The soil in central Oregon likes to remind you of its origins by shouting it out to you in deep shades of red. Here is the view from Lava Butte, south of Bend. For more on visiting that area, see my post here.
Weekly Photo Challenge – Earth
Driving along U.S. Route 97 north of Redmond, Oregon, a bridge dramatically spanning a deep canyon grabs your attention. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge was built in 1911. It passes over the Crooked River, 320 feet below.
There is a nice rest area here with picnic tables, restrooms, and scenic viewpoints. You can get a bird’s eye views of birds of prey, swallows, and other cliff dwellers from here. We had a bald eagle glide over our heads while a turkey vulture drifted by nearby.
The Crooked River, true to its name, meanders in a twisting course through the canyon below the bridge. You get great views of the lichen covered cliffs from this viewpoint. This area was formed about 350,000 years ago as lava flows from the Newberry Volcano, 40 miles to the south, moved northwards.
This viewpoint is named after Peter Skene Ogden, who first entered central Oregon in 1825 when working as a trapper for the Hudson’s Bay Company. For more about the park, click here.
If you are a thrill seeker, you can bungee jump from the bridge in the summer. After a pilot program in 2016, the state gave final approval for bungee jumping businesses here.
Note the signs about leaving your dogs in the car. Unfortunately, some have perished when they accidentally ran off the cliffs.
The Crooked River Railroad Bridge has an interesting history. Two competing railroad companies were building rail lines on both sides of the Deschutes River in an attempt to be the first to reach the timber-rich country near Bend. There were also plans to connect this line to railroad lines from other parts of the state.
Jim Hill, owner of The Oregon Trunk Railway (a subsidiary of Great Northern Railway), worked on the west side of the river and Edward H. Harriman, owner of the Union Pacific Railway and other railroads, worked on the east side. Workers in the two competing companies got in fights and raided each other’s camps stealing food, alcohol, and supplies. When they reached Crooked River there was only one area where the geography allowed for bridge construction.
Since Jim Hill had bought that property two years before, Harriman’s company was forced to negotiate with him. Harriman had passed away in September of 1909. The terms of the settlement allowed other railroad companies to use the rail lines from the Columbia River to Bend. The two lines were eventually merged into one with the best grades adopted for use and the rest abandoned.
Construction of the bridge, designed by architect Ralph Modjeski, started on May 18, 1911 and it was completed on September 17 of that year. The fast pace was due to a rush to complete the line to Bend, 25.5 miles to the south. Jim Hill drove the golden spike in Bend on October 5, 1911.
If you visit the viewpoint, you will see three bridges. The Crooked River Railroad Bridge is located farthest west. The Crooked River High Bridge was completed in 1926 and it served as the main north-south highway until 2000. In 2000, the higher-capacity Rex T. Barber Veterans Memorial Bridge replaced that bridge. Formerly known as the Crooked River Bridge, its name was changed in 2003 to honor local World War II fighter pilot, Rex T. Barber. On one of his missions Lt. Barber, in his Lockheed P-38 Lightning, shot down a plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto over Bougainville Island, northeast of Australia. Admiral Yamamoto planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a lot of history, and beauty, associated with the Crooked River bridges.
Ready to celebrate a new month? If so, you might want to go to Bend, Oregon for the First Friday event. Every month select businesses keep their doors open late in support of the arts. Businesses in the downtown and Old Mill areas host artists while galleries feature the latest exhibits. This month Willow Lane Artist’s Creative Space joined First Friday for the first time.
As you walk around the area, you can stop in to view the art and get free drinks and snacks at the participating businesses. Some also have live music. It’s a popular event so get there early. We went a couple nights ago and the cool temperatures helped make the crowds a little smaller.
You never know what you will find at this event. One summer night we saw a young boy standing on a street corner putting out some amazing music on his fiddle. Just around the corner from him, a craftsman displayed his handmade leather works. Just across the street from them, a couple guys strummed on their guitars as they sang. Many passerbys stopped to admire the work of these artisans.
In the small downtown area, you can walk to a variety of galleries. One of my favorites is Red Chair Gallery. I always like looking at the wood boxes and carved pieces in this place. Mockingbird Gallery is the largest gallery downtown. They always have interesting metal sculptures there. Stunning nature photographs can be found at Jeffrey Murray Fine Art Photography. Multimedia artist Mary Medrano, known for her portrayals of animals, and jewelry artist Karen Bandy both work from studios downtown. Be sure to stop in the two frame shops downtown, High Desert Frameworks and Sage Custom Framing & Gallery, to look at their featured artists.
In the Old Mill district you can visit a gallery, a stained glass business, and a fiber artist studio. A large metal sculpture by local artist Greg Congleton can be found right outside the The Tumalo Art Co. There are a wide variety of artists showing their work inside the gallery. The DeWilde Art Glass studio is interesting because it’s housed in a 1912 building. The Little Red Shed was moved from nearby and was here when this site hosted two lumber mills. Lubbesmeyer Studio & Gallery features amazing fiber works by twin sisters Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer. They do detailed work that looks like wonderfully textured paintings.
The First Friday gallery walk was created more than 20 years ago by the Bend Gallery Association. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of the local art scene in an entertaining way.
My yard is blanketed with fresh snow and temperatures are in the teens but I’m glad I can think back to a warm summer day kayaking on Hosmer Lake. I hope to explore many new horizons in the new year and share them here.
