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Abstract

The Channeled Scabland of east-central Washington comprises a complex of anastomosing fluvial channels that were eroded by Pleistocene megaflooding into the basalt bedrock and overlying sediments of the Columbia Plateau and Columbia Basin regions of eastern Washington State, U.S.A. The cataclysmic flooding produced huge coulees (dry river courses), cataracts, streamlined loess hills, rock basins, butte-and-basin scabland, potholes, inner channels, broad gravel deposits, and immense gravel bars. Giant current ripples (fluvial dunes) developed in the coarse gravel bedload. In the 1920s, J Harlen Bretz established the cataclysmic flooding origin for the Channeled Scabland, and Joseph Thomas Pardee subsequently demonstrated that the megaflooding derived from the margins of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, notably from ice-dammed glacial Lake Missoula, which had formed in western Montana and northern Idaho. More recent research, to be discussed on this field trip, has revealed the complexity of megaflooding and the details of its history.

To understand the scabland one has to throw away textbook treatments of river work.

—J. Hoover Mackin, as quoted in Bretz et al. (1956, p. 960)

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