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Educate. Empower. Act. The mission of Project WET is to reach children, parents, educators and communities of the world with water education. We invite you to join us in educating children about the most precious resource on the planet — water.
A little over an hour west of Bozeman, we cross the continental divide at Homestake Pass (elevation 6,385 feet) entering the Columbia River Basin. From here on, all the waters we will encounter drain into the Pacific Ocean.
Laurina in her "office"
We soon see the Clark Fork River—Montana's largest river by volume—as it flows along Interstate 90 for much of the way between Butte and Missoula. Our plan for today is to make it to Spokane, WA and stay the night before heading directly north to cross the border into Canada.
As I look out the window, little do I know how great a role water has played in sculpting the landscape before us.
"Hey, Molly, if you could be an eye-witness to one geological event in real-time what would it be?" I ask from my "office" in the backseat.
"Oh, that's easy," she answers. "One of the Missoula Cataclysmic Ice-age Floods."
An extra benefit to traveling with Molly and Theresa is that they are experts in a wide variety of topics. Molly's first college degree was in geology, and Theresa is also a botanist and certified Arborist. They are a wealth of incredibly interesting information.
All roads seem to lead to water
Intrigued, I do a little research on the Missoula Ice-Age Floods once we settle into our hotel in Spokane. I find a study, Ice-Age Floods by the National Park Service, that helps explain the events:
During the last Ice Age, a finger of the Cordilleran ice sheet crept southward into the Idaho Panhandle, blocking the Clark Fork River and creating Glacial Lake Missoula. As the waters rose behind this 2,000-foot ice dam, they flooded the valleys of western Montana. At its greatest extent, Glacial Lake Missoula stretched eastward a distance of some 200 miles, essentially creating an inland sea.
The study reports that the ice-dam/glacial lake formation repeated over and over again for about 2,500 years. When the ice-dam would break, the 500 cubic miles of water contained in the lake would drain in a matter of days, carving deep canyons (coulees) as it rushed toward the Pacific Ocean. One of the results of this was the Columbia River Gorge.
Tomorrow, we will be given a private tour of Grand Coulee Dam by one of our Project WET Washington facilitators, Cydonie Fukami. A "Reclamation Guide", she has promised to take us to the dam depths-two stories under 12 million cubic yards of concrete.
A sign at the
Grand Coulee Dam
In the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0, we have an activity called "8-4-1, One for All" that teaches about the "eight water users, four common water needs and one river to serve them all." The mighty Columbia River serves all eight of these usages, and tomorrow we get to see one of them up close.
And now for today's question: If you live in North America, what side (east or west) of the Great Continental Divide do you live on?