 1969, when he bought his first camera, Bill has been an avid photographer of the landscapes of western North America. He recently founded the Waitsburg School of Landscape Photography, located in Waitsburg, Washington, where he now lives. Bill’s photographs can viewed at

Duane Scroggins is a native of the McKenzie River area east of Springfield, Oregon. He received a BSFE from Oregon State University and a BSCE in California. He retired in 1994 from a 35-year civil engineering career to pursue a passion for outdoor photography that began in his teenage years. His foremost interest is wildlife photography, as demonstrated by his published images in Oregon Hunter, North American Hunter, Fur, Fish, and Game, Hunting the West, and other publications. However, his portfolio includes other interests including landscapes, birds, wildflowers, and historic events and structures. His images have been published in calendars, shown at local galleries, and sold as prints. The images illustrating the awesome vistas and intimate details found in East of Yellowstone are an extension of years photographing in Yellowstone National Park.



Donald Snow is a professor, editor, writer, and activist with more than 30 years’ experience in environmental issues. For 18 of those years he directed the Northern Lights Research and Education Institute in Missoula, Montana, where he founded and co-edited both Northern Lights Magazine and the Chronicle of Community. In 2001 he took up residence in Walla Walla, Washington, and began teaching at Whitman College where he is now Senior Lecturer of Environmental Humanities. His essays and stories have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Montana Magazine, High Country News and many other periodicals. His books as editor and contributor include The Book of the Tongass, The Next West, and Northern Lights: A Selection of New Writing from the American West. He is currently working on a new book titled, Sustaining Place: The Persistence of the Local in a Global World.



Ron Urban is a native of Gary, Indiana, and a 1965 graduate of Beloit College. Moving to Colorado after receiving his M.A. in sociology at Indiana University in 1968, Ron began his teaching career at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. He subsequently earned his doctorate at the University of Colorado, and then taught in Whitman’s sociology department, as well as served as registrar at the college until retirement in 2013. Ron obtained his private pilot’s license in 1969, and after a hiatus during graduate school, has been flying his 1975 Cessna 172 more or less continuously since 1989. He has authored several articles on general aviation safety and also serves as treasurer for the local Experimental Aircraft Association.

Basalt flows in the canyon of the Wenaha River. (Bill Rodgers)

INDEX An italicized page number indicates a photograph or illustration. An “m” following a page number indicates a map.


Absaroka Mountains, 103 Absaroka volcanics (Eocene), 103 acidification, 155 afforestation, 160 agriculture irrigation and, 26 no-till drill, 162 peaches, 158 water pollution and, 162, 162 wheat fields, vii, 22, 182 air pollution, 154 Aladdin (Oregon Butte fire Lookout), 11, 13, 171 Albee, 33 alder, 129, 129 Alder Creek, 46 Aldrich Mountains, 27 alluvium, 65 alpine zone, 127 Alpowa Creek, 28, 46 Alpowa Summit, 28

American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), 20, 21, 148 Anatone, 33 Andes Mountains, 63 andesite, 65, 79, 80 Andies Prairie, 52 andisols, 52 angiosperms, 67 anticlines, 10, 76, 76 aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), 159 aquifers, 44, 158–159. see also water Armillaria ostroyae, 13, 14 ash fall, 52–55, 55, 68 Asotin, 30 Asotin Creek, 46 aspect, 10, 127 aspen, 131, 133


Bald Mountain, 63 Bannock War, 35 basalt. see also Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) along the Grande Ronde River, 69 columnar-jointed, 84, 96 flows, 201

Grande Ronde Basalt, 10–11, 71, 72 in Halemaumau Crater, 72 Imnaha Basalt, 69 Miocene flows, 30, 75, 81, 85 The Nose, 122 Picture Gorge Basalt, 68, 71 Saddle Mountains Basalt, 71 vesicular, 74 Wanapum Basalt, 71 Battle Mountain, 38 Bannock War and, 35 granite at, 64 mounds near, 98 ponderosa pines at, 124 stone stripes near, 101 Battle Mountain Forest State Park, 64 bears, 123, 166 Beaver Lake, 51 beavers, 36 bedrock, 27, 60–81 Bennington Lake, 51, 90 Bennington Reservoir, 131 Big Burn (or Blowup) fire, 144 Big Four Lake, 51 The Big Sink, 95–96, 96, 125, 143 Big Wall Creek, 46

