The Snake River Plain Aquifer
Water, such a precious resource, is in high demand and low supply it seems. Much of the US is experiencing some degree of drought, with some areas stuck in a mega drought lasting decades. As part of my undergraduate degree, I am taking a Hydrology class. Yesterday we drove the extent of the Snake River Plain Aquifer stretching from Island Park to Twin Falls. The aquifer recharges in the northeast and some in the west before discharging along a stretch of canyon known for its "Thousand Springs" in the Twin Falls region. The aquifer flows through basalt, a volcanic rock most recognizable by its characteristic black/grey color, flow textures, and bubble-like holes called vesicles. If you have visited South Idaho, even just for a day, you have likely encountered this abundant rock-type. Ancient Yellowstone eruptions, that occurred southwest of the present-day caldera, obliterated basin and range mountains that extended from central Idaho to the region southeast of Pocatello. The subsequent plain left behind filled with basaltic lava flows, with some areas becoming as thick as 3000 ft of stacked lava. This took millions of years to happen, and evidence of this process can be seen in the still "active" Craters of the Moon National Monument. Our aquifer fills the the cracks, rubble-zones, and joints of the basalt. This rock purifies and warms the water as it rapidly travels downslope. Fun fact: the water exiting the aquifer in Twin Falls likely fell as snow in Island Park around the time the first European settlers were colonizing the US east coast! This may not seem very fast, but 10ft/yr water flow through rock is actually quite quick! Also, because of the residual heat of the region, the spring waters that travel through this rock remain a constant 57 degrees year-round, and provide the perfect habitat for trout! Several fisheries are located along the canyon.
Our trip was incredible! I always love any excuse to get outside and explore our profoundly interesting planet. Along with the study of rock, we witnessed sunrise and sunset alpine glow on our local peaks, a thick fog resting on Craters of the Moon, bright blue reflecting water coursing through a narrow canyon dotted by natural springs, large birds, base jumpers, fall colors, and so much more! We even woke up to the first legitimate snowfall of the season for Rexburg with a light dusting of a crystal white blanket on the grass and cars. From morning to evening, our day was filled with wonder, learning, and peace.
Though I am centered in the beauty of East-Idaho, this trip reminded me how connected we are to our neighboring regions of not only this state, but those downstream too. To understand Idaho's geology, we require an understanding of the geology of the western US and by consequence, the geology of the planet. If rocks could speak to us, can you imagine their story?
May you never take for granted the beauty and resources this planet offers you. She sacrifices a lot for people, even in their ignorance and arrogance.
Here are a few pictures from yesterday, enjoy!