“Omigosh!” “Look at that!” “Can you believe it?!” These are just a few of the enumerable exclamations proclaimed during a recent road trip that my husband, Tom, and I took. We drove… well, that’s the “royal we,” as I was way too busy being a geology tour guide along the way… south on Hwy 95 to Fruitland, Idaho, then routed to Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada, onto the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. From there, we drove along the eastern edge of the Canyon, then north to Missoula, Montana, returning back home to Rathdrum nine days later. We learned some fascinating facts along the way!
Did you know that roughly the western border of Idaho was the western margin of North America for about 700 million years? About 800 million years ago (mya), a rift broke the old North American continent apart and a new ocean basin opened between them. All of that time, Idaho was on the west coast and an open ocean stretched far beyond its western border. 1 Then, about 100 mya, small mini-continents (similar to modern New Zealand and Japan) and volcanic islands smashed into this western shoreline between 70-85 mya!
I’m a prove-it or I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it kind of gal. So, I started looking for evidence on our travels. Omigoodness! The route south of Lewiston towards New Meadows roughly traces this western margin line. Once I realized what I was seeing, the edge became obvious in many locations, as well as the obvious diversity in rocks from those intruding islands. Amazing!
The more I read and saw the evidence of faults, moving plates that broke and portions that were upthrust from mountain-building underneath them or squashed by the expanding Atlantic Ocean, sinking land that was spit back up onto the land in volcanic eruptions, major floods that massively changed the land, etc., the more I praised God for creating and putting into motion such an extraordinary world! He proved it to me!
How we could drive along miles of desert, then dry, flat land occupied with mostly mesquite and piñon pine trees to – quite suddenly – see the vast chasm in the earth that is the Grand Canyon cannot help but fill one with awe! It is breathtakingly beautiful to see the layers of earth, going back almost 2 billion years! 2 And, yet, these are not the oldest rocks in North America! Some of the oldest rocks – almost FOUR billion years old – can be found on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territory and in Greenland! 3
God’s hand set in motion an ever-evolving, self-sustaining world! That takes my breath away! I was drawn to re-read Genesis. My Zondervan Leadership Bible – NIV introduced Genesis 1 this way, “God is the ultimate example of using power to benefit others. In creating the universe, he sought the greatest glory for himself (this is proper, since he alone is worthy of all honor, praise, and glory) and the greatest benefit for humanity.”
Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
1:9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered in one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
1:10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”
1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
It was very good – indeed! Thank you, Lord, for creating a true wonder-land!
If you are interested in learning more about our amazing world, there is a terrific series of books called Roadside Geology. I recommend carrying these along with you during your travels. If you’re fortunate to be the rider (like me), you get to read to the driver and passengers about the land you’re passing by. Be in awe of God’s good work!
1Alt, David D. and Hyndman, Donald W. Roadside Geology of Idaho. Mountain Press Publishing Company. Missoula, MT. 1989.
2Chronic, Halka. Roadside Geology of Arizona. Mountain Press Publishing Company. Missoula, MT. 1983.
3Price, L. Greer. Grand Canyon Geology. Grand Canyon Association. 1999.