Bingham Springs, 33 Birch Creek, 46 bird mortality, 156 birds, 141, 147–150 American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), 20, 21 black-billed magpie, 39 western tanager, 134 black bear (Ursus americanus), 123, 166 Black Butte, 67 black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa), 130 Black Mountain conifers on, 136, 137, 139 elevation of, 28 metavolcanic rocks on, 60 wildflowers on, 112–115, 132 black-billed magpie, 39 Blacksnake Ridge, 182 Blue Creek, 93 Blue Creek fire, 145, 146 Blue Lake, 51 Blue Mountain Land Trust, vi–vii Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, 35 Blue Mountains, use of term, 28 Blue Ridge Mountains, 17, 19, 19



blueness of mountains, 17 Blues boundaries of, 28, 29m, 30–32 from Clarno to Clarkston, 29m, 209m use of term, 28 “The Blues” (poem by Roberts), 23 The Blues: Volume I, vi Bon Jon Pass fault zone, 84 breccia, 84, 85 Broken Grade Road, 85 buckwheat, 114–115 Bull Creek, 51 Bull moose, 163, 163 Bull Prairie Lake, 51 Burnt Cabin fire, 145, 146 Butte Creek, 46 Butte Creek Pass, 36 Butter Creek, 46 buttes, 105


Cahill Mountain, 165 Camas Creek, 18, 46, 57, 84 Camas Prairie, 56 Camp Creek Falls, 47 Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), 164–165, 164 Carolina Bays, 97 Carson, Bob, 195 Carson, Clare, 20, 112 cattails, 51 Ceanothus, 131, 132 Cenozoic geology, 64–68 charcoal horizons, 144 Chief Joseph Creek, 88 Chief Joseph dike swarm, 71 Chief Joseph Mountain, 76 Chimney Lake, 74 Chinook salmon, 173 Clarkston, City of, 30, 32 Clarno Formation (Eocene), 64, 65, 65, 66, 68 Clarno Nut Beds, 66, 68



clearcuts, 160, 160 Clearwater River, 30 clematis, 115 climate, 42–43 climate change, 12–13, 55, 99, 152–155 climax associations, 131 climbing, 48, 75, 78 cloudbursts, 92 Cloverland, 33 coal mines, 157 cobbles, 72 colluvium, 65 Colorado Plateau, 109 Columbia Complex fire, 145, 146, 153 Columbia County, 33m Columbia Plateau physiographic province, 26m Columbia River, 51 Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG), 69m columnar-jointed, 84 dikes, 73 history of, 10, 64, 69–76 incised meanders and, 10 stratigraphy of, 71 columbine, 114 columnar-jointed basalt, 84, 96 commercial exploitation, 11 communities, populations of, 33 conifers in grass-tree mosaic, 128 health of, 142 larches, 18, 118–119 old growth, 123 pines, 119, 177 spruce, 120 in the Umatilla National Forest, 116 Conifers of the Pacific Slope (Kauffmann), 142 Coon Hollow Formation (Jurassic), 61 Copeland, Tim, vi–vii Coppei Creek, 46 Cordillera mountains, 63

Cordilleran Mountain Ice Sheet, 86, 87 Corylus (hazelnut), 65 Cottonwood Creek, 127 cottonwoods, 130, 130 cougar (Puma concolor), 167 Couse Creek, 180 Crater Lake, 52, 54 Craters of the Moon National Monument, 69 Cricket Flat, 78 Crooked River Caldera, 64 Curl Lake, 51 cutoff ingrown meanders, 110 cutoff meanders, 108


Dabob Bay fault zone, 84 dams. see also reservoirs beaver, 36 Bennington Lake, 90 Lower Granite Dam, 45 McKay Dam, 92, 156 McKay Reservoir, 50 safety of, 157 Willow Creek Dam, 91, 91, 92, 156 Darhad Depression, 103 Deadman Peak, 37, 41, 111 death camas, 113 Deccan Traps, 69 deer, 32, 167 Deer Creek, 109–110 Deer Lake, 51 Denning Spring flora, 64, 65 Denny, Michael E., 163, 195 Desolation Stock Driveway, 161 Diamond Peak, iii, 74 dikes, 71, 73, 75 dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), 20, 21, 148 direct seeding, 162 Ditch Creek, 46 Donnie Lake, 51 Dorion, Pierre and Marie, 25–26 double rainbow, iv

