Researching the disaster that created Clearwater’s townsite

Damming around Spahats was likely the culprit, leading to a jökulhlaup

Have we been living on the site of a mega-disaster for years and years without realizing it?

When your editor first came to Clearwater several decades ago, someone tried to tell me that Dutch Lake was originally a volcanic crater – even though the lake is surrounded by sand and gravel, not by lava or other volcanic debris.

Now many people recognize that it is a kettle lake – formed by a big chunk of ice melting after it was left behind by a glacier.

Kettle lakes are quite common across the northern part of this continent and other places around the world that were previously covered with glaciers.

Thoreau’s Walden Pond is a kettle lake, as are many of the small lakes across the prairies.

Most kettle lakes are found on flat land – the remains of the outwash plains found downstream from retreating glaciers.

An exception is when the kettle lake was formed by a jökulhlaups – the sudden drainage of an ice-formed lake.

Dutch Lake is not in a flat plain. In fact, it is surrounded by sizeable ridges and bumps made of sand, gravel and rounded rocks.

Recently, I was able to ask Dr. Cathie Hickson, a geologist who has done extensive work on the volcanoes of Wells Gray Park, if it was possible that Dutch Lake had been caused by a jökulhlaup.

Here is her reply:

“You are absolutely correct. Damming around Spahats was likely the culprit, leading to a jökulhlaup with deposition of large ice blocks at the confluence. The bay on the east side (of Dutch Lake) is actually a scoured channel.

“Also because of the change in the size of the valley, any outwash slows dramatically when it disgorges from the Clearwater into the (North) Thompson River. That is why there are the very large sand banks along the North Thompson. Also the constriction downstream south of Blackpool on the North Thompson led to a lot of water backing up northward into the Clearwater and North Thompson, likely as far as Birch Island.”

In other words, several thousand years ago a glacier dammed the Clearwater River near Spahats, forming a lake upstream. Such ice dams are inherently unstable and, when it let go, it washed big chunks of ice and a whole load of rocks and gravel downstream, forming what today is Dutch Lake and surrounding areas.

It would have been an amazing sight to see – hopefully from a safe distance, of course.

The history of Dutch Lake is just one of many stories that we are learning about the geological history of this area.

People who know about such things tell us that no other place in the world (including Iceland) has a more unique mix of glacial and volcanic features than does Wells Gray Park and area.

It is to preserve those unique geological features, plus important biological assets such as mountain caribou as well as the area’s First Nations and pioneer cultural heritage that people have proposed creating a Global Geopark here.

Recently, however, that effort seems to have stalled.

Where to locate the boundaries for the Geopark seems to be one sticking point.

The volcanoes of Wells Gray Park are a good core to start from but there are so many other features that could be included, such as natural rock bridges, waterfalls, inland rain forests, petroglyphs and so on, that it is hard to know where to draw the line.

Including more communities brings in more resources to help promote and develop the Geopark idea.

On the other hand, if the proposed area becomes too large it loses any unifying theme and the Geopark concept becomes meaningless.

 

Governments can only do so much. Consultants can only do so much. If the people of the North Thompson Valley want a Global Geopark for this area, then it will happen. If we find we have other priorities, then it won’t. It’s as simple as that.

 

 

Just Posted

Hockey Days in Clearwater have begun

There’s more stuff coming up, so check out the community events and North Thompson Sportsplex

UPDATE: Hwy. 5 open south of Blue River following ‘vehicle incident’

Social media reports say a semi-truck lost its load

This morning’s road conditions

Watch for slippery sections on much of Highway 5

Editor, The Times:

District of Clearwater invites local organizations to participate in Hockey Days

Playing Pickleball could be your New Years resolution

Pickleball is instrumental in helping with both physical and mental health

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Liberals look to make home-buying more affordable for millennials: Morneau

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election

Cannabis-carrying border crossers could be hit with fines under coming system

Penalties are slated to be in place some time next year

Man accused of threatening to kill ‘as many girls as I see’

Christopher W. Cleary wrote he was angry because he’d never had a girlfriend and wanted to ‘make it right’ with a mass shooting

Canadian talent abound on newly revamped Vancouver Whitecaps squad

Lineup is full of new faces after the organization parted ways with 18 players over the off-season

Most Read