Visualizing gargantuan glacial floods

painting of turbulent waves of Great Missoula Flood during most recent Ice Age

Great Missoula Flood | Brian Pickering

Numinous is the most recent in a series of art installations inspired by the Northwest’s catastrophic geologic history. It’s a spectacular story that includes megaflooding flooding of Glacial Lake Missoula during the most recent Ice Age. Between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago.

Equal in cubic volume to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined, the glacial lake was by a lobe of the Canadian ice sheet near present-day Sandpoint, ID. Every 40-60 years, this towering ice damn collapsed—explosively—sending glacial meltwater across the land at torrential speeds.

These episodic cataclysms dramatically chiseled, gouged and sculpted huge chunks of eastern Montana, north Idaho, central Washington and northwest Oregon. What is now Ellensburg, home to Central Washington University, is located about 30 miles west of the Columbia flood plain where icy waves roaring toward the Pacific Ocean.

Image of painting with Ice Age mastodon along the Columbia River

The Rowena Incident |  Stev H. Ominski

The Ice Age Floods Institute, based on CWU, educates the public about this remarkable natural heritage. Most recently, the non-profit organization is promoting the establishment of an Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail that would link significant sites and interpretative facilities across the Northwest.