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Highland Wonders

Highland Wonders is a monthly education series featuring the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. Come and meet some new people and enjoy refreshments; leave with a better understanding of your watershed.

The indoor series runs on the First Friday of the month, from November through May (skipping December). The outdoor series is offered during summer, and the schedule varies.

Geology of the Okanogan Highlands
Saturday, August 16

Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) announces another extraordinary outdoor learning opportunity: a tour highlighting the geology of the highlands, expanding on what was shared during the past three years’ Highland Wonders geology tours. On Saturday, August 16th, Geology of the Okanogan Highlands, Part IV will be led by a team of speakers who each bring a different emphasis. The team is headed by Dr. Karl Lillquist, a professor in the Geography Department and Co-Director of the Resource Management Graduate Program at CWU. He is also an instructor for the Ellensburg Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute, and co-led last year’s OHA Geology Tour. Karl has degrees in Geography and Geology, and a special interest in geomorphology, a field of study that focuses on landforms and how they originated. 
Karl Lillquist instructing during OHA's Geology Tour 2013

Teaching in the Okanogan Highlands has a personal connection for Karl, having lived in Oroville as a child, and returning to Lost Lake each summer for family reunions. "I am especially fascinated with the glacial history of the highlands. The landforms suggest clues about how the ice, thousands of feet thick, and flowing meltwater moved through the area -- creating the features we see today. This tour will help people read the story of the land."

Ralph and Cheryl Dawes

Ralph and Cheryl Dawes (left) will also help lead the event, for the fourth year in a row. Dr. Dawes is a professor at Wenatchee Valley College and Cheryl has a Bachelor’s degree in Geology. Both focus on how to interpret rocks and minerals to understand the geology of the landscape. Ralph and Cheryl have played an instrumental role in the development of OHA’s geology tours through generous contributions of time and energy.
The 2014 geology tour will touch on three major geologic processes that have shaped the area: glaciation, terrane accretion, and volcanic activity. Participants will observe the impact of continental glaciers repeatedly advancing from the north over the region, sculpting the highlands and sprinkling them with sediments and erratic boulders. The glaciers smoothed the ridges and peaks, deposited flat layers of sediment on the valley bottoms, formed flat benches along the sides of the valleys, and created the system of lakes and streams that water the Highlands today. It is on this foundation that the modern flora and fauna of the highlands, including people, have established themselves and made their homes. Underneath and sometimes protruding from the landforms, a wide array of mineral types can be found, telling the story of ages past. The group will view up-close examples of mineral metamorphism and recrystallization in rock outcrops, observing the effect of heat and pressure within earth’s crust, a process that replaced the original minerals in the rocks with new minerals. The event will provide insight into how the unique combination of bedrock, geologic structures, and glacial features create the wondrous landscape of the Okanogan Highlands. 

Participation in previous Geology tours is not required in order to attend this fourth tour. This is an all-day event (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Although this is a driving tour, there may be some hiking on steep slopes and uneven terrain in order to get a closer look at certain sites. Due to the nature of the outdoor event, pre-registration is required and participation is limited; priority registration will be offered for OHA members until August 6th. A waiting list will be generated on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the general public is welcome to inquire at any time. To begin or renew your OHA membership and be first in line to register for the summertime events, please visit, or contact OHA for more information. To sign up for this event, email or call 509-476-2432.

The 2012 Summertime Highland Wonders season brought Cedar Ecology, The Magic of Wetlands, and a school bus tour highlighting the Geology of the Okanogan Highlands. The 2013 outdoor season brought Seeing the Forest Among the Trees, Watershed Functioning, Plant Ecology and Stream Processes, Geology of the Okanogan Highlands, and Grassland Ecology and Grass ID. Each of these events was jam-packed with information tailored to the sights, sounds, and natural history of the highlands. The events are often full to capacity. Be sure to begin or renew your OHA membership for priority in signing up for next summer's events. 

Summer 2014 brought Stream Ecology on July 19th, and will bring the Geology Tour on August 16th, as well as an innovative event in September called, "Evening with the Experts." You can start preparing for this event now by taking photos and/or collecting plant specimens that you would like help identifying. See Evening with the Experts for must-read details if you'd like to be involved.

Questions? Contact OHA's Conservation Coordinator, Julie Ashmore: 

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