Late Quaternary Glaciation of the Naches River Drainage Basin, Washington Cascades

Friday, 19 December 2014
Helen Beatrice Sheffer, Lena Goss, Grant Shimer and Robert James Carson, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA, United States
The Naches River drainage basin east of Mount Rainer includes tributary valleys of the Little Naches, American, Bumping, and Tieton rivers. An investigation of surface boulder frequency, weathering rind thicknesses, and soil development on moraines in these valleys identified two stages of Pleistocene glaciations in the American, Bumping, and Tieton drainages, followed by Neoglaciation. These stages include a more extensive early glaciation (Hayden Creek?), and the later Evans Creek Glaciation (25-15 ka). Thick forest cover, limited road cuts, and widespread post-glacial mass wasting hamper efforts to determine the maximum extent of glaciation. However, glacial striations at Chinook Pass, moraine complexes in the vicinity of Goose Egg Mountain, ice-transported boulders and striations on Pinegrass Ridge, and a boulder field possibly derived from an Evans Creek jökulhaup in the Tieton River valley, all point to extensive Pleistocene ice in the central tributaries of the Naches River.

Lowest observed ice elevations in the Tieton (780 m), Bumping (850 m), and American (920 m) drainages increase towards the north, while glacial lengths decrease from 40 to 28 km. The Little Naches is the northernmost drainage in the study, but despite a maximum elevation (1810 m) that exceeds the floor of ice caps to the south, glacially-derived sediments are not evident and the surrounding peaks lack cirques. The absence of ice in the Little Naches drainage, along with the systematic northward change in glacial length and lowest observed ice elevations in the other drainages, are likely due to a precipitation shadow northeast of Mount Rainier. In contrast, the source of glacial ice in the Tieton drainage to the southeast was the Goat Rocks peaks. Ground-based study of neoglacial moraines and analysis of 112 years of topographic maps and satellite imagery point to rapid retreat of the remaining Goat Rocks glaciers following the Little Ice Age.