Thousands of years ago, immense flows of water from alpine glaciers and high levels of precipitation sent waters cascading over a broad area of the Snake River Canyon directly into the Snake River. Weak joints in the basalt walls gave way to these rushing waters at the mouth of Malad Canyon, concentrating the water into a narrow channel. These concentrated flows began to retreat and deepen over many years, following a zig zag direction that eventually created not one, but three canyons before diminishing to current water levels today.
The Devil's Washbowl - Canyon Cutting in Action
The waterfall (retreating cataract) that you can see down the gorge to your left, is a much diminished remnant of the great waterfalls that carved the 2 1/2 mile long, 250 foot deep canyon known as Malad Gorge. Can you imagine, looking at the current flows, what the waterfall that created Malad Gorge must have looked like? Along the edge of the canyon, you can see the water's power in smoothing and shaping the basalt rocks. Along the Northrim Trail and Woody's Cove area, you can see other examples of canyon cutting episodes of the past.