Everywhere you look in the Okanogan Highlands you can see evidence of the movement of glaciers. The trick is knowing what to look for! On March 6, CWU geography professor Karl Lillquist used local landscapes and landforms to demonstrate how glaciers and other factors shaped our region during the last glaciation in our area, 12,000-18,000 years ago.

Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) and Okanogan Land Trust (OLT) are excited to be co-hosting three-part series of educational events focused on geology. OHA hosted the first event on Friday, March 6th, when Dr. Karl Lillquist returned to Tonasket for the Highland Wonders presentation. OLT will host the second event at some point in the future, but it has been postponed to protect public health. When we are able to resume public events, Bruce Bjornstad will present as part of the OkaKnowledgy lecture series in Okanogan. The third event, also led by Dr. Lillquist, will take participants on a field trip in the Highlands, hopefully this summer! All three events will highlight the fascinating geological processes shaping our hills and valleys. The indoor events are free and open to all; the field trip will require pre-registration with priority given to OHA and OLT members. Anyone can become a member!

Karl Lillquist
Karl Lillquist shares about the Geology of the Okanogan Highlands during an OHA Highland Wonders tour.

Friday, March 6, Community Cultural Center of Tonasket:
Dr. Lillquist led the audience in “explor[ing] the origins and evolution of landscapes and landforms in the Okanogan Highlands.” He described how the Okanogan Highlands landscape has been sculpted over time by glaciers and other forces. Specifically, he explained how “The Okanogan Highlands, [which is] characterized by rolling uplands, punctuated by a diverse array of valleys…has been shaped by various tectonic, weathering, landslide, stream, glacier, and wind-related processes.“

Dr. Lillquist is a professor in the Geography Department at Central Washington University, and has vast experience exploring and teaching about the geology of our state. His area of expertise is geomorphology, a field focusing on landforms and how they originated. Throughout our three-part series, we hope that you will join us in looking at the Highlands landscape through geologic time — you might never look at our highland hills and valleys the same way again!

Highland Wonders events feature the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. OHA offers educational programming on the first Friday of the month from November through April. The presentations, which start at 6:30 pm, are free to the public (donations are welcome), and clock hours are available for educators. The events take place at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center, and dinner is available before the presentations. (meat and vegetarian options available, $10 a plate).

For more info, or to become a member of OHA, visit our support webpage, or contact jen@okanoganhighlands.org (509-429-4399). For more info about OLT, visit: okanoganlandtrust.org.

“Soil science & story: Connecting the worlds below & above our feet”

With Luke Cerise | Friday, February 1st

Soil Scientist Luke Cerise returned to the Highland Wonders educational series to build community understanding of the stories hidden beneath the ground in our local soils — and how this understanding can help shape the way we manage our landscapes. Luke discussed soil memory, and how inherent soil characteristics are retained even when dramatic changes happen above ground, which can help us interpret the history of the landscape.

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Luke Cerise, US Forest Service Soil Scientist, hand textures soil in Myers Creek, north of Chesaw, to gauge the clay/silt/sand composition

On June 14th, soil scientist Luke Cerise discussed the soil environment at the Triple Creek site north of Chesaw, on the ground with community members. In this event, we learned about the living layer of the earth, soil; where air, water, minerals, and a vast array of macro and microscopic organisms make life on land possible. Climactic processes (such as freeze-thaw & weathering) have acted upon geologic processes (such as glaciation & volcanism) over billions of years to create sand, silt, and clay that make up what is considered soil.

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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.

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On August 17th, 2013, an extraordinary outdoor Highland Wonders event took place: a tour highlighting the geology of the highlands, expanding on what was shared during the past two years’ geology tours. Geology of the Okanogan Highlands – Part III, was lead by a team of speakers who each brought a different emphasis.

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2012 Geology Tour map (click to enlarge)

OHA’s 2012 outdoor Highland Wonders season closed with an all day tour, “Geology of the Okanogan Highlands,” led by Steve Box (USGS), Ralph Dawes (WVC), and Cheryl Dawes (B.S. Geological Sciences). Transported by a school bus, community members stopped in several locations along a loop that spanned the Republic and Toroda Grabens as well as the Okanogan Metamorphic Core Complex. From pictographs to garnets, and from volcanic/granitic faults to the highly unusual Corkscrew Mountain, the group considered a diverse array of features that shape the landscape as we know it.

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Q: When I look around in the Highlands, sometimes I think I’m seeing ancient volcanoes. Is this true?

A: In reality, there are no volcanoes around there. That is the first point to get across…

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On August 6th, 2011, Ralph Dawes led a caravan tour highlighting the geology of the highlands. You can use this webpage to learn about what we saw, or even go on the tour on your own, using the information found here.

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