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Field Trip to Mars

Moses Lake To Ritzville

Page 12 - Field Trip to Mars: Moses Lake To Ritzville

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Loess-Covered Basalt Islands

[251.0 MM 180 Interstate 90 East]
Leaving Moses Lake, we follow the signs to Interstate 90
and head East at Mile Marker 180 on I-90.

This page lists some things to look for on our way back to Spokane. At Ritzville you can take a side trip to Palouse Falls, an area similar to Dry Falls. The pages after that describe glaciers, Glacial Lake Missoula, volcanoes, dust devils and earthquakes.

Mount St. Helens ash along I-90
Mount St. Helens ash along I-90 near Mile Marker 213.

Things to look for on Interstate 90 as we return to Spokane:

MM 191: Loess covered basalt islands.
MM 213: Mt. St. Helens ash along roadway.
MM 220, 235, 239, 242: Ritzville area, look for basalt outcroppings.

MM 250: Loess-covered basalt islands.
MM 257: Tyler-Cheney Exit, basalt outcroppings.
MM 277: Basalt and loess in road cuts.

Click for The Channeled Scablands Book

More about this area can be found in our Field Trip to Mars Catalog The Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington Book.


Click for more about loessVery fine particles of sand or dust blown in on arid or glacial wind is called loess. This is a Scandinavian word pronounced like "look" with an "S" sound instead of a "K" as in loo-ss. The usual source of loess is old lakebeds, eroded hilsides and flood plains. Some loess deposits that remain after the Ice Age Floods are 200 or so feet deep. Find out more about loess or go on to the next page.

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Geology Terms

Here are some basic terms used in the tour. Find more geology terms in the Glossary.

Fragments of less than 2 millimeters in diameter of lava or rock blasted into the air by volcanic explosions.
Volcanic rock caused by partial melting of the Earth's crust.
The deepest part of a river or bay.
Channeled Scabland
Area in Washington state where huge floods made channels in a large, deep basalt flow. Named by J Harlan Bretz during the 1920's in various publications. See also Channeled Scabland and Glacial Lake Missoula.
Long winding channel cut through lava formations. A term primarily used in the northwestern United States.
Lifting and removal of rock, dirt, sand and the like caused by wind, water, or glacial ice.
Fine dirt deposited by wind usually from arid or glaciated areas.
A flat region with exposed lava rock and a thin layer of soil and sparse vegetation. Usually cut through with channels.
Rock debris that has fallen from the sides of a cliff or steep slope.

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NASA has a Geomorphology from Space website that has pages discussing