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Portland, Oregon
Recent Activity
After months of avoiding the Bretz book, I'm back to writing. It's a wonderful feeling - I just hope I can keep it going. I owe my recovery to John McPhee, at least in part. I've alsways known the only way out of writer's block is to write, write, write. But try as I might, I wasn't able to get the first words to stick to the paper. Then I read McPhees Draft 4, which has a wonderful section containing the cure. Here's a segment from the the several pages I worked on before I was sure I could actually... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2019 at WatershedEvents
At the end of last year I decided to give up my .COM address for the UP FANNO CREEK blog I'd been more or less (usually less) maintaining since 2008. Several folks have asked how to get to the material, which may still be accessed here. Not all the links are serviceable, for reasons unknown, and I am not planning to re-activate the entire blog - what's done, is done, and my book on the creek is pretty outdated by now. My active advocacy days are behind me - unless something local to Thurston County dicatates otherwise. I'm more fully... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2019 at WatershedEvents
The chum run in Beatty Creek struggles. November’s rains came too late, and in quantities too small to provide much traction for fish intent on spawning in the mid-to-upper reaches of the creek’s three-mile channel. We are well into December now, and it's been over a week since the last meaningful rainfall. Water levels in the stream have been dropping steadily, to the point that the future of late arrivals is seriously in doubt. Here – at an elevation of 160 feet above sea level – long stretches of the stream are so shallow that the tops of the gravel... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2018 at WatershedEvents
We store our travel trailer at a local mini-storage lot. This beast sits right next to our rig. The owner and I bumped onto each other one day when we were both on the lot. "Try not to scratch the side of my police car when you're backing that trailer into your slip," he'd joked. I told him I'd do my best not to damage the fascinating patina. He laughed, then went on. "I'll bet you're wondering why anyone would bother to store a POS like this one, right?" I demurred. "I bought it for the engine," he said, "I... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2018 at WatershedEvents
Bretz, J Harlen. Papers, Box 7, Folder 3, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Segment from a 1922 field book. I’ve been reading Bretz’s handwritten materials (letters, notes, journals, lists, etc.) for almost two years, and have become fairly adept at deciphering his strong and generally “honest” handwriting. Unlike many well-educated people from that period, Bretz never mastered the calligraphic approach to his script, thank god. There is only the slightest forward slant to any of it, rarely a flourish, and most letters are well-formed, most of the time. As a result I tend to read more or less... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2018 at WatershedEvents
Thanks to a reader who caught an error of fact in this post and brought it to my attention in the kindest sort of way - The title of the paper from which I took the Bretz quote was Washington's Channeled Scabland (not "Scablands" as I wrote it.) The quote itself is correct, however - Bretz used the singular of the term in the title; but both forms appear within the text. More on this interesting little tidbit later, perhaps.
Toggle Commented Apr 5, 2018 on THE GRAND COULEE at WatershedEvents
Thanks, Avice. I'm glad you liked the post. Please keep me in your loop, and I will for sure let you know if I ever learn more about the origin.
Toggle Commented Apr 4, 2018 on Drumheller Channels at WatershedEvents
Thanks for the nice words, Rob. And thanks for coming over for a look.
Toggle Commented Apr 2, 2018 on THE GRAND COULEE at WatershedEvents
Umatilla Rock, a remnant formation in the Dry Falls Cataract formation. Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to accompany a number of "Flood Nuts" on a hike around Umatilla Rock on the floor of Dry Falls cataract. Our guide was Gene Kiver, one of the most knowledgeable Ice Age Floods experts alive. He is also co:author, with Bruce Bjornstadt, of On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods. At the north end of Umatilla Rock and entering the "floor" of Dry Falls - splash pool and main rim photo-left. It was a wonderful outing, and has helped me gain a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2018 at WatershedEvents
Symons and his exploits first came to my attention when I was studying J Harlen Bretz’s paper on the Grand Coulee. Written in about 1931, the paper provides a great example of his fully matured style. It also seems somehow more “relaxed” than many of his previous papers. By this I mean to say that the tone is so calm, and the flow of information and observations so effortlessly moved along, it leaves the impression that Bretz especially enjoyed the process of crafting this particular work. He was getting ready to set the Scablands debates aside – perhaps, in his... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2018 at WatershedEvents
The men took their places in the sleek bateau. A seventy year old Iroquois named “Old Pierre” sat in the stern at the steering oar; next came the party’s leader, 1st Lt. T. W. Symons, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers – he took his station on top of the baggage; the four oarsmen – Pen-waw, Big Pierre, Little Pierre, and Joseph – occupied the middle benches; Mr. Downing, the expedition’s topographer, and his water-proofed satchel full of log books, charts, journals and instruments occupied the bow. When all were settled in, Symons nodded at Old Pierre, who grunted something... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2018 at WatershedEvents
THE BRETZ SAGA REVISITED (WORKING TITLE) I began work on this book in April of 2016, and am not all that far from completion of a rough draft. Right now it looks as if I'll get over that major hurdle by at least the beginning of summer. That puts me about four months behind the (very) ambitious schedule I set for myself last fall. There are multiple reasons for the delay, not the least being a lack of discipline with the research. If you've ever been bitten by the research bug, you know already how much fun it can be,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2018 at WatershedEvents
"The only delta of Vashon age known in the valley of Hoods Canal is at the mouth of the Dusewallips (sic) River, on the north side of the valley. At the seaward upper margin, it is 120 feet above the Sound. Its surface is a plane, sloping towards the troughs of the Hoods Canal. Its altitude makes it obviously a feature produced subsequent to (glacial) Lake Hood, whose waters were 100 feet higher." J Harlen Bretz (1913) Deltas played a major role in Bretz's study of the Puget Sound's glaciated history, especially when it came to determining the probable boundaries... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2018 at WatershedEvents