Douglas, David, 122 Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), 131, 134–135, 134 Dry Creek, 46 Dryopterus (sword fern), 65 dusky grouse, 148


earthquakes, 84–85 East Birch Creek, 52, 65 Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, 151 eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), 138 “Eavesdropping” (poem by King), 39 ecological restoration, 160 ecotones, 127–128 elevations, 28, 32 Elgin, City of, 33m elk (Cervus canadensis), 167, 173, 173 Elkhorn Mountains, 27, 63, 84, 160 Elliott, Scott, 196 energy, 156–157 energy fuels extraction, 11 Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), 120, 124, 138, 139 description of, 139 forest associations, 131 Ensign Creek, 51 entrenched meanders, 108 Equisetum (horsetails), 65 erosion, 27, 82, 83, 85, 162 erratic boulders, 88, 88 extinction, 69, 163


false hellebore, 113 Farallon plate, 62m Farren, Ed, 54 faults, 84–85, 84, 85 Fenneman, N.M., 27 ferns, 47, 65 fire lookouts, 11, 13, 171, 178 fires. see forest fires

fireweed, 113 firs, 137 fish Chinook salmon, 173 salmon, 155, 157, 173 species of, 163 fishing, 46 Five Points Creek, 46 floods, 13, 87–92, 89, 91, 153 flora, 65 flowers. see wildflowers folds, 84–85 forest associations, 131–141 Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares (Langston), 11 forest fires Big Burn (or Blowup) fire, 144 Blue Creek fire, 145, 146 Burnt Cabin fire, 145, 146 Columbia Complex fire, 145, 146, 153 Grizzly Bear fire, 143, 145–146 history of, 143–146, 145 Hubbard fire, 145 lookouts, 11, 13, 171, 178 School fire, 145, 146 Forest Service, 13 forests forest fires and, 160 health of, 13, 142 thinning of, 160 Fossil, City of, 32 fossil fuels, 156–157 fossils, 61, 66, 67, 68, 81 Frame, David, 165, 196 Fremont, John Charles, 118–122 fungi, 13, 14, 175, 182

global warming. see climate change Glyptostrobus (water pine), 65 Godman Spring, 193 gold, 11, 36 The Gooseneck, 108 Gordon Creek, 46 Government Mountain, 182 grand fir (Abies grandis), 125, 131, 137, 137 Grande Ronde Basalt, 10–11, 71, 72 Grande Ronde River, 10, 28, 31, 33m, 44 ash along, 54, 55 canyon of, 183 Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) along, 69 conifers near, 118 meanders of, 107–110 Missoula floods and, 88 recreation and, 46 granite, 62, 64 grasslands, 36–37, 95 grass-tree mosaic, 128, 128, 177 gravel, 81, 81, 110 gray wolf (Canis lupus), 164 gray-crowned rosy finches, 147 grazing, 11, 161 Great Escarpment, 83 Great Goosenecks, 109 great gray owl, 126, 148, 149 great horned owl, 149 Greenhorn Mountains, 27 Grindstone terrane, 62 Grizzly Bear fire, 143, 145–146 groundwater, 44. see also water grouse, 148


Halemaumau Crater, 72 Hardman, 33 Harris Park, 171 hawks, 150 hazelnut (Corylus), 65 heart-leaved arnica, 112

gas bubble cavities, 74 giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), 140 glaciations, 83, 86 Glacier Peak, 25


hemlock, 140 Hentrich, Julie, 11–12, 171 highways Interstate 84, 35 maps, 29, 29m, 33, 209m State Highway 19 (Oregon), 35–36 State Highway 129 (Washington), 75 State Highway 204 (Oregon), 34, 35 State Highway 244 (Oregon), 28, 30 U.S. Highway 395, 35 history, natural, 17–19 Hite Fault, 85 Hompegg Falls, 47 honey mushroom, 14. see also Armillaria ostroyae hoodoos, 66 Hopkins Ridge wind farm, 156 Horseshoe Bend, 108, 109 Hubbard fire, 145 huckleberries, 120 human occupation, 25 Humongous Fungus, 13, 14 Hunt party, 25–26 Hurwal Formation (Triassic-Jurassic), 61 hydrology, 12–13


