Saturday, June 20, 2015

Telford Scabland Shrubsteppe and Wetlands

Telford Scablands and the Kettle Range in the distance

The ice age floods surged across several areas of eastern Washington after the flood waters reached Glacial Lake Columbia and or Glacial Lake Spokane. Numerous spill ways were scoured by flood waters. The three largest are the Palouse Scabland Tract from Spokane south through the Palouse, the Telford-Crab Creek Scabland Tract between Davenport and Wilbur where flood water passed south over a broad area and then passed through numerous coulees and flood ways towards the south and west, and the flood way through Grand Coulee. There were a number of other notable flood routes as well such as the flood route down Moses Coulee.   

The term scabland is apt - the land sort of looks like a scab. The basalt bedrock in most of the scabland with its dark color and way of fracturing does indeed look scabby. A lot of this land was never homesteaded as its is rocky rough ground not suitable for farming. Much of the land has been used as public range land in the past. More recently it has been shifting to use as wildlife habitat with some debate regarding leases for grazing. 

Much of the northern part of the Telford Scabland is on the edge of being wet enough to support trees. A close look at the pictures above one can see ponderosa pine stands and Douglas fir in the distance. Low areas are seasonally wet and ponds and lakes are present throughout the area. All in all a wide habitat mix with a great variety of plants over short distances. The areal extent is large with wide connections to other wild land areas. The changeover in grazing management where grazing is still allowed has allowed this area to evolve towards a near wilderness status with some fairly large blocks of roadless land. Even in areas where grazing is still permitted the range management has improved and the range is improving from its previous unsustainable use.  

Wetland amongst the scrub steppe in the Telford Scabland
A rail and road embankment as well as some downward scraping created the pond

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