Wacky theories about the Mima Mounds mystery

  • By Sharon Wootton Herald Columnist
  • Friday, February 7, 2014 4:15pm
  • Life

The Herald recently ran a story by Craig Sailor of the Olympian on a California geology professor who believes he has solved the mystery of the Mima Mounds, located about 10 miles south of Tumwater.

Geologist Manny Gabet’s proclamation is based on software featuring virtual prehistoric pocket gophers that, over generations, kept building the mounds higher and higher to avoid wet soil conditions.

And no, he’s never visited the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, and yes, local researchers aren’t buying it as the answer to end all questions.

There have been many scientific and fanciful theories about the mounds, roughly 5- to 8-feet tall and 30- to 40-feet across spread over 20 square miles. The professor is not the first one to bring up gophers.

One theory is that hordes of Ice Age pocket gophers migrated to the area, following a retreating glacier. The packed gravel left behind by the glacier was too hard to tunnel into, so they spent millennia building their mounds above ground.

Researchers estimate that 10 gophers on an acre could move more than 10,000 pounds of dirt a year, and say that the mound spacing is similar to underground gopher nests, and that the cavities filled with silt could be abandoned tunnels.

Other theories include:

Paul Bunyan Theory: The lumberjack and his Irish workers labored to build a wall similar to the Great Wall of China. The workers quit, leaving behind their full wheelbarrows of dirt.

All Shook Up Theory: Earthquakes created the formations. A geologist was building a doghouse in 1980 noticed that his hammering shook loose soil into piles.

Frozen Prairie Theory: The prairie thawed after the last Ice Age and fractured into blocks that melted into mounds.

Green Gardens Theory: Tribal gardeners built mounds on which they planted veggies.

Fish Net Theory: A 19th-century geologist / zoologist suggested the mounds were fish nests built when the area was under water.

Take your pick or invent one.

Source: “You know You’re in Washington When …” (Insiders’ Guide) by Sharon Wootton and Maggie Savage.

Free pass: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is waiving fees on Feb. 15 through 17, Presidents Day Weekend; June 7, National Trails Day; June 14, National Get Outdoors Day; Sept. 27, National Public Lands Day; and Nov. 8 to 11, Veterans Day Weekend.

National Parks, including Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, also offer fee-free days Presidents Day Weekend; National Park Week, April 19 and 20; National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25; National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27; and Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Carrie Compton clips leaves from the plants for sale at Houseplants Galore on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The great indoors: Houseplants to bring in a touch of spring

At Houseplants Galore in Everett, discover rare and beautiful plant specimens grown with care.

Cameron Hewitt
Switzerland's Lauterbrunnen Valley looks pastoral but it hides a powerful dose of natural wonder.
Rick Steves’ Europe: In the Swiss Alps, the laws of nature rule

The travel guru learned to respect the power of nature in the shadow of Switzerland’s towering Jungfrau.

Inside Elle Marie Hair Studio in Smokey Point. (Provided by Acacia Delzer)
The best hair salon in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied. Here are the results.

For more than a thousand years, Czech leaders – from kings and emperors to Nazis, communists, and presidents – have ruled from Prague Castle, regally perched on a hill above the Vltava River. Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli
Rick Steves’ Europe: History lives in Prague and its hilltop castle

It’s one of Europe’s best-preserved cities, having been spared from last century’s bombs.

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming
Trouble sleeping? Try these tips for getting a good night’s rest

Many adults turn to sleep aids, including alcohol, to help them rest, without realizing that their hectic lifestyles may be contributing to their sleeplessness.

The Stumbling Fiddler Band is scheduled to perform March 3 in Everett. (Photo provided by Port Gardner Bay Music Society)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with music by the Stumbling Fiddler Band in Everett.

I was charged an extra $250 for a mistaken car rental upgrade

When Leah Page picks up her rental car from Thrifty, it charges her a $250 upgrade fee. Can it do this without her permission, and how can she get a refund?

Naomi Jacobson as Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer in "Becoming Dr. Ruth" at Village Theatre in Everett. (Auston James)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

“Becoming Dr. Ruth,” which tells the sex therapist’s amazing back story, is now showing at Village Theatre in Everett.

Over 200 years, the magic lantern transformed into an educational peacock

Regarded as magic in the 1650s, this device was refined into the more scientific sounding sciopticon by the mid-1800s.

Market for sale plants. Many plants in pots
Snohomish Garden Club plans annual plant sale

The event is scheduled for April 27 at Swan’s Trail Farms. Proceeds will go to scholarships.

Start planting now so you can stop to smell your own roses all summer long

Late winter to early spring is perfect for planting roses. And with so many varieties to consider, there’s no time to waste.

The 2024 Mazda3 hatchback. (Mazda)
2024 Mazda3 adds a Carbon Turbo trim and more safety features

The charismatic compact is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.