Rock on, Wenatchee! Geology Tours are here!
For west-siders used to the sylvan green of the coastal foothills, a move to the east side of the mountains can take some adjustment. But, as many have discovered, there is much beauty and mystery in the “bones” of the North Central Washington landscape. For centuries, members of Salish-speaking tribes and other indigenous populations used geologic features like Saddle Rock and the Owl Sisters in their creation stories and as ways to navigate from camp to camp in the continuous cycle of seasonal hunting and gathering.
East siders live in a geologist’s paradise where the backstory is a picture story book, a page turner with an epic narrative. From the PhD to the rock-sleuthing enthusiast, there is a story for everyone: Volcanic extrusions rising up in Wenatchee’s back yard, non-native rocks dotting the hillsides, prints of ancient leaves, giant coulees, sweeping vistas and miles of “ripple marks” so big that the patterns can only be picked out from the air or a high vantage point.
The scale of the evidence left from giant floods and tectonic upheaval provides the infrastructure for thousands of adventure-seekers to flock to the sunny side of the Cascade Mountains for thrilling climbs up vertical rock walls, skiing double-diamond slopes and exploring the exquisite spring wildflower bloom on mountain trails. The good news is the view is breathtaking and accessible for those less inclined to conquer.
The museum is offering a series of seven guided excursions starting April 9 led by local geologist Brent Cunderla and educator Ken Lacy. Participants will step on chartered motor coaches for a tour of regional geology hotspots. These trips are not all about rocks though. Each tour includes special features like touring the unique exhibits at the Waterville Museum, wine tasting or enjoying lunch at Pybus Public Market.
As the natural landscape changes with the seasons, experts in the flora and fauna of the region join the tours to talk about the living organisms (from lichens and cacti to rattlesnakes and pygmy rabbits) taking up residence in unique east side microclimates.
The Ice Age Floods, from the more recent chapters of local geologic history (17,000 years ago), have shaped much of the landscape exposed to view today. A repeating cycle of cataclysmic flooding scoured out 50 cubic miles of earth, deposited mountains of gravel and scattered 200-ton boulders. With the help of guides Lacy and Cunderla, tour goers will gain an understanding of how massive amounts of water literally moved mountains of debris.
The tours include some of the following talking points:
- Wenatchee’s bed-load and ice-rafted erratics — giant boulders tumbled by the force of the massive floodwaters or floated on ice to eventually settle into the soil as curious remnants of the last ice age.
- Malaga slide – site of the second-largest landslide in Washington State history.
- Blue Grade – site of historic clay mining in the Wenatchee Formation (34 million years old) to make bricks for local buildings.
- Ohme Gardens area — Bedrock here is the oldest rock formation in the Wenatchee area (93 million years old).
- The hanging valleys, pillow basalts and faceted spurs of Moses Coulee.
- Dry Falls Interpretive Center.
All tours start and end at the museum
April 9 – 9 a.m. to noon — $30 members, $35 nonmembers
May 14 – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — $40 members, $45 nonmembers
June 11 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — $50 members, $55 nonmembers
July 9 – 9 a.m. to noon — $30 members, $35 nonmembers
Aug. 13 – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — $40 members, $45 nonmembers
Sept. 10 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — $50 members, $55 nonmembers
Oct. 8 – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — $40 members, $45 nonmembers
For more information or to secure a reservation, click here or call the museum at 509-888-6240.