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Grand Canyon was carved by retreating Flood waters (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Grand Canyon was carved by retreating Flood waters (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CH581:

The Grand Canyon was caused suddenly by the retreating waters of Noah's Flood.

Source: Austin, Steve, 1995. Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee, CA: Inst. for Creation Research.


CreationWiki response:

The Grand Canyon resembles more than any thing else a large eroded crack. Rather than the Grand Canyon being carved by the retreating waters of Noah's Flood it is more likely that it is a crack that formed in hardening sediment that was eroded by the overflow of two large post Flood lakes called Grand Lake and Hopi Lake. If these lakes had had a high concentration of sulfuric acid at the time, the erosion rate would have been even greater.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. We know what to expect of a sudden massive flood, namely:
  • a wide, relatively shallow bed, not a deep, sinuous river channel.
  • anastamosing channels (i.e., a braided river system), not a single, well-developed channel.

There are plenty of relatively shallow beds and anastamosing channels all around the Grand Canyon. Some of them flow into the Grand Canyon while others flow parallel to it. If the Grand Canyon was formed from a large crack then the flood water would have rushed into the crack eroding it more than the surrounding terrain.

  • coarse-grained sediments, including boulders and gravel, on the floor of the canyon.

Is Talk Origins unaware of coarse grained sediments like those at the following pictures from Grand Canyon's floor?

  • streamlined relict islands.

There are plenty of streamlined relict islands all around the outside of the Grand Canyon.

The Scablands in Washington state were produced by such a flood and show such features. Such features are also seen on Mars at Kasei Vallis and Ares Vallis. They do not appear in the Grand Canyon. Compare photos of the scablands with the Grand Canyon.

The image used by Talk.Origins is of too low a resolution to see the similar features around the Grand Canyon. If one looks at a higher resolution image these features are obvious.

2. The same flood that was supposed to carve the Grand Canyon was also supposed to lay down the miles of sediment (and a few lava flows) that the canyon is carved in. A single flood cannot do both. Creationists claim that the year of Noah's flood included several geological events, but that still stretches credulity.

While Noah's Flood would have laid down the sediment, a large local flood most likely carved the Grand Canyon. How ever it is possible for one flood to lay down sediment and carve channels in it, and this is particularly the case with a global flood. The rising of the Flood could lay down the sediment and its receding could carve it.

3. The Grand Canyon contains some major meanders. Even worse is upstream of the Grand Canyon, where the San Juan River (around Gooseneck State park, SE Utah) has some of the most extreme meandering imaginable. The canyon is 1000 feet high with the river flowing five miles while progressing one mile as the crow flies. There is no way a single massive flood could carve this.

Cracks can and do meander. The larger a crack is the more it is likely to meander. If the Grand Canyon formed from a crack, then given its size it would be expected to meander.

4. Recent flood sediments would be unconsolidated. If the Grand Canyon were carved in unconsolidated sediments, the sides of the canyon would show obvious slumping.

At most this shows that the Grand Canyon was carved by a post Flood, flooding event, however there are problems with this.

  1. Consolidation of sediment can take place in days, as the sediment dries out. This occurs in concrete.
  2. Consolidation of sediment could have begun before the flood finished as heat dried out rocks, particularly at depth.
  3. Consolidation of sediment is not an instantaneous process, there is a point where the sediment would be sufficiently consolidated to prevent slumping, but not yet be totally consolidated.

Beside that there is obvious slumping in the Grand Canyon as can be seen in the following pictures from the canyon floor.

These show that the sediments the Grand Canyon is carved through were at least partially unconsolidated when it was carved.

5. The inner canyon is carved into the strongly metamorphosed sediments of the Vishnu Group, which are separated by an angular unconformity from the overlying sedimentary rocks, and also in the Zoroaster Granite, which intrudes the Vishnu Group. These rocks, by all accounts, would have been quite hard before the Flood began.

The angular unconformity could result form the sediment being laid down at an angle and simply sloped at this point, or it could have been pushed up after being laid down and eroded by changing currents or tidal changes. This could have occurred during the Flood, but before the overlaying sediment was laid down.

There is no basis for Talk.Origins' claim, except for it being based totally on their uniformitarian mindset.

6. Along the Grand Canyon are tributaries which are as deep as the Grand Canyon itself. These tributaries are roughly perpendicular to the main canyon. A sudden massive flood would not produce such a pattern.

Neither would they result from erosion by the Colorado River. The best explanation is that the Grand Canyon is a crack eroded by a flooding event. This explains the tributaries.

7. Sediments from the Colorado River have been shifted northward over the years by movement along the San Andreas and related faults. Such movement of the delta sediments would not occur if the canyon were carved as a single event.

What Talk.Origins is not saying is that the Colorado River flows south into its delta and that the entire delta is on the Pacific plate. As such not only would newer deposits tend to be further south than older ones, no matter how fast the deposition rate was in the past, the entire delta is moving in the same direction so this is most likely a calculation based on current plate movements and not any kind of objectively measurable displacement from the delta.

8. The lakes which Austin proposes as the source for the carving floodwaters are not large compared with Grand Canyon itself. The flood would have to remove more material than the floodwaters themselves.

What lakes are those? Grand Lake and Hopi Lake would have been huge compared to the Grand Canyon. They would have been more than large enough to erode a crack to become the Grand Canyon.

9. If a brief interlude of rushing water produced the Grand Canyon, there should be many more such canyons. Why are there not other grand canyons surrounding all the margins of all continents?

The same could be said even more of the river caving model. Rivers are far more common than flooding, so if the Grand Canyon was produce by millions of years of slow erosion, why are there not other grand canyons in rivers all over the world.

This is another point that supports the crack model—the Grand Canyon resulting from a crack in hardening sediment that was then exposed to one or more sudden flooding events.

10. There is a perfectly satisfactory gradual explanation for the formation of the Grand Canyon that avoids all these problems. Sediments deposited about 2 billion years ago were metamorphosed and intruded by granite to become today's basement layers. Other sediments were deposited in the late Proterozoic and were subsequently folded, faulted, and eroded. More sediments were deposited in the Paleozoic and in the Mesozoic, with a period of erosion in between. The Colorado Plateau started rising gradually about 70 million years ago. As it rose, existing rivers deepened, carving through the previous sediments.

Satisfactory to those like Talk.Origins who are stuck in a uniformitarian mindset may be, but not to everyone. There are problems with the idea.

  1. It does not explain the Grand Canyon's tributaries, which do not have rivers.
  2. It does not explain the smaller flow channels all around the Grand Canyon.
  3. Forming the Grand Canyon through slow gradual erosion by the Colorado River would require the river to change its path in the canyon from time to time so as to cover its width, but there are no old river channels. The only dried channels that do exist at all show flows into the canyon. The only other candidates are valleys between ridges that are often dead ends and perpendicular to the flow of the Colorado River.
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