To learn more about my great trip to Hosmer Lake, click here.
Weekly Photo Challenge – New Horizon
Fossilized teeth that form a shape like a buzzsaw were found in the 1800’s but the type of creature they belonged to was not determined until 2013. A research team consisting of people with backgrounds in art, science, and digital technology solved the mystery. The whorl of teeth belonged to Helicoprion, the buzzsaw shark or whorl toothed shark. This exhibit brings the findings of that research to life through the artwork of Ray Troll and the sculptures of Gary Straub.
A massive sculpture of the huge head of a buzzsaw shark bursts through the wall outside of the exhibit at the High Desert Museum and there are additional sculptures and detailed images inside the gallery. A large sculpture of a buzzsaw shark hangs over your head as you enter the gallery. The walls are covered with murals of waves and members of the shark family. Large colorful paintings show the shark family tree and how buzzsaw sharks swimming in the deep may have looked. Glass cases enclose fossils of the odd-shaped whorl of teeth. Projections of that whorl spin across the floor. Framed drawings of buzzsaw sharks hang on the walls. An interactive model of a buzzsaw shark skull shows the action of those formidable-looking teeth. You can sit on a comfy couch (emblazoned with a whorl pattern) and watch a video about the now-extinct shark.
When I was at the exhibit, I heard a five-year old boy entering the gallery with his family remark, “Wow! Mommy look at that!” Yes, this is a dramatic exhibit that contains a lot of visual interest and fascinating information. The whorl pattern is repeated throughout the exhibit. The artist also had a little fun with the exhibit by hiding several representations of cheeseburgers in the displays. Can you find any of them in the gallery?
At first scientists could not figure out what the creature was that possessed the whorl of teeth or where exactly on the animal they were located. The 2013 research team, Team Helico, used CT scans and 3D digital modeling to figure out that it fit into the lower jaw of an ancient shark. Alaskan artist Ray Troll, has been obsessed with the buzzsaw shark for over 20 years and lent his expertise to the team at Idaho Museum of Natural History. Ray is a well-known natural history artist who has lectured at places such as Harvard and Yale. His work has appeared at the Smithsonian and is featured in the current High Desert Museum exhibit.
As part of their research, Team Helico tried to determine exactly how the buzzsaw shark’s jaw worked. It didn’t slice through the head of the shark because it was blocked by small “stops” on the jaw. The team thought it likely that it ate soft-bodied prey because there wasn’t much tooth wear. It probably grabbed and sliced its prey between its tooth whorl and upper jaw and then swallowed it down its gullet.
As more and more of the distinctive whorl-shaped fossils were found in the early 20th century, scientists delineated many as separate species. Leif Tepanila and Jesse Pruitt, of the Idaho Museum of Natural History, did further analysis on the fossils and figured out there were only three distinct buzzsaw sharks species.
The teeth themselves are unique among sharks. Unlike other sharks, they formed a whorl as they grew and were never shed. A mature shark could have 150 or more teeth. New teeth form in a “tooth pit” in the back of the mouth and push the whorl forward when they erupt. They switch from being baby teeth to adult teeth at around tooth number 85. No one knows why their jaw has this unusual form.
We are always thankful for the work of our staff on setting up exhibits but this particular exhibit was a little different. The artist wanted lots of participation from staff and volunteers on the background work. Images were projected onto the walls and then painstakingly painted by numerous people at the Museum. If you were one of the people who worked on the display, be sure to go into the exhibit to see the final product. The people who participated in this project had a variety of skill levels and some were nervous about doing it “right.” Everyone should be proud of their work because it all came together into a wonderful looking exhibit!
I am reprinting this article I wrote for the October 2016 issue of High Desert Voices, a newsletter for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum. The exhibit will be at the Museum until April 23, 2017.
To see a fast-speed video of the installment of this exhibit, go here.
Do you want to go to the top of one of the few volcanoes in the U. S. located within the city limits? Pilot Butte is a cinder cone that rises 480 feet above the city of Bend. There are some amazing views from its 4,142 foot summit.
Look at this 360° “photo sphere” image that I took from the top. You can move the image around to see it all. It is a fantastic place!
About 190,000 years ago, Pilot Butte erupted and spewed glowing cinders and steam hundreds of feet into the air. The butte was covered in a foot of ash when Mount Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago. As Pilot Butte eroded away over the years, it evolved into the extinct cinder cone that we see today.
You can get to the top in a few different ways. The Nature Trail is a 0.8 mile hike and the Summit Road Trail and the Summit Drive Trail are both 1.0 mile long. There is also a road that winds around the butte. The road closes for several months during the fall and winter. The Nature Trail is a dirt trail that ranges from moderate to moderately steep. There are several benches where you can rest and take in the sights. The Summit Road Trail starts on the west side and follows the road. You can also access it from the east side via a short trail. That’s the Summit Drive Trail.
The butte is covered by bunchgrass, wildflowers, shrubs, and western juniper trees. You will see reddish volcanic soil along the trail and in road cuts.
You can see lots of interesting wildlife here. Mule deer can be common during certain times of the year. A cougar was seen on the butte a couple of years ago but they are not a common sight. You are much more likely to see a golden-mantled ground squirrel. Red-tailed hawks and other raptors hunt here so be sure to look up. You might also see (and hear) black-billed magpies and scrub jays. On warm days, western fence lizards might be out sunning themselves on rocks.
