Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ice Cave in Moses Coulee


New York Times article on Oct. 9, 1892.

Some interesting natural curiosities are found in the construction of the Great Northern Railroad through the Big Bend of the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. The region is a plateau of basaltic rock, in which the river has worn three channels. The river now flows in the most westerly of these. The others have dried up, except for some salt lakes in the Grand Coulee.

These coulees have perpendicular walls of rock 1,000 to 1,500 feet high. There is an opening about the middle of the Grand Coulee where the walls are broken, so that a road cuts through, and here is Coulee City. The Big Bend country is excessively dry except in the spring when the melting snow moistens its surface. Thus this great bed of lava has remained unexplored until this army of laborers began to dig and blast and spy out secrets which the Indians have held for generations.

One day in midsummer R. W. Helm , who was working in Salmon Coulee, a branch of Moses Coulee, was astonished by the approach of an Indian with a considerable quantity of ice rolled up in a blanket which he offered for sale. He bought it and then followed the Indian’s trail back into the coulee. A search disclosed a cold stream trickling through the shellrock, and further up the ice beds were found. They were formed among the masses of shellrock by the melting of snow in winter, the water running down among the rock and freezing at night. Ice remains there perpetually and in large quantities. the most singular feature is that the spot is only 500 feet above the sea, and the sun beats with intense heat upon the rocks above the ice, which is also exposed to warm draughts of air through the crevices, yet it never melts.

The photo shows the family searching the rocks, which is all that remains of the ice cave. There was plenty of ice between the rocks, and it was about 70 degrees that day.

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