Archive for the ‘Palo Duro Canyon’ category

Reforming the story of Palo Duro Canyon

January 7, 2011

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How do giant canyons form? With water. Lots of it, coming from both above AND below the surface. How do I know this? Well, I don’t know for sure, because I’ve never witnessed the formation of a giant canyon like Palo Duro Canyon or Grand Canyon. However, there sure is a lot of evidence that makes it look like a high energy, short duration megaflood formed Palo Duro Canyon, contrary to ALL the other low energy, million-plus year ideas I have read about. For example the Texas Parks and Wildlife page on Palo Duro Canyon State Park says the canyon was “formed primarily by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, which began to carve the canyon less than one million years ago”.

Other places describe the canyon as even older, but none describe the possibility of it forming rapidly, but why? Is it because there is no evidence for rapid formation, or is it because many of today’s geologists are reluctant to interpret the evidence around them in a way that does not promote long ages? Well, take a look at this picture of Palo Duro Canyon:

Picture of a small section of Palo Duro Canyon. Copyright 2010, David E. Shormann.

You may not have known this, but Palo Duro Canyon is about 120 miles long, up to 20 miles wide, and averages 800 feet deep. That is HUGE! In the United States, it is second in size only to the most incredible canyon of them all, the Grand Canyon:

About 10 Palo Duro Canyons could fit inside the Grand Canyon! Copyright 2010, David E. Shormann, PhD

Walt Brown, Steve Austin, Tom Vail and Mike Oard are just a few of several researchers who have written extensively on the possibility of the Grand Canyon forming rapidly either immediately after the global flood described in Genesis, or hundreds of years later when the dams on ancient lakes burst. However, there is no current literature suggesting that Palo Duro Canyon formed rapidly. In order to form a canyon rapidly, a large amount of water is usually necessary. The Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River flows through the length of Palo Duro Canyon, and some believe it carved the canyon. Take a look at this video clip of the river:

That’s right, I just jumped across the river that supposedly formed a 120-mile long by 20-mile wide by 800-foot deep canyon! I have a very hard time believing that river carved Palo Duro Canyon, and I hope you do, too. Uniformitarian ideas almost always assume low-energy, long-time processes created the geologic formations we see around us. Fortunately, the idea is becoming less popular, even among secular fundamentalists. Major exceptions to uniformitarian dogma are the Missoula Floods from ancient Lake Missoula and Lake Columbia, whose catastrophic flows formed canyons, scablands and other features over a considerable portion of the Northwest United States:

Yellow is ancient Lake Missoula and Lake Columbia, orange is extent of flood damage.

Now, it is interesting that geologic maps of Texas clearly show outlines of two large, ancient lakes, sitting at the headwaters of Palo Duro Canyon:

Google Earth image with a Texas Geologic Map overlay, clearly showing the outline of two ancient lakes. An elevation profile between the lakes reveals some uplift, suggesting that the two lakes may have been one large lake.

The two lakes could have also been one large lake, with a surface area of about 200,000 acres. It is also interesting that Palo Duro Canyon is carved into one of the world’s largest sources of subsurface water, the Ogallala Aquifer. Consider a scenario such as heavy rains, or maybe tectonic activity, or both, causing the dam(s) on the ancient lake(s) to burst, initiating the carving of Palo Duro Canyon. As the floodwaters cut deeper, water from the Ogallala Aquifer began spilling out as well, adding even more momentum to the already high-energy flow coming from the breached dam. Is such a scenario possible? It is impossible to know for sure what caused this amazing event in Earth’s history, but I hope to find more evidence supporting a rapid formation hypothesis, and reform the story of Palo Duro Canyon.

How do you think Palo Duro Canyon formed? ┬áIf you have a question or comment, post it and let’s discuss.