At the top of the butte there is a peak finder and several informational panels. You get spectacular views of several Cascade Mountain peaks to the west and north. You may be able to see Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, the three Sisters, Broken Top, Belknap Crater, Black Butte, and Mount Bachelor. To the south you get a great look at some of the 400 cinder cones that are a part of the Newberry system. Newberry volcano blew about 400,000 years ago and its lava flows covered 1,200 square miles in this region. To learn more about Newberry, click here to read one of my previous posts. To the east, you’ll see Powell Butte and the Ochoco Mountains.
You get great views of the city of Bend and the Deschutes River. You will also see the irrigation canals cut across the city on their way to the east and north.
The property where the butte is located was owned by the Foley family and was donated to the state in 1928. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint is the most visited state park in eastern Oregon.
There is a local tradition of setting off big fireworks from the butte on the Fourth of July. It is not uncommon for fires to start from the falling embers. Firefighters are up there ready to put them out. Since the butte rises nearly 500 feet above the land below, it is easy to see the fireworks display from many locations in and around Bend.
The day we hiked at Paulina Lake, 25 miles east of Bend, the weather forecast was a bit iffy. In fact, the location for our hike had been changed to a warmer locale but we decided to go for it.
Paulina Lake sits at 6,350 feet in elevation and snow was predicted. We started our hike at Paulina Lake Lodge and hiked two and a half miles to the hot springs. We ran into snow, rain, hail, and sun on that October day.
The trail hugged the side of the lake so we had good views of it the whole way. Paulina Lake, and it’s fraternal twin East Lake, sit in a caldera that formed after Newberry volcano blew and then collapsed. Paulina Lake is 1,531 acres in size with depths up to 250 feet. To learn more about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, click here for one of my previous posts.
The trail was relatively smooth with little elevation gain. At the beginning of the trail there were a few areas where the trail had been cut through fallen timber. In parts of the trail, the soil was brick red reflecting it’s volcanic origins. Lichens covered tree trunks in shades of fluorescent green.
As we made our way towards the hot springs, a cool breeze blew over the lake. I have been to a dozen hot springs and this one is a little unusual. The small springs sit along the shoreline of the lake and people dig them out to increase their size. They are only visible when the water levels are low. I did not try them out on this cold day but I have heard two or three of them are a “cool” 95 ° F while the other is about 110° F. It is weird that they are such a cool temperature when recent research determined that the magma beneath the lakes reaches a temperature of 654 ° F.
Fishing at this lake can be very good. The state record brown trout, at 27 pounds 12 ounces, and state record kokanee, at 4 pounds 2 ounces, were caught here. There are also rainbow trout in the lake. People troll fish, cast, or still fish here depending on the season. There is a boat ramp at the lodge and at Little Crater and Paulina Campgrounds. Click here for more info on Paulina Lake and the fishing opportunities there.
If you’re looking for a short hike to a couple small, quiet lakes, try out the hike to Blow Lake and Doris Lake southwest of Bend. It’s only a mile to Blow Lake and another mile and a half from there to Doris Lake. There are 400 feet of elevation gain. You can park at the Six Lakes Trailhead along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. As the trail name implies, there are six wilderness lakes to explore here.
The elevation here is 5,310 feet and you pass through subalpine forest on your way to the lakes. Blow Lake is 45 acres in size. Windfall trees form a frame along one edge of the lake and can be seen resting on the bottom of this clear lake. Doris Lake, a mile and a half away, is slightly larger at 69 acres in size.
Fall foliage looked beautiful during late September. Huckleberry leaves showed a lot of color. Even the meadow grasses and sedges showed shades of red along their golden edges.
We didn’t see a lot of wildlife on that particular day but did see gray jays, red-breasted nuthatch, mountain chickadees, and ravens. Both lakes contain brook trout that can get up to 14” in size.
Be prepared on any trips you make into the backcountry and help to preserve its beauty for the rest of us. Thanks!
Looking out of the mouth of the Fort Rock cave at the Sagebrush Sea, one can only imagine the thoughts of those that lived there thousands of years ago. Sagebrush sandals, determined to be 9,300-10,250 years old, were found in the cave. These sandals are the oldest ever found in the world.
Luther S. Cressman, an archaeologist and founder of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon, found the sandals in 1938. He knew they were old but some of his colleagues doubted their age. The radiocarbon dating process had not been developed yet. In 1951, he was vindicated when the sandals were radiocarbon dated using the new process.
A small hearth was found in the cave and it was radiocarbon dated to be 15,000 years old. Several stone tools were found nearby. Though that date was questioned by some, in 2009 human coprolites (fossilized poop) determined to be from 14,300 years ago were found in nearby Paisley Cave. In 2009 a multiple function tool made from agate was discovered in Rimrock Draw Rock Shelter, near Riley, Oregon. It may have been made as long ago as 16,000 years ago.
Other ancient sandals have been found but never in the quantity found at Fort Rock. Nearly 100 sandals were found ranging from child-sized to adult. They are all the same style with a flat bottom and flap covering the toe area. The sagebrush bark is woven in a distinctive twining style. Sandals of this type were found at various locations in southeast Oregon and northern Nevada. In more recent times, ethnographers found that members of the Klamath and Paiute tribes, who lived in the Fort Rock area, wore footwear woven from sagebrush and tule.
