Saar Creek erratic, near Sumas, Whatcom County

By Doug McKeever   February 16, 2010

Updated by Dave Tucker, April 30, 2011

Saar erratic sits right beside the road, crowned with an impressive crop of sword ferns. Click to enlarge any photo.

There is a large erratic sitting beside the Reese Hill Road east of Sumas, Whatcom County. It is on a steep slope, so when viewed from the road doesn’t look that huge…just a nice fern-covered rock, but from below, WOW!  The upslope side is buried and the thing is nearly covered with ferns, algae, and moss, making it hard to tell lithology.  (DT adds: The rock is pale green and cut with many tapering quartz veins. Examined in good light with a hand lens, it is evident that the rock is very silica-rich; it also contains 1 mm quartz phenocrysts (crystals) and probable mafic minerals, altered, pale gray, and tiny. The rock appears to be a very silicic, probably rhyolitic, lava. Source area? There is a Miocene silicic caldera up in the BC Coquihala area. Otherwise, no idea at this time.)

Dan McShane attempts to stem gravitational inevitability. Click to enlarge.

Saar Creek runs right below it, hence the name.  This rock would be hard to climb up, since it either overhangs on all sides or is covered with greenery, not to mention being smoothed in transport.  The one place it looked climbable is on the road side, but since there is a barbed wire fence just four feet away, I wanted a spotter (hate it when I get hung up on barbed wire).  It is also a bit difficult to get around this big erratic to examine it, since it is on a steep slope of somewhat loose material. The most frustrating thing is  that it lies in the woods, making picture taking awkward (I did my best)!

Anyway, I was able to stretch a 100-foot steel tape around the behemoth at ground level, and it measured 99 feet around!  But the maximum circumference is more, since it tapers from a fat middle to a slim trim base at the ground where I measured.  I would guess the maximum circumference is between 110 and 120 feet or more. For height, I used a 7-foot-long board with yellow flagging tape to give scale. The photo at right shows the board leaning up against the rock between two maple trees.  The board is 7′ long, so by doing the multiples trick, it looks like the  boulder is about 35′ tall.

One other thing…I wasn’t feeling so hot, yet despite my weakened condition, I tried to pick it up to get an idea of its weight, and my conclusion:  it’s really heavy.

Where freshly exposed, the rock is pale green due to very low grade metamorphism. Note the tapering quartz veins near the center.

Getting there: There are two ways to get to the Saar Creek erratic, either from Sumas, or from the Mount Baker Highway at Kendall. If you are coming via Sumas, start at the junction of Highways 9 and 547 (9 goes north to the border at the south edge of town). Head east on 547 for 3.2 miles; the erratic is on the west (right) side of the road ~0.3 miles beyond the intersection with Eagle Roost Drive, nearly at the top of the steep hill, and is unmistakable- watch for the ’40 mph curve’ warning sign. There is ample parking on the  left side of the road right across from the rock, and good visibility for safety. From Mount Baker Highway (Hwy 542) at Kendall, head north on 547. The road will jig around a lot, but the erratic will be on the left  7.5 miles from 542. If you reach Eagle Roost Drive you have gone too far. If you go, send a comment and let us know how these directions work out, and what you thought of this monster erratic.

7 Responses

  1. I’ve seen this one, but had no idea that it was that big. Thanks Doug and Dave.
    I’ll post a great erratic site soon on my blog for you to use and/or visit.

  2. Since this boulder lies on a steep slope, I’d like to see someone try to do a little “rock trundling”. All that is needed is a very large metal bar and a breakfast of Wheaties, and bingo! The thing would dam Saar Creek when it hit the bottom.

    Seriously, since the Reese Hill Road just misses the erratic, I have to wonder when the grade for the road was originally set, to what extent they had to adjust the grade to miss the rock. This one would be impossible to move and very time consuming to blast apart. I’m glad they did neither!

    • I’m glad they didn’t blast this thing, too. YOU could probably trundle this thing after one bowl of Wheaties, but NORMAL people would need at least two! And maybe two or three ‘very large metal bars’. ‘Course, the whole dang road might decide to slide if that rock was gone…

  3. I first saw this erratic when I mapped the glacial geology of the county many moons ago. The question I had then (and still have) is whether this is a Vashon Stade erratic or a Sumas Stade erratic. Most of the Vashon erratics are granitic, most of the Sumas are Jackass conglomerate. Sumas ice was the last in this neck of the woods, but the erratic could already have been here as a lag from Vashon ice. If anyone gets a good look at the lithology, I’d be interested.

    • I’ll dare to quibble with you on the Sumas/Jackass and Vashon/granodiorite correlation, Don. The final stage of glacial advance (Sumas) in the US, according to your mapping, didn’t quite reach Bellingham. The Donovan erratic, and another on Yew Street, are Jackass and were left a few miles beyond the margin of the Sumas 1 glacial advance (Sumas 1 extended further south of the 4 Sumas still stands). The ice sheets could pick up and move along any erratic left behind by a previous glaciation if it wasn’t buried in interglacial sediments.
      For readers unfamiliar with this final ice advance into Whatcom County, Don’s map of the extent of the 4 Sumas moraines is here, page 25.

  4. I found this article very interesting. My great grandfather was Peter Saar and the creek was named after him.

    Thank you for the article.

  5. Can anyone tell me where Saar Creek got its name? My last name is Saar, so I am wondering??? Thanks!

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