Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) provided another extraordinary outdoor learning opportunity: a tour highlighting the geology of the highlands, expanding on what was shared during the past three years’ Highland Wonders geology tours. On Saturday, August 16th, Geology of the Okanogan Highlands, Part IV was led by a team of speakers who each brought a different emphasis. The team was headed by Dr. Karl Lillquist, a professor in the Geography Department and Co-Director of the Resource Management Graduate Program at CWU. He was also an instructor for the Ellensburg Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute, and co-led last year’s OHA Geology Tour. Karl has degrees in Geography and Geology, and a special interest in geomorphology, a field of study that focuses on landforms and how they originated.
Download the .kmz Google Earth files here (route and stops)
Teaching in the Okanogan Highlands has a personal connection for Karl, having lived in Oroville as a child, and returning to Lost Lake each summer for family reunions. “I am especially fascinated with the glacial history of the highlands. The landforms suggest clues about how the ice, thousands of feet thick, and flowing meltwater moved through the area — creating the features we see today. This tour will help people read the story of the land.”
Ralph and Cheryl Dawes also helped lead the event, for the fourth year in a row. Dr. Dawes is a professor at Wenatchee Valley College and Cheryl has a Bachelor’s degree in Geology. Both focus on how to interpret rocks and minerals to understand the geology of the landscape. Ralph and Cheryl have played an instrumental role in the development of OHA’s geology tours through generous contributions of time and energy.
The 2014 geology tour touched on three major geologic processes that have shaped the area: glaciation, terrane accretion, and volcanic activity. Participants observed the impact of continental glaciers repeatedly advancing from the north over the region, sculpting the highlands and sprinkling them with sediments and erratic boulders. The glaciers smoothed the ridges and peaks, deposited flat layers of sediment on the valley bottoms, formed flat benches along the sides of the valleys, and created the system of lakes and streams that water the Highlands today. It is on this foundation that the modern flora and fauna of the highlands, including people, have established themselves and made their homes. Underneath and sometimes protruding from the landforms, a wide array of mineral types can be found, telling the story of ages past. The group viewed up-close examples of mineral metamorphism and recrystallization in rock outcrops, observing the effect of heat and pressure within earth’s crust, a process that replaced the original minerals in the rocks with new minerals. The event provided insight into how the unique combination of bedrock, geologic structures, and glacial features create the wondrous landscape of the Okanogan Highlands.