ice ages vs. glaciations, 86 ice climbing, 48 icicles, 181 Imnaha Basalt, 69 incised meanders, 108, 109 Indian Lake, 51 Indian paintbrush, 114 Indian pipes, 182 ingrown meanders, 108, 109–110 inland forests, 37 insects, 142 insurance industry, 152 interglaciations, 86 interstate highways. see highways irrigation, 26, 92 isopach map, 54, 55m


Jasper Mountain, 126 Jennings Creek, 51 Jenolan Caves, 17 John Day Formation, 68 John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, 32, 66, 67 “John Day Fossil Beds” (poem by King), 70 John Day River, 28, 32 meanders of, 111 Missoula floods and, 88 proximity to Spray, 24, 31 willows along, 129 Jones Butte, 80, 80 Joseph Upland, 84 Jubilee Lake, 18, 51, 125, 135, 172 juniper, 131 Juniper Dunes Wilderness, 131


kayaking, 45 Kilauea volcano, 72 King, Janice, 39, 70, 197 Kooskooskie, 33


L-4 design, 13 La Grande Valley, 33m lahars, 65, 66, 67 Lake Creek, 46 Lake Penland, 50, 51 Lake Wallula, 152 landslides, 13, 85, 93–94, 95 Langdon Lake, 51 Langston, Nancy, 11, 152 larches, 18, 118, 119, 135 large-flowered collomia, 113 larkspur, 113 Laurentide Ice Sheet, 86 lava flows, 71, 72, 74, 76 Learning on the Land series, vii



Lee, Howard, 154 Lehman Hot Springs, 30 Lewis and Clark Trail, 32 light pollution, 151 light scattering, 17 lightning storms, 43, 145 Little Lost Creek, 124 livestock, 103, 105, 161 lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), 131, 136–137, 136 loess, 52 logging, 11, 160 logjams, 94 Lonerock, (ghost town), 33, 34 Lookingglass Creek, 46, 51, 130, 179 Lookingglass Falls, 47 Lookout Mountain, 62, 119, 140 lookouts, 11, 13, 178 Lower Granite Dam, 45 Luger Springs, 124 lupine, 114, 180 lynx, 164–165, 164


Mackenzie Delta, 99 maidenhair ferns, 47 Malheur National Forest, 14 Mallory Creek, 51 mammals. see wildlife maps, 28 Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG), 69m Farallon plate, 62m isopach map, 54, 55m outcrops of early Tertiary, 67m terranes, 60m Marmes Rockshelter, 25, 111 Martin Bridge Limestone (Triassic), 61 Mascall Formation, 68 mass wasting, 65, 85, 93–96 Mazama ash, 52, 54 McCoy Creek, 46 McDermott Caldera, 69



McKay Creek, 46, 51 McKay Dam, 92, 156 McKay Formation (late Miocene), 81, 81 McKay National Wildlife Refuge, 50 McKay Reservoir, 50, 51 McNary Reservoir, 105 Meacham Creek, 36, 46 meanders, 107–108 meltwater, 26 mesic forest, 144 Mesozoic mass extinction, 69 metamorphic rocks, 62, 63 metavolcanic rocks, 60 microcosms, 13 microecosystems, 47 Middle Sister, 86 Mill Creek alder along, 129 communities near, 33, 45 floods, 89 proximity to the Blues, 46 reservoirs and, 51 runoff on, 162 Mill Creek Watershed, 158–159, 178 Mima Mounds, 99 mining, 11, 36 Missoula floods, 87–88 mollisols, 52 moose, 163, 163 morel mushrooms, 175 Morning Creek, 51 Mottet Creek, 51, 95, 96 mounds, 97–99 Mount Jefferson, 31 Mount Saint Helens, 54, 66, 68, 68 mountain alder, 129 mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), 140–141, 140 mountain lion (Puma concolor), 167 The Mountains of California (Muir), 21, 133–134, 135 Mt. Emily, 31, 33m Mt. Emily Lumber Company railroad, 30

mudflows, 93 Muir, John, 21, 133–134, 135, 141 mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), 167 mushrooms, 13, 14, 175 mycelia, 14


