Imagine a huge wall of flood water thundering toward you and your family as you camp by a peaceful stream. That’s what some unfortunate Clovis people in present-day Washington State undoubtedly saw after an ice dam broke and Lake Missoula gushed out 13,000 years ago. The wall of water was backed by a flow that was BIGGER THAN ALL THE RIVERS IN THE WORLD COMBINED…TIMES TEN. That’s what researchers have determined based on the evidence gathered from geomorphological features in the Channeled Scablands.
Ripple marks (which are typically an inch or two in height) have been found that are 50 FEET tall. J. Harlen Bretz first proposed the cataclysmic flood idea in 1923, but he was roundly and rudely criticized by most other geologists. Evidence continued to grow, however, over the next 30 years, and Bretz’s ideas were finally accepted. At the age of 96, he was awarded the prestigious Penrose Medal in 1979, whereupon he reportedly said, “All my enemies are dead, so I have no one to gloat over.”
Geologists now believe the area has experienced at least 40 separate, large floods over time, and this is probably why floods are prominent in stories from many Native American cultures.