The location where the sandals were found was likely a lake shore 10,000 years ago. Native peoples may have lived there because of the easy access to game, fish, and edible plants. At the present time, the cave borders a huge expanse of dry sagebrush steppe habitat. The climate changed after Mount Mazama blew 7,600 years ago. A thick layer of ash from that eruption blanketed an area covering 500,000 square miles in western North America.
If you want to see this site, you will need to go with a guide since access is regulated by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in partnership with the University of Oregon. Go here for more information – Fort Rock Cave.
If you want to see the sandals in person, there are some on display at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Click here for a good photo of them – sandals. The Museum also has a collection of stone tools and other fiber artifacts excavated from the cave. You can see a small display about the sandals at the Fort Rock Valley Homestead Museum. See my post on that Museum and information about the Fort Rock formation here.
I recently went on a two-mile trek to the center of the earth. Okay, not quite the center of the earth but the trail did lead underneath Highway 97 – the main North-South highway in these parts. I decided to visit Lava River Cave before it shut down for the season. This cave is located 12 miles south of Bend, Oregon in the Newberry Volcanic National Monument area.
I had heard that there was limited parking so I got there early. WAY too early! I forget that I only live a half an hour from many of these geological attractions.Check the operating hours and entrance pass requirements for Lava River Cave here.
It is a cool but creepy experience to go into some of these caves. When I say cool, I really mean cool. The average temperature inside this cave is 43° F so dress accordingly. You can bring your own lights but they rent high-power flashlights there for only $5. I chose to help support the site by renting their light. They have a donation jar near the exit so you can make additional contributions there.
At 5,466 feet in length, Lava River Cave is one of Oregon’s longest lava tubes. Lava from Newberry Volcano flowed down here about 100,000 years ago. As the lava drained away, it created this long tube. The lava was 2,000° F!
Lava tubes are often discovered when a part of the roof collapses, exposing the cave below. This cave was discovered in 1899 by stockman and trapper, Leander Dillman. The site was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1981 and was included in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument when it was established in 1990.
One of the unique features in this cave is the presence of “sand gardens.” Over time, sediment washes through cracks in the roof and it partially fills the cave. These sand gardens form as water droplets erode the sand fill away. They look a bit like very small badland formations.
The cave is about a mile long to the end. I only had to duck to avoid hitting my head in a couple of spots. Much of the cave has a roof that is high overhead. Wear good boots and watch your step.
It took me 50 minutes on the way in to get to the end as I attempted to take many pictures. On the way out it only took about 25 minutes since I was walking much faster. Note that you are required to listen to a very short talk on protecting local bat populations from White-nose Syndrome prior to going into the cave.
One last thing…I saw a group of several young mothers carrying infants in front packs. No, just no. When you start the walk, you go down a series of ramps and 55 metal stairs. Then you get into some rough ground for a short while. Though much of the walk is over fairly smooth ground, you will run into rough sections and you can stumble even when using a good light. Lava River Cave is a nice cave to visit but I would not recommend it for young children or people who have mobility issues. Just my two cents worth…
There are plenty of sights to see around here. See my posts on the following for more information: Lava Cast Forest, Lava Butte, Lava Lands Visitor Center, and Happy Bday Newberry! Note that the visitor center and some of the attractions close during fall and winter months.
Set along the scenic Deschutes River, the Art in the High Desert event features 110 artists from throughout North America. Based on its sales of fine art, it is ranked number 12 for best fine arts festival in the nation. This is the ninth year of the event. The show features a wide variety of two- and three-dimensional artwork.
My favorite works there this year were created by local artist, Jason Waldron. He makes three-dimensional works created with wood and metal scraps salvaged in Central Oregon. They are large, dramatic, and expressive. Check them out at Waldron 3D.
Did you know that you can surf on the Deschutes River? Yes, thanks to the creation of the Bend Whitewater Park you too can hang ten on the river that flows through Bend, Oregon. Maybe you would rather float down in an inner tube – you can do that too. Maybe you want to get a glimpse of some wildlife – that’s also an option. The river was split into three channels: the Habitat Channel for wildlife; the Whitewater Channel for kayaks, surfboards, and stand up paddleboards; and the Passageway Channel for inner tubes and small rafts.
A 100-year old dam was recently removed from the river near the Colorado Avenue Bridge and an “amusement park” was put in by Bend Parks and Recreation. At a cost of nearly $10 million dollars, some questioned its value. Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, one of the local groups in support of this park, contributed over $1 million towards the project. The voter-approved bond said that water recreationists would have “safe passage” once the project was completed. That’s a good idea since people were injured or lost their lives because of the dam.
A wild river does not always cooperate with the plans of engineers. Inner tubers were getting hurt on the rocks last spring when water levels were still high. That section was temporarily closed down. Now that water levels are lower and some additional work has been done on the channels, tubers can once again enjoy the river.
However, you may not want to try to go down this section in a canoe. The guy in the red canoe on the right side of the photo above capsized. There is a portage route where you can walk around if you don’t want to try the rapids.
The course of the channel that is for surfers, paddleboarders, and kayakers can be altered by adjusting 25 bladders in the river. A Wave Master controls the course with an app on his iPad.
I walk right by here looking for wildlife. I am hoping some of the critters that used to be here will return when all of the construction is completed. This was a great spot to see swallows, mergansers, osprey, cedar waxwings, and the occasional dipper. See my previous post on Birding Around Bend for more info. I have also seen beaver, river otter, and muskrats near the Whitewater Park. You never know what animals you will find here.
