Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Dry Waterfalls in Washington and the Northern Pacific RR

We spent a couple nights in Moses Lake, WA and while there, decided to take a run up to the Grand Coulee Dam area on the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway. Driving north on the highway, we noticed miles of large rocks in the fields along the road. We later learned that these were dropped by the great glacier that once covered the area and then melted as the climate warmed. 

 A bit further up the road, we came to the Dry Falls area. Apparently, this waterfall was 10 times the size of Niagara Falls and was the largest waterfall ever in the world.

There is a great visitor center in the area and we found this artist's rendering of the falls while it was really flowing. Orinda was impressed with this and amazed at the amount of water that must have flowed over the falls. 

Rick wondered what this overlook would have been like when surrounded by thundering waterfalls. The falls would have been (and the cliffs today are) some 400' high.

 Imagine a raging river down this channel that was equal to more water flow than all the rivers of the world combined. The melting glaciers released an enormous amount of water that flowed down this channel.

Here is how the falls look today. There is a series of lakes marking the area where the river used to run 20,000 years ago.  We had not been aware of the Dry Falls area, but were really impressed -- great visit.

Leaving Washington, we stopped for lunch in a rest area near Gold Creek, Mt and as we checked out the area, realized that this was the location that the Golden Spike of the Northern Pacific Railroad was driven in 1883. 

Running from Minnesota to Olympia, WA, the Northern Pacific railroad had a challenging birth. Originally authorized by Abraham Lincoln, construction officially broke ground in 1870 under the direction of Jay Cooke, a Philadelphia banker.  

 Construction on the railroad proceeded until the financial Panic of 1873 which bankrupted Cooke's group while 1,500 miles of track lay unfinished. The railroad emerged from bankruptcy in 1875 and work began again. 

In 1879, financier and attorney  Frederick Billings became President of the railroad and managed its completion in 1883. We found it interesting to learn that the railroad city of Billings, MT was named for Billings and his leadership. Pretty interesting history lesson!

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