The Narrows, 30, 31 national forests, 34–37 Native Americans, 25, 33, 35–36, 176 natural history, 17–19 Nature Kids series, vii nest cavities, 126 New Perspectives in Forest Health (Gast et al.), 142 Newberry Volcano, 80 Ninemile Canyon, 105 nodding onion, 113 North Coppei Falls, 47, 48 North Fork John Day Wilderness, 34 North Fork of the Imnaha River, 161 North Fork of the John Day River, 32, 40, 123 agriculture along, 158 recreation and, 46 reservoirs and, 51 North Fork of the Touchet River, 166 North Fork Umatilla Wilderness, 34, 36, 194 northern saw-whet owl, 147 The Nose, 122, 122 no-till drill, 162


oakleaf buckwheat, 114 ocean acidification, 155 ocean spray, 114 Ochoco Mountains, 27, 31, 64 Olallie Butte, 31 old-growth, 123–126, 124–125, 134 Olds Ferry terrane, 62 Olympic-Wallowa lineament (OWL), 84–85

Onoclea (fern), 65 Oregon Butte, 15, 16 basalt flows on, 72, 72, 76 hiking, 11–12 Oregon Butte fire Lookout (Aladdin), 11, 13, 171 Oregon Railroad and Navigation Co, 32 Oregon Trail, 170 otter, 166 ouzel (Cinclus mexicanus), 20, 21, 148 owls great gray owl, 126, 148, 149 great horned owl, 149 northern saw-whet owl, 147 oxbow, 108


Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia), 141, 141 paleontology, 61 Palisades, 66 Palouse River, 88 Panjab Creek, 141 Pasco Basin, 152 Pat O’Hara Peak, 103 Pataha Creek, 28, 46 patterns meanders, 108–111 mounds, 97–99 stone stripes, 100 terracettes, 101–106 peaches, 158 penstemon, 12 Permian and Triassic Clover Creek Greenstone, 61 Phillips Creek, 46 photographers, 19 physiography, 26m, 27–28 Picture Gorge Basalt, 68, 71 Pikes Peak, 184 Pikes Peak Road, 174 Pileated woodpecker, 148 Pilot Rock, 64, 65, 98, 101 Pinchot, Gifford, 13

Pine Creek, 65 pineapple express, 93 pines, 138 pingos, 99 plagioclase, 71 Planera (water elm), 65 plate tectonics, 61, 84 Pogue, Kevin, 197 pollution, 151, 154, 162 ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), 132 decimation of, 11 description of, 133 forest associations, 131 grass-tree mosaic and, 177 old growth, 119, 123–124 presence of, 131 Potomas Creek, 46 Powder River volcanics, 64, 78–81, 78 Powell, Dave, 198 pre-Cenozoic geology, 60–63 precipitation, 42–45, 42, 43m prescribed burns, 160 prisons, 151 public lands, 13, 122, 161 pyroclastics, 72, 78, 80 pyroxene, 71


quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), 131, 133


rafting, 46 rain shadow, 42 rainbow, iv Rainbow Lake, 50, 51 rain-on-snow event, 92–93, 95, 117, 151, 162 Raisz, Erwin, 84 rappelling, 75 recreation camping, 42 climbing, 48, 75, 78

fishing, 46 kayaking, 45 rafting, 46 rappelling, 75 value of, 37 red alder (Alnus rubra), 129, 129 red columbine, 114 red-tailed hawk, 150 reservoirs, 50–51, 90. see also dams Rhea Creek, 46 rhizomorphs, 14 rhyolite, 69 riparian vegetation, 129–130 riprap, 96 river otter (Lontra canadensis), 166 road and trail stability, 13 Roberts, Katrina, 23, 57, 198 rock climbing, 75, 78 Rock Creek, 46 The Rockwall, 79, 80, 96 Rodgers, Bill, 19, 199 Russell Creek, 41, 51, 111, 184