Many people start their float at Riverbend Park and get out at Mirror Pond in Drake Park. You can also do a shorter float by starting at McKay Park, where the Whitewater Park is. A Ride the River shuttle can take you and your inner tube back upriver where you parked for a small fee.
Tucked away in Oregon’s Outback, you will find a unique place that hearkens back to an earlier time. The Cowboy Dinner Tree is a small restaurant located in Silver Lake Oregon, about an hour and a half southeast of Bend. The restaurant is only open from 4:00-8:30 pm four days per week and reservations are required. They give you ample portions of food here and you are advised to bring a cooler for leftovers. They do not take credit cards or debit cards so have cash on hand.
You have your choice of a 26-30 oz. top sirloin steak or a whole roasted chicken. Both are accompanied by several tasty side dishes. There is green salad, hearty soup, old fashioned sweet yeast rolls, baked potato, and a dessert. You can have coffee, iced tea, or pink lemonade with your meal. On the day we were there, they served bean soup and a small shortcake with fresh berries. Everything is homemade and made daily.
Many years ago, ranchers pushed their cattle through this area on the way to the lush meadows of Sycan Marsh. The Dinner Tree, a big old juniper tree, was at the halfway-point. There was a small shack where the restaurant now sits and hungry ranchers stopped here for some grub from the chuck wagon. The food they had then was probably buckaroo beans and biscuits – not the large meal now served at the Cowboy Dinner Tree. The site was a homestead back in the late 1800’s and it was converted into a restaurant in 1992.
Today the Cowboy Dinner Tree is a popular destination. They have a restaurant, gift store, and a couple of cabins for lodging. The lodging has been so popular that they are in the process of adding five additional cabins. The gift store features items crafted by local artisans and craftspeople.
We arrived at about 4:30 pm and the place was filling up fast. We had a large group so we shared a long table but there are also smaller tables available. The place is decorated with cowboy print curtains and lots of related items such as horse bits, ropes, stirrups, and saddles. Dollar bills scrawled with notes from customers adorn the walls and ceiling.
The food was great and the server, Cowboy Dinner Tree owner Angel Roscoe, was very attentive. She and her husband, John, took over the restaurant from her mom in 2012. You will not leave feeling hungry that’s for sure! As their website says – Join us for a taste of the real Old West.
Last weekend I was out looking for some of the 11+ species of woodpeckers that can be seen near Sisters, Oregon. The Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival brings birdwatchers from all over the world into the woodpecker-rich habitats in the area. East Cascades Audubon Society has been putting on the well-attended event since 2011. There were 17 different field trips this year.
It was a hot day and stunning views of the Sisters peaks, Black Butte, and Mt Jefferson welcomed us.
Our group looked for birds near Camp Sherman. We saw seven types of woodpecker including Lewis’s woodpecker, red-breasted sapsucker, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, white-headed woodpecker, black-backed woodpecker, and northern flicker. We saw about 60 species of birds that day including a few of my favorites like osprey, western tanager, black-headed grosbeak, and cedar waxwings.
As always, I am more there for the experience than looking for specific birds. We visited the Metolius River near where its headwaters spring forth from the ground. It is an impressive river. An American dipper bobbed along the shores in search of prey.
It’s been a great year for wildflowers. We saw lupine, columbine, blue flax, sego lily, and many other plants bursting with flowers.
Special thanks go to our fearless leader, Tony Kutzen, and to the East Cascades Audubon Society. Here’s a photo of the groups waiting to leave for the various field trips in the morning with Tony posing on the left side of the photo. It’s great to go out with such a knowledgeable birder. He was not able to show me the ivory-billed woodpecker I requested but oh well. 😉
Nature’s fireworks on display
Exploding in a timeless rhythm
Welcoming visitors to share
In a celebration of Spring
Maybe Newberry National Volcanic Monument can light its own candles for its 25th birthday celebration. It’s young as a monument and is also young in geological terms.
The amazing, and appropriately named, Big Obsidian Flow feature was formed a mere 1,300 years ago. You can walk up a trail that winds through a massive mountain of sparkling obsidian. When I say massive I mean MASSIVE – 380 million cubic yards! From a distance, the landscapes appear to be a real life version of Mordor. Up close, the shimmering reflections all around you are dazzling.
If you are at the Monument on a clear day, you might want to drive up Paulina Peak. When the Newberry volcano erupted 7,000 years ago, it collapsed and formed a caldera. Paulina Peak is what is left of the volcanic peak. It is 7,983 feet tall but was likely 500-1,000 feet higher before the eruption. If the weather cooperates, you will get a glimpse of peaks in Washington state and California from its summit.
Be forewarned that the road up is “primitive.” In this case, primitive means that parts of the road consist of bone-jarring washboard. The view from the top is worth it though.
From the top of Paulina Peak you get a great view of Paulina Lake and Twin Lake. These two lakes formed in the caldera created after the Newberry volcano erupted. Hot springs are present at both of these lakes. There are plenty of places to camp nearby. If you’re into fishing, the lakes have a plentiful supply of kokanee, brown trout, rainbow trout, and Atlantic salmon.
The road into this area is closed during winter near the Ten Mile Sno-Park but there are a lot groomed trails for winter activities. I went snowshoeing there on February 20 for the Winter Recreation Celebration. The Discover Your Forest group once again hosted free guided walks. Our group was small but there was a lot to see there. It’s a much different habitat than Mt. Bachelor. There were snowmobiles using some of the trails but the cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails had light usage.
