Columbia River Basalt Group – Related to Cascade Volcanoes?


Hello young people.
The Columbia River Basalt, near Quincy, Washington. We’re at Quincy, Washington but we could pick
any spot between Spokane, Washington and Seaside, Oregon to do this show.
These brown layers of basalt are everywhere in the places where the Ice Age Floods did
massive amounts of erosion thousands of years ago.
There’s more than 300 layers of basalt here. 300 separate volcanic eruptions and the stack
of basalt is more than two miles thick in places.
The lavas started erupting 17 million years ago.
And flooded a landscape, buried a landscape in lava.
The obvious question is which volcano erupted. Was it Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens
The answer is none of them. The Cascade volcanoes do not match the chemistry
of these basalt lavas. These are lavas came from the east. They erupted
out of fissures. Deep cracks that emitted Hawaiian like lava.
Starting 17 million years ago. Fissures that formed related to the birth
of a hotspot that’s now underneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
The present is the key to the past. To really visualize eastern Washington 17
million years ago we need to go to Hawaii today.
Those Hawaiian lavas today are the same kind of lava flows that we have here.
Lava flows in Hawaii, very fluid, the most fluid lavas we have in nature. Average less
than three feet thick. Here in eastern Washington the lava flows
average 100 feet thick. In Hawaii, the lavas travel on average three
miles in length. Here in eastern Washington, many of the lava
flows traveled 300 miles. And in Hawaii, 30 miles are covered by a typical
flow. Here in eastern Washington, 30,000 square
miles of area buried. The Columbia River Basalts near Quincy, Washington.

26 thoughts on “Columbia River Basalt Group – Related to Cascade Volcanoes?

  1. This kind of pedagogy is one of the bigger reasons that I became a geology student in the first place. Thank you for making geology awesome!

  2. That's actually a good question… not sure whether we really know the answers! The columnar basalts you see all over the place take years to cool down and form that sort of shape.

    The obvious way is to do (volume of eruption) / (rate of lava erupted)… but while we can get a good handle on the volume of each eruption, how fast the lava was pouring out of the fissures is harder to get a handle on. There've been hundreds of eruptions though.

  3. Are these eruptions related to the caverns and large lava river bed in Bend,Oregon? Just curious if they were in the same time frame? My family explored some of the lava caves there. Are there lava caves formed by these eruptions in the Columbia Basin?

  4. I have learned so much from your channel! I grew up in Klickitat county and now live in the dalles. Seeing these formations almost everyday I took them for normal formations. But after finding my first petrified wood deposits in the Klickitat river along with agates. I have become very fascinated, especially after learning about the Missoula flood. I have many questions about petrified wood and how the process works. I have found a giant petrified redwood tree encased in basalt.

  5. This is great stuff. Thanks for the great 2 minute lessons. I look them up & put them on my travel itinerary!

  6. As icefox mentions, geologists are still trying to answer your questions! Basalt researcher/field mapper Steve Reidel is publishing some new work on this in Fall 2013. Not sure how to find it online, but look for it! He has some new data to help the timing questions.

  7. It's a great spot, Kyle. Just east of Black Lake near Othello, WA. Columbia Wildlife Refuge. We filmed the Columnar Show there. My hammer is still at the bottom of one of those cracks!

  8. Nick,

    I made it out that way last weekend as well as frenchman and echo basins, unfortunately it coincided with the government shutdown so the access roads were closed. The surrounding land in the area is closed for the winter waterfowl refuge as well. Do you know if this particular cliff band is in the closure area?

    Thanks!
    -Kyle

  9. Great videos, especially since I live nearby.  I do have a question, though.  Why did the lava in Washington form into columns, while lava flowing In Hawaii does not?  Different cooling conditions?

  10. You're the best. I show my your videos to my Geology 101 students and the amazing visuals and clear explanations are really helpful to show the basic processes in the geology of Washington.

  11. I'm somewhat familiar with the geology of the Great Basin and in particular the underlying forces that created the spreading centers, or basin and range topography of Nevada. I once heard a geologist say that that the Columbia R. Basalt Group was a consequence of the forces that shaped Nevada. This does not jibe with your notion of the Hot Spot (which I favor). Can you shed some light on this confusion of mine? Thanks! I enjoy your 2-minute videos!

  12. Have you heard of the Lovejoy basalt in northern California? It's near where I live and I was wondering if the Columbia River basalts were related to the Lovejoy basalts since they are the same age

  13. I can't get enough of these PNW flood basalt videos. I mean that with sincerity. Im a huge fan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQhjkemEyUo&t=1038s That one is my jam. I am a Michigan native and am in love with Michigan's robust geologic past. #postpenokeananorogenicmagmatism but I do love this non local Geology too. Please continue doing what you do.

  14. Imagine if we had a lava flow like that begin today. It would completely change the USA as we know it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *