A Catastrophic Formation of Grand Canyon

Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth” (Job 12:15).

Geologic evidence has been found in recent years for many catastrophes in earth history. Fire, water, and mass movements in the form of volcanoes, lava flows, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and asteroid impacts formed the features of our earth’s surface.

Evolutionary scientists have felt the challenge to deny that catastrophes played a major role in the earth’s formation. Yet, they hold doggedly to their uniformitarianism—that slow, weak process over long ages of time pushed up mountains and eroded canyons. But with new evidence, it has been proposed that earth history has been more like the life of a soldier—long periods of boredom and short periods of trauma.

The Lake Missoula Controversy

The alarm that Harlan Bretz and Joseph Pardee caused in the early 20th century by proposing that 500 cubic miles of water eroded the Grand Coulee and scablands of eastern Washington State illustrates the crisis evolutionists have encountered. This flood from ancient glacial Lake Missoula in Montana emptying in 48 hours would have been half the volume of Lake Michigan! Scientists were afraid geology would be “set back 125 years.” This was of course when Harvard and Yale still taught the Biblical creation/flood view in the earth sciences. One comment was, “This heresy must be gently but firmly stamped out.” However, today the majority of geologists accept the Lake Missoula flood although they have stretched it out over 50,000 years and dozens of floods.

Secularists readily perceived the implications of accepting this. If a catastrophe explains the geologic formations in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, then will a quick washout be found for the Grand Canyon? And then, what about the 2½ average miles of sedimentary layers around the earth which have evidence of catastrophic burial!

The Grand Canyon Formation

Indeed, evidence of a water source has been found upstream from the Grand Canyon. With scientists who accept the Bible record leading the way, a computer-generated shoreline reveals that a body of water holding 3,000 cubic miles of water could have been retained. This is three times the volume of Lake Michigan.

Steven Austin has edited a semi-technical work, Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe, which describes the evidence. Many interesting facts are given by fourteen scientists, such as the unreliability of radiometric dating. Volcanic lava flows, which spilled over the rim of the canyon and blocked the river, were dated older than the lava deposited in the layered strata of the canyon walls. This would be like icing a layer cake before it was made!

The Grand Canyon is a channel cut through what is called the “Kaibab upwarp.”

If the Grand Canyon were filled today, large lakes would form in the Colorado plateau basin to the northeast. Silt and mud layers are evidence of a large lake in eastern Arizona, also called ancient “Hopi Lake.” This is in the area of the Little Colorado River coming from the southeast. When Hopi Lake breached its dam through the Kaibab upwarp, this would have destabilized the larger lake to the northeast called Canyonlands Lake. When this lake breached its dam and cut out Marble Canyon, it would have been followed by Vernal Lake to the north, cutting a channel through Book cliffs. Or this could have happened in reverse.

All these lakes emptying through the Grand Canyon would have cut it down and kept it free of fill as we see it today. The delta deposits are along the Arizona/California border. These sediments create the rise that separates the Salton Sea trough, which is below sea level, from the Gulf of California in Mexico.

Hydraulic Forces described in Scripture

The Bible is not necessarily a science book, but what it speaks of is correct. The Bible is basically a record of God’s work of salvation, redemption, and righteousness, confronting Satan’s corruption of creation and the human race. But in some books of the Bible, especially Genesis, Psalms, and Job, we have many clues to past geologic processes.

In Genesis 7 we see the catastrophic flood described, which destroyed the first world. In Psalm 104 we can see the laws of hydraulics at work as the earth returned to a habitable state. The context is the Biblical Flood (compare Psalm 104:6 and Genesis 7:19, 20). Verse 8 shows continent building as “the mountain ascended and the valleys descended” (original Hebrew idea). A habitable place was again made for man, plants, and animals as the waters drained off the continents. Floodwaters are now held in 70% of the earth’s surface and the deep ocean trenches of the world. God “set a bound” (verse 9) by elevations (heights and depths) and water seeking its own level that it could not return to cover the land again. It was in this continent- and mountain-building in the years after the flood, that lakes were trapped, dams were breached, and water gaps were cut into mountains as “waters fled” and “hasted away” at God’s rebuke (see verses 6 and 7).

Hydraulic Erosion Forces

Breached dams always fall catastrophically. When water floods over a dam and erodes one foot, that is one-foot-deep water coming from the whole lake! Fast-moving volumes of water have phenomenal erosion power. Scientific experiments and historical flood events have demonstrated the forces that excavate solid rock. The Lake Missoula flood excavated the Grand Coulee through solid basalt and granite. Five hundred cubic miles of water were released, cutting the coulee 50 miles long, 1-6 miles wide, with walls up to 1,000 feet high. An estimated 10 cubic miles of basalt were removed.

A good modern example of hydraulic force was demonstrated in 1983 when heavy snowmelts threatened the Glen Canyon Dam above the Grand Canyon. Engineers were releasing 93,000 cubic feet of water per second to keep the dam from overtopping. When they raised the release rate of one 40-foot spillway tunnel to 32,000 cubic feet per second, suddenly large chunks of concrete and bedrock were thrown from the tube as the water turned red and the ground trembled. Immediately the tube was closed. Engineers found that the 3-foot steel-reinforced concrete wall was pitted and a cavity was cut at a bend 32 feet deep, 40 feet wide, and 150 feet long. It required 63,000 cubic feet of concrete to fill the hole. In the short time the water was running red (like the bedrock), it is estimated erosion was happening at 1,000 cubic feet per minute.

In water flowing over 20 miles per hour strong hydraulic forces are generated. (The Lake Missoula flow was estimated at 200 feet deep and 60 miles per hour over dry falls). Cavitation, plucking, and kolks can pulverize and move rock rapidly.

Hydraulic plucking occurs when high-velocity flows rip loose blocks of bedrock and move it along. Cavitation takes place when fast-moving water, over irregular rock, detaches and generates vacuum bubbles. When they hit the surface and explode, it is like sledgehammer blows that can pulverize rock. Kolks are like underwater tornadoes. The force from the low-pressure vortex exerts extreme suction of bedrock. Sapping structures are also seen along the walls of the upper Grand Canyon when the land rapidly detached from the emptied lakes.

Evidence of these catastrophic forces at the Grand Canyon show that it did not take hundreds of thousands of years for the Colorado River to slowly wear down the Canyon. Today, if the Grand Canyon were blocked at the 5,700-foot elevation, 30,000 square miles of lakes would form in the Colorado plateau.

Once again, we understand that God’s record in the Bible is a trustworthy account helping us to understand truth about the past, present, and future. “Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; . . . Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?” (Job 12:8, 9).

Catastrophes in Earth History, by Steven Austin
Glacial Lake Missoula and its Humongous Floods, by David Alt
Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe, by Steven Austin

–Elvin Stauffer

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