The last big events planned around the 25th birthday celebration of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument occur between June 30 – July 4th. There will be a re-dedication of the Monument. On July 4th there will be a fireworks display in La Pine. It will celebrate the 10th anniversary of La Pine, the 30th year of the Frontier Days celebration, and the 100th anniversary of Deschutes County.
You can get to top of the Lava Butte cinder cone by hopping onto a shuttle or taking a short hike from its base. The 500-foot tall butte is located at the Lava Lands Visitor Center in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument about eight miles south of Bend, Oregon. Lava Butte is one of the hundreds of cinder cones in the immediate area.
Lava Butte erupted about 7,000 years ago. There are several trails that wind through the ancient lava flows and onto the flanks of the butte. There were three main gutters where most of the lava flowed. Ten square miles of pine forest were buried by lava. The lava flows blocked the Deschutes River in five places. If you walk the trail to Benham Falls you can see where the river has made its way through the lava rock.
When the eruption of Lava Butte occurred, gas-charged lava was ejected into the sky. Cinders cooled and collected to form the 500 foot tall cone shape you see today. Giant balls of lava can be seen along the trail. These “snowballs” started out as small pieces of molten rock and as they rolled through the lava flow, they grew in size. If you could cut one of them open, it would resemble a cinnamon roll in form.
The basalt rocks have less silica in them so they aren’t shiny like obsidian. The cinders are used locally to gravel the roads in snowy and icy weather conditions. The lava rocks are also used for landscaping purposes.
The wildlife that live in the lava lands have to adapt to the harsh conditions. You may see some of the small rodents such as the American pika, Ochtana princeps, yellow-pine chipmunk, Eutamias amoenus, or golden-mantled ground squirrel, Spermophilus latreralis. You may hear the sweet song of the rock wren, Salpintes obsoletus, before you see it. You may also hear the sound of the pallid-winged grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis. Their call has been likened to the sound of a sprinkler.
The plant life has also adapted to the dry, or xeric, conditions. You may see varieties of rabbitbrush and buckwheat growing between the lava rocks. If you are there at the right time of the year, you will see the showy colors of Davidson’s penstemon, Penstemon davidsonii, or Oregon sunshine, Eriophyllum lanatum. Wax currant, Ribes cereum, has berries that were used in the past by Native Americans in the making pemmican – which is similar to beef jerky.
Many of the remaining trees in the area have a twisted form. The rocks take a long time to break down into soil here in the very dry conditions. The trees send out a taproot that searches for water. The spiral growth form allows all of the branches to get water. One of the tree trunks here is referred to as the “Lava Ness Monster” since it resembles the Loch Ness Monster in profile.
The Lava Lands Visitor Center is only open from May 1 to October 31. You can purchase a recreation pass at the entrance gate or use one you may already have. Due to very limited parking at the top of Lava Butte, you must board the shuttle to drive to the top. The fee to ride the shuttle is $2 round trip.
There are several trails around the butte. I have walked on the 1.1-mile long Trail of the Molten Land and have also driven to the top and walked around the crater. There is a fire lookout at the peak but it is not open to the public. Information about the trails can be found inside the visitor center. Click here to see my article about the Lava Lands Visitor Center .
Fun fact: Astronauts trained here in 1966. NASA thought the landscapes of the moon might be similar to this habitat.
Oregon WinterFest celebrates the winter season here in Central Oregon. This is the 17th year of the event. Here are few more photos from the recent event. You can see pictures of some of the ice sculptures above. The bird sculpture was still in the process of being carved.
The Fire King and Ice Queen made their entry on horseback. The queen called herself “Princess Ariel Anna Belle Elsa Cinderella Rapunzel.”
There were booths to get food, beverages, and handmade crafts inside the large tents. There were also quite a few food carts outside.
The Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild had demonstrations and workshops scheduled throughout the event. You could make your own large wall hook for $20.
There were several bands playing at the event. A couple of my favorites were The Company Grand and the B Side Brass Band. The Company Grand is a 10-member band that harkens back to the big band era while throwing in some modern sounds. B Side Brass Band is a New Orleans inspired band with a great sound and a lot of enthusiasm. Both bands are local.
There were many other activities at the event including a high-flying dirt bike show, a flying dog show, a Children’s Area, a Star Wars themed run, and a wine walk. I previously posted pictures of the Fire Pit Competition.
This year the proceeds from admission fees went to Saving Grace, a local organization that provides support services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. If you are thinking about going next year, keep in mind that the money raised goes towards local causes.
Sometimes you forget to appreciate what is in your own back yard. Last week I took a quick trip to Smith Rock as the sun was setting. I will go back when I have more time…
Did that get your attention? I went to the Oregon WinterFest event here in Bend this weekend and took some pictures of the Fire Pit Competition that I wanted to share with you. This is the 17th year of the festival so it has a long history in the area. This is the fourth year for the fire pit competition and there are more entries every year.
The dragon and a fire pit with the flag bridge and Deschutes River in the background.
The fire pits came in many shapes and sizes.
This one had an enclosure with mirrors.
This one was like a huge globe.
Flowers of flame and a burning stump.
This one tied everything together into a nice package.
Some were tall and others were closer to the ground.
Visitors were glad to have many places to warm up.
Some of the pieces were very intricate.