Saddle Mountains Basalt, 71 sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), 131 salmon, 155, 157, 173 San Juan River, 109 Sand Spring Butte, 28 sandstone, 65 sawmills, 160 School fire, 145, 146 Scroggins, Duane, 19, 199 sea level rise, 155, 155 sedimentary rocks, 72 Service Creek, 28, 46 serviceberry, 57 Seven Devils Mountains, 27 Sheep Creek, 44, 126 Sheep Creek Falls, 20, 47, 140 Siberian Traps, 69 siliceous cobbles, 72 silt, 52

silver pine. see ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) Sitka alder (Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata), 129 Skookum Creek, 46 slickenlines, 84 slide alder (Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata), 129 slopes direction of, 10 failures, 93–94, 95 slumping, 103 Smith Hollow, 86 snags, 126 Snake River, 30, 51, 88 snow, 43, 174, 181, 208 measurements of, 42 snowpack, 13, 26 Snow, Donald, 200 snowshoe hare, 165 soils, 52–55, 85, 127 solar panels, 156 sole source aquifer, 158 solifluction, 102 sorted stripes. see stone stripes South Coppei Falls, 47, 48, 49 South Fork of the Walla Walla River, 171, 177 sponge effect, 11, 26 Spray, City of, 24, 31 spring, 154 Spring Lake, 51 Spring Mountain, 78 springs, 12 spruce, 116 Starkey, 30 state highways. see highways Stateline earthquake, 84 Steens Mountain, 27, 69 Stegner, Wallace, 151, 169, 174 sticky geranium, 115 stone stripes, 100–101, 104 Strawberry Mountains, 27

subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), 131, 139 sulfur buckwheat, 115 sulphur lupine, 180 sunset, 193 surface water, 44. see also water


Table Rock, 54 Table Rock Lookout, 178 tanager, 134 temperature, 42 Tenderfoot Basin Allotment, 161 terracettes, 100–106 terranes, 60m, 61–63, 62 Tertiary rocks, 67 thermokarst, 99 thinleaf alder (Alnus incana ssp. tenuifolia), 129, 129 Thirtymile Creek, 46 Thompson Falls, 47 Three Sisters sandstone cliffs, 17 timber, 37 timber wolf (Canis lupus), 164 Tollgate, 33 topographic maps, 28 Touchet beds, 86, 87, 88 Tower Mountain Caldera, 30, 64 trail stability, 13 Troy, City of, 31 Tucannon River, 50, 51, 88, 101 tuff, 68 Twin Sisters, 105


Ukiah, City of, 30 Umatilla Indian Reservation, 33 Umatilla National Forest, 116 Diamond Peak, iii forest fires and, 146 history of, 122 map of, 28 old-growth in, 124–125 proximity to the Blues, 34



soils, 54 sunset in, 193 Umatilla River, 34, 51 umbrella buckwheat, 115 Union Pacific railroad, 36, 36 Urban, Ron, 200 U.S. Forest Service, 13


Varied thrush, 147 vegetation zones, 127 vertebrates, 67, 81. see also fossils; wildlife vesicular basalt, 74 virgin forest, 123 volcanic ash, 52–54 volcanoes, 31, 60, 67, 68. see also Mount Saint Helens


W. T. Wooten Wildlife Area, 50 Walla Walla, City of, 45, 89, 158–159 Walla Walla River, 89, 122, 138, 153 Wallowa Mountains, 27, 74, 140 Wallowa National Forest, 161 Wallowa terrane, 61, 63 Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, 160 Wallula Gap, 88 Wanapum Basalt, 71 water, 12, 26, 44–46 water ouzel (Cinclus mexicanus), 20, 21, 148 water pollution, 162 water resources, 158–159 waterfalls, 47–49 watersheds, 158–159 Watson Lake, 51 Waucup Creek, 46 weather, 42–43 well water, 45. see also water Wenaha National Forest, 34 Wenaha River, 168, 173, 201 Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, 16, 140



