In this fascinating episode of “Nick on the Rocks,” geology professor Nick Zentner takes us to “ground zero” where the Columbia River basalts originated.
More than volcanic 300 eruptions between 15 and 17 million years ago flooded much of the inland Pacific northwest.
These lava flows – some of the largest lava flows in the world – are known as the Columbia River basalts because the Columbia River has cut deeply enough to expose some of the flows.
In some cases these orange rivers of molten rock traveled more than 300 miles, totally burying more than a third of what is now Washington state.
The lavas erupted from giant cracks that can still be found today, and Nick takes you there.
Nick discusses the rich volcanic soil of eastern Washington – more than 100 feet deep in places – and shows us “spatter,” a kind of basalt that he describes as looking “almost like butter.” (I fail to see the likeness, but maybe I’d change my mind if I saw the “butter” in person.)
Nick Zentner is the science outreach and education coordinator for the Department of Geological Sciences at Central Washington University. He has produced more than 40 short videos about Central Washington geology.
I’ll be posting more fascinating episodes of “Nick on the Rocks” in the days to come.