Would you prefer steaming hot espresso or a roasted garlic?
This one provided shelter from the breezy conditions on Saturday night.
You could tell that the artists put a lot of heart into their work.
Hope you have a nice Valentines’s Day!
When you go outside into parts of the 135-acre property, you will be able to visit various exhibits. The Autzen Otter area is being renovated and won’t be open again until sometime in the spring of 2016. Be sure to stop by to see the entertaining otters once the exhibit reopens.
Keep going around the trail and make a brief stop at the wildlife viewing area. Here you might get a glimpse of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, squirrels, and chipmunks. You might get lucky and spot a hawk or owl waiting to get a snack.
The Wind, Earth, and Fire Trail is nearby and it shows how fire plays an important role in forest development. Keep following the trail and stop into the Changing Forests exhibit to learn about forests in the area.
Next you will see the Miller Family Ranch. The buildings there are built to show what a farm in 1904 would have looked like. Peek inside the cabin to see how a family lived and watch interpreters demonstrate life in those times. There’s also a barn, corral, chicken coop, saw mill, and even an outhouse. The woven wood corral is practical but also a work of art. You may see horses, donkeys, and chickens at the ranch.
Continue on the trail and you will come to an overlook at a small pond. You’ll get a great look at the native Redband trout from there.
Keep walking on the trail and you’ll get to the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center. See the porcupines in their enclosure just outside the door? The Museum has bald and golden eagles, a turkey vulture, a barn owl, a great horned owl, and other birds in their collection. Most of the animals at the Museum were injured or kept as pets so they would not be able to make it in the wild.
Head back to the main building and be sure to stop at the Silver Sage Trading store. There are books, artwork, clothing, toys, and many other items related to the high desert and current exhibits at the Museum. You might be able to find a piece of unique jewelry or something kind of quirky like dog treats containing beer byproducts.
Near the store, there’s a Whose Home? area for young children to climb and play in. They can pretend they are a baby bird in a huge nest. There is also an outside play area called Dig, Crawl, Climb! Kids can pretend like they are a giant spider or some kind of burrowing creature hiding in a hole.
As you leave the building through the main entrance, be sure to look up. There is a metal sculpture of a sagebrush plant that shows just how big their root system really is. This icon of the Wild West has adapted to the harsh environment of the high desert. A visit to the High Desert Museum will teach you how plants and animals have adapted to the environment and how people, past and present, have learned to thrive there.
For more information go to High Desert Museum
Tucked away in the pines south of Bend, you will find a magical place. The High Desert Museum may not be what you expect when you see the word “Museum” in its name. Yes, it does have artifacts in permanent and rotating exhibits but they are beautifully displayed in buildings that blend into the environment. There is much more to this place than traditional exhibits.
The rotating exhibits cover many facets of the high desert. In December of 2015, these included one on weather, one on sage grouse, and another on women of the American West. There are daily talks and demonstrations about nature and history related to exhibits at the Museum. The Museum also has people dressed in period clothing interpreting history and a small collection of desert wildlife.
One of the first things you see as you drive up the long driveway is the small High Desert Ranger Station. This was an actual station and it was built in 1933 and moved here in the 1980’s. It’s only open during the summer months.
Inside the main building in the Spirit of the West section, you’ll see a typical encampment of Native Americans, part of a Hudson’s Bay Company fort, and then walk past a wagon travelling on the Oregon Trail. You will wind your way through a mine and then come out into a re-created town. You may see one of the miners trying to strike it rich. You might see one of the shopkeepers or a banker going about their business.
The By Hand Through Memory exhibit focuses on local tribes including the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, Spokane, and Colville. The exhibit includes modern conveniences in some of the displays to show how tribal members adjusted to change. The path through this exhibit winds past displays showing native people collecting food, a large collection of beaded bags and other items, a tepee, a small house representing life in the mid-1900’s, and a display of fishing in a river. Outside the exhibit, a volunteer may explain some of the older and modern artifacts from local tribes.
The Desertarium exhibit lets you get up close and personal with some desert wildlife. No, these are not stuffed specimens – they are live animals. This part of the Museum has insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Check out some of the wildlife of the high desert such as the burrowing owl. There’s also a bobcat in an enclosure in a nearby hallway.
It is easy to see why the Painted Hills are designated as one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders. The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is 3,132 acres in size and it is located nine miles northwest of Mitchell, Oregon. If you visit the Painted Hills after rainstorms move through the area, the colors will look more intense from the recent moisture. The colors are striking no matter what season it is. It is like looking at a parfait of luscious layers spread out before you. The deep crimson and black layers at the base of the hills contrast with the sandy browns and golds of upper layers.
The color of the hills is due to volcanic eruptions and changes in climate. Over 35 million years ago this area was part of a river flood plain covered by thick forests of semitropical plants. Abundant ash fall and lava floods helped to shape most of the formations. Erosion started about five million years ago. The area was later subjected to immense forces that tilted the layers downward to the east. Basalt floods hardened and protected softer layers underneath from erosion. Over time the layers of ash and vegetation-rich soil became exposed.
The strata in the John Day formations include Big Basin (28-39 million years ago), Turtle Cove (22-28 million years ago), Picture Gorge Ignimbrite (28 million years ago), Haystack Valley (20-22 million years ago), and Picture Gorge Basalts (16 million years ago).
For more information, go to http://www.nps.gov/joda/planyourvisit/ptd-hills-unit.htm
There is a link to a map that gives information on several trails in the area ranging from ¼ mile to 1.6 miles in length.