creation of, 34 forest fires and, 143 hiking, 20 history of, 11 map of, 28 northwest edge of, 34 West Birch Creek Falls, 47 western juniper (Juniper occidentalis), 131, 131 western larch (Larix occidentalis), 119, 131, 135–136, 135 western mountain ash, 115 western redcedar (Thuja plicata), 140 western tanager, 134 western white pine (Pinus monticola), 131, 138, 138 western yew (Taxus brevifolia), 141 wheat fields, vii, 22, 182 Whiskey Creek Road, viii white alder (Alnus rhombifolia), 129 white clematis, 115 white fir (Abies concolor), 137 white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), 167 Whitman, Narcissa, 170, 176 Wildcat Mountain Caldera, 64 wilderness areas, 34–37 wildfires. see forest fires wildflowers, 12, 19, 112–115, 127, 180 wildlife, 163–167 American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), 20, 21 beavers, 36 black bear (Ursus americanus), 123, 166 black-billed magpie, 39 Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), 164–165, 164 cougar (Puma concolor), 167 description of, 163–165 elk (Cervus canadensis), 167, 173 gray wolf (Canis lupus), 164 habitat of, 128–129

moose, 163, 163 mountain lion (Puma concolor), 167 mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), 167 owls, 126, 147–149 river otter (Lontra canadensis), 166 salmon, 155, 157, 173 timber wolf (Canis lupus), 164 types of, 163–164 western tanager, 134 white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), 167 wolverines (Gulo gulo), 164, 165 wolves, 163, 164 woodpeckers, 148 Williams, Howel, 54 Willow Creek, 46, 51, 128 Willow Creek Dam, 91, 91, 92, 156 Willow Creek Reservoir, 51 willows (Salix), 129, 130, 130 Wilson Creek, 51 Wilson Price Hunt overland expedition, 25–26 wind farms, 156 wind power, 156 windblown silt, 52 Wineland Lake, 51 wolverines (Gulo gulo), 164, 165 wolves, 163, 164 wood products, 160 woodland star, 114 woodpeckers, 148


yarrow, 112 yellow lupine, 127 yellow pea flowers, 177 yellow pine. see ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) yellow prairie violet, 112 Yellowstone National Park, 69, 164 yews, 141

Other books by Robert Carson

east of


Geology of Clarks Fork Valley and the Nearby Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains

Robert J. Carson

Photography by Duane Scroggins Foreword by Don Snow

Blue Mountain Land Trust Photobook Collection

Other Keokee books of regional interest

405 Church Street Sandpoint, ID 83864 208 263-3573


“Time to make camp or head home.” (David Frame)



“This definitive and diverse natural history has something for everyone. Bob Carson brings landscapes of the Blue Mountains alive – with science, beautiful photos, decades of personal observations, and poetry. Whether you are new to the region or have lived there your whole life, this book is indispensable for understanding and exploring the Blues.”


es The Blu OREGON


“Robert Carson delivers yet another gift in this memorable tribute to the most beautiful corner of America. A wonderful companion to Many Waters, this is required reading for full appreciation of the Blue Mountain Region.” James N. Mattis, Retired U.S. Marine Corps general and southeastern Washington native

David L. Peterson, Professor of Forest Ecology, University of Washington, and co-editor of Climate Change and Rocky Mountain Ecosystems


“What a feast for the mind and eyes! How could such a place have survived for so long in our midst, resisting our seeming insatiable hunger for land and all its products? An intense devotion among a small number of people is the answer. I hope this book increases that number of devotees exponentially. It has put the Blues at the top of my list of natural wonders to explore.” Donald Worster, Author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir and A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell “My father hunted big game throughout the Blues and I thought I knew this region well, but Carson’s book has opened new vistas for me. Scores of splendid photographs enhance his clear and detailed prose. I predict that studying this terrific work will spur readers to plan an adventure, pack their hiking boots, and explore the terrain Carson understands so well.”

“A beautiful tribute, an elegy to a land that has so much to tell us about just how lucky we are to be stewards of the wild. With this comes a serious obligation, one clearly appreciated by the author of this marvelous book. We must understand and promote the science, appreciate yet never surrender to the politics, and retain always our fidelity to place.”


Craig Lesley, Author of Winterkill and The Sky Fisherman

Natural history of the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington

Wade Davis, British Columbia Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk, and author of Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest ISBN 9781879628540


53800 >


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.