channeled land

Channeled lands are those gouged and trenched by the urgent desire of glaciers to travel, to melt, and to flood. The scablands of southeastern Washington are the only extensive example in the United States of this type of formation, in this case consisting of canyons, coulees, and channels cut into the bare rock by catastrophic glacial floods. It is land not only deeply but starkly scarred. Channeled land, corrugated by the heavy push and scour of glacial ice as it moves down a valley—bedrock left furrowed by advancing ice in Washington’s Okanogan Valley is a good example—is what remained after immense stretches of ice-age meltwater drained away. Between fourteen and sixteen thousand years ago, in what’s now western Montana, an extensive and towering ice dam formed and collapsed repeatedly, creating a series of Lake Missoulas, one after another. The high, racing wall of floodwater, once loosed, overwhelmed parts of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Each time it roared unimpeded all the way to the Pacific, ripping wider the Columbia River Gorge on its way. The water crushed and scarified Earth, but also left in its wake a diversity of ecosystems, from the vast, dry scablands of Adams and Whitman Counties in eastern Washington, to small, rich pockets of life, such as the Turnbull Wetlands near Cheney, Washington.

Linda Hogan