During the four years J Harlen Bretz spent in Seattle, he managed to examine an amazing number of sites, the bluffs south of Alki Point included. He focused mostly on determining if those bluffs contained visible exposures of Admiralty till - which they apparently do not. I ventured in that direction the other day, mostly in order to reacquaint myself with the general area - it's been decades since my last visit. Traffic was hellish, especially along Beach Drive, so I bagged the idea of driving south along the shore, deciding instead to walk the beach along the north side... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at WatershedEvents
Scene from a quarry located eight miles south of Olympia and ten miles north of the terminal moraine of the Puget Lobe glaciation. This extensive deposit of gravel and sand was formed when several large glacial lakes to the north began to drain through the area. Think of it as part of the streambed of a river that was roughly 4 miles wide and 15 miles long. In his classic 1913 work (Glaciation of the Puget Sound Region), the legendary geologist, J Harlen Bretz, described it as the “Gate Pathway River.” For close to a thousand years, roughly 60% of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2018 at WatershedEvents
South end of Greenway Park, February 2011. Fanno Creek (middle stream) is completely out of its banks. A few days ago a member of the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District’s (THPRD) Greenway Advisory Committee reached out for input on the future of the park. The “open letter” that follows is my response. First, however, a little background on why I am involved at all: My wife and I lived in the West Slope neighborhood for 16 years. We had a Portland address, but technically lived in unincorporated Washington County. Accordingly, our water bill came from Clean Water Services, and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2018 at WatershedEvents
A few days ago, on a field trip to Frenchman Coulee, I was with a group of Ice Age Floods enthusiasts when we ran across a curious geological phenomenon – groups of bowl-shaped polygons, some as wide as six feet across and almost a foot deep. Here’s a little of the information I’ve been able to dig up on these formations; more to follow if/when I get a chance to return to the subject. The earliest mention of the phenomenon I’ve found so far was by R. Mallet, an Englishman, in 1874. I haven’t yet found an online copy of... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2017 at WatershedEvents
John, a "Fanno Creek Revisited" post is due, without question. When the opportunity might present itself is another question. This coming May will mark the 10th anniversary of my getting stuck on the narrow two-land bridge that used to span the creek on Scholls Ferry Road. It would be great fun to commemorate that day in some manner. I'll keep you posted.
Toggle Commented Dec 12, 2016 on Farewell Fanno Creek at Up Fanno Creek
Chum salmon contending for position over a spawning female (obscured by wave action photo left) As I've written several times previously, each November chum salmon spawn in a small ephemeral stream not more than a quarter mile from our front door. Beatty Creek it's called, and I have loved it since the first time I laid eyes on it. This creek differs in almost every respect from Fanno Creek, particularly with regard to its bottom. The waters of Beatty Creek flow over deep beds of well sorted gravel; those of Fanno Creek flow over a bottom that is almost entirely... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2016 at WatershedEvents
 The view north and east from above Lake Lenore's portion of the Sun Lakes complex. Banks Lake in the Grande Coulee is barely visible in the distance (top, left-of-center on the horizon). A few weeks ago I walked along the edge of a windy ridge that marks the northwestern limit of the larger Missoula Flood events. The elevation stands at 2310 feet, just over a thousand feet above the string of lakes below. 15-13,000 years ago the floods plowed into these headlands and created the narrow valley below. Each of the flood events thundered in from both the north... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2016 at WatershedEvents
I've made every effort to faithfully reproduce, in the photo above, the subtle but spectacular color scheme typically encountered here on overcast days. What a magical place. For years now my son, Aaron and I have been trying to get together in the John Day River Basin. We finally got it done just over a week ago. It was a relatively brief visit - only three full days of looking-in at various places - but it was a great trip nonetheless. First stop was the painted hills at Cougar Creek. I never fail to go there when I visit, and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2016 at WatershedEvents
Daughter Erica surveys the Drumheller Channels from a ledge overlooking Black Lake. The view is to the northeast; but if you did a 360 here, it would look pretty much the same in any direction. The bones of this vast plain came into being sometime between 16.5 and 13.5 million years ago, when the flood basalts of the Columbia River Basalt Province pooled here, then begin to solidify. How long it took the completely sterile surface to completely heal in this particular area is hard to say, but it may have been thousands of years. Then as now, the prevailing... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2016 at WatershedEvents
A front-loader scoops freshly crushed basalt, while a crewman (note orange safety helmet) attempts to clear a jam in the crusher (blue machine). Just a few miles from my home lies a quarry where basalt is mined and broken up for a variety of construction purposes. Shortly after I began studying J Harlen Bretz's work on the Puget Lobe Glaciation, I realized quarries must have been high on his list of places around the Sound to include in his field studies, especially in the earliest stages of his work. Given the lay of the land in 1907-1911, any place where... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2016 at WatershedEvents
In April I began to think seriously about starting work on a new book. The idea had come to me a month earlier as I was nearing the end of my first read of a 1913 scientific paper written by J Harlen Bretz (Glaciation of the Puget Sound, Bulletin #8, Washington Geological Society). I stumbled across this paper when I was looking for information about Dry Falls. I've known of Bretz and his Scablands work for many years and even wrote a segment about Glacial Lake Missoula for my book on Fanno Creek. However, until I read that article and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2016 at WatershedEvents
A view of Beatty Creek in early fall of 2015. This bent tree caught my attention when I first visited Beatty Creek in the spring of 2014. The creek was full at the time, and I was blissfully unaware of how intermittent the flow in this reach could be. I've visited this spot a dozen times since. The embankment from where I took this shot was flat and relatively free from salmon berries. I would sometimes sit or squat there for a half hour or more - just listening to the water and admiring the epiphytes and other vegetation. Taken... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2016 at WatershedEvents