June 16, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Yellowstone Witnesses Flood Power

One little rainstorm closed America’s most famous national park
and caused major damage that will take years to repair.


The pictures are shocking: roads washed out, bridges collapsed, buildings falling into rivers and carried downstream. Yellowstone National Park closed all entrances on June 13 after snowmelt and rainfall flooded the park’s rivers, treating human structures like castles of matchsticks and roads like ribbons of sand. Rock and metal were no match for the power of moving water. One video clip shows a park employee building with 5 apartments tumbling off an eroded bank into the river, where it is carried out of sight. Steel bridges appear floating down the currents. See the photos and coverage:

A single dam breach flood may have carved the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone before Europeans arrived. (Photo by DFC)

Yellowstone Park closed as swollen river destroys roads (Phys.org, June 14).

Floods leave Yellowstone landscape ‘dramatically changed’ (Associated Press via Phys.org, June 15).

Yellowstone Floods a ‘Thousand-Year Event:’ All Entrances Remain Closed, Governor Declares Disaster (Epoch Times, June 15).

Yellowstone National Park Closes After Historic Flash Floods Take Out Bridges, Roads (Daily Wire, June 15).

After Yellowstone, floodwaters menace Montana’s largest city (Associated Press via Phys.org, June 15).

Gateway towns to Yellowstone become dead ends after flood (Associated Press via Phys.org, June 16).

The Park may remain closed for some time; some entrances, like the northern two, may remain closed for years. The National Park Service is maintaining an update page on the disaster which will certainly disappoint many ten-thousands of visitors who had hoped to visit the park as summer travel season approaches.

Detail of fossil forest sign, Yellowstone

Revised sign at Yellowstone’s petrified tree exhibit now mentions its likeness to those at Mt. St. Helens.

Lessons from Real-Time Geology

And yet this is a minor event as floods go. Some call it a once-a-century flood, or a once-a-millennium flood, but Yellowstone is only 150 years old as a national park. There have been 47 times 150 years in recorded history (taking 7,000 years as a round number), so nobody knows how often they occur.

In a previous entry (28 Sept 2015), CEH reported on a rethink about Yellowstone’s fossil forests. They were long thought to have resulted from periodic volcanic eruptions over 50,000 years or more. Now, based on comparisons with mudflows from Mt. St. Helens in 1980, geologists believe that the petrified trees were carried in similar mudflows—but much larger ones than anyone had ever seen.

Another rethink concerns the geysers. Long thought to represent long ages, the largest geyser cones are now thought to have been built up over a few thousand years, says a definitive book, The Geysers of Yellowstone. See 17 Aug 2019.

Latest sign at Giant Geyser’s 12-foot cone says it formed in thousands of years, not millions.

It doesn’t take too many floods this size to effect major changes. The puzzle now is why the Yellowstone caldera exists at all after millions of Darwin Years of “deep time.” Geologist Monte Fleming, PhD, extrapolated known rates of erosion of sediments in basins to reveal a “surprising picture”—

I shocked myself when I ran the numbers, and I repeated the calculations several times because I thought I must have made a mistake. If all the rivers on earth could carry all the land on earth to the sea in just 16,700 years, and the volume of ocean sediments is 2.7 times the volume of earth land, then we must measure the age of earth’s continents in thousands, not millions of years.

These and other shocking calculations along a dozen lines of evidence are described in Fleming’s book Stories About Earth History: A Geologist’s Dissent from Deep Time (2021). He provides equations, sources and data for readers to check on their own. Dr Fleming, who runs experiments in his home-built flume, and researched the fossil-bearing flood deposits in Peru, notes that secular geologists invoke magical solutions to the age problems. Why? From his experience,”they are so sure the millions of years happened that they have no other option than to invoke such magic” (p. 23).

Deep time was a major support for Darwin’s thinking after he was converted to vast ages by Charles Lyell, a lawyer turned geologist. Lyell and others fought the “scriptural geologists” of the early 1800s. They were determined to “rid geology of Moses” (see The Great Turning Point by Dr Terry Mortenson).

Explanations in geology usually involve inferring unobserved processes from observed effects. If someone were to measure the apartment building that just fell into the river, they could calculate the force of the current responsible within a certain margin of error. And based on observations at Mt St Helens and its mudflows, one can infer the forces that buried the petrified trees at Yellowstone. So when geologists find blocks of rock the size of houses above the Great Unconformity in Grand Canyon (see xx article), the forces required to pluck boulders that size from the Tapeats Sandstone and carry them a distance must have been considerable, beyond anything witnessed today.

For a “different view” of Yellowstone from the Darwin-only, deep-time propaganda in the parks, see the following resources:

Examples of folded strata at various points in Grand Canyon. Photos by David Coppedge.







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