The Painted Hills are extremely photogenic so don’t forget a good camera, phone, or other device. You will want to bring back a memory of the surreal landscape.
If you drive just a couple of hours east of Bend, Oregon you will find strikingly painted hills and a center devoted to paleontology. The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center will impress you with fascinating information and artfully displayed artifacts. Wow! What a place.
In 1862 minister and self-trained scientist Thomas Condon learned there were fossils in the John Day basin from soldiers stationed in the area. He began excavating fossils in 1865 and sent specimens to the east coast for verification. There was a great amount of interest in the specimens he uncovered. He was later appointed to be Oregon’s first state geologist due to his many discoveries.
Fossil collectors collected as much as they could as fast as they could for many years. In the late 1800’s, John C. Merriam, Professor of Geology at the University of California, developed a new practice when collecting specimens. Detailed notes were taken about the layer of rock strata a specimen was collected in. Merriam, along with Ralph W. Chaney and Chester Stock, led the way in correlating the fossils found in each layer with the geological age of the strata.
As early as 1903, concerns were voiced over the preservation of the fossil beds. Concerned citizens wanted the area to be designated as a state park. They later pushed for the protection that national park status would provide. In 1975 the area was designated as the John Day National Monument. In 1984 Ted Fremd was hired as the Monument’s first paleontologist. He developed a program of systematic prospecting, mapping of geology, and radiometric dating of the rock layers. Scientists in a wide variety of fields were employed in helping to understand the flora, fauna, and geology of the region.
The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center was built in 2003 and houses fossils found in the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and areas nearby. It is located in the Sheep Rock Unit near Dayville, Oregon. Visitors can get a good view of scientists carefully cleaning fossils found in the field as they work in a lab with large viewing windows. Scientists have found 2,200 species of plants and animals in the lands of this National Monument. The Center displays fossils in glass cases and large murals with re-creations of what scenes may have looked like when those animals and plants existed. A small store with fossil and dinosaur-related products is located in the lobby.
The Monument covers 14, 000 acres in its three units. The units are many miles apart and services are limited so plan in advance. There are several trails in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to give you a close-up view of the landscape. Since this is a National Monument, collecting fossils is not allowed.
Digging for fossils is allowed on the hill located just behind Fossil High School in the town of Fossil. I have collected fossils at that location and the site is easily accessible. For more information on collecting fossils there, go to http://www.oregonpaleolandscenter.com/#!wheeler-high-school-fossil-beds/c17uw
To find out more about the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, go to http://www.nps.gov/joda/learn/photosmultimedia/Thomas-Condon-Paleontology-Center.htm
The Lava Lands Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits that focus on volcanology, geology, ecology, and archeology locally and in regions nearby. As I entered the exhibit area, I noticed the red “lava flows” in the carpet that guide you through the display. Display boards are big, bright, and bold and contain A LOT of information.
This small visitor center is a great place to start if you plan to explore some of the 54,000+ acres of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument located south of Bend, Oregon. The Monument was created in 1990 and it encompasses unique geological features, lava flows, and many lakes. Newberry Volcano is a 600-square mile shield volcano and it has had at least two eruptions where part of it collapsed forming a caldera. The 17-square mile Newberry Crater is actually a caldera. You can drive to the highest remaining part of the caldera rim. It is known as Paulina Peak and is 7,985 feet high.
Temperatures beneath the caldera have been measured at up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and the area is being explored as a source of geothermal energy. Though drilling cannot occur within the boundaries of the Monument, nearby wells have shown potential. Proposed power plants could produce enough energy to supply 30,000 people.
This area is referred to as being a part of the “Ring of Fire” due to the presence of volcanic activity and features. Signs of an impending volcanic eruption in this region are outlined and they include gas emissions, steam eruptions, uplift, and earthquakes. Local environments and human populations might be affected by ash fall, lava flows, and lahars – fast moving mudflows consisting of ash, soil, and water. The three volcanoes showing the most potential for activity are South Sister, Newberry Volcano, and Mt. Hood.
Mount Mazama erupted relatively recently in geological time and it is featured in part of the exhibit. About 7,700 years ago it had a major eruption that spread ash northwards into western Canada and eastward to Nebraska. The ash produced by that eruption was about 100 times that produced by Mt. St. Helens in 1980. The explosions emptied the magma chamber beneath the summit and it collapsed and later filled with water. The resulting lake, Crater Lake, is the deepest lake in the U.S. and has been measured to a depth of 1,949 feet.
There are examples of several types of rocks associated with volcanic activity. You can see obsidian, pumice, rhyolite, basalt, welded tuff, basalt, cinders, and ash. There is a big piece of obsidian in an open display case and a sign encourages you to touch it. Its smooth, glasslike surface reflects every ray of light.
As scientists have studied the area, they have learned about the people that lived here thousands of years ago. Archeologists discovered a fire hearth containing obsidian points and other clues about the former residents on one of their study sites. Examples of obsidian points are in another part of the exhibit. The art of flint-knapping, where chips of stone are flaked off to form useful tools from obsidian and other types of stones, is more than 10,000 years old. Another display shows handcrafted items made by Native Americans today using local rushes and other materials. The origins for these patterns likely were passed down over thousands of years. The exhibit mentions the adaptability of Native Americans as they dealt with climate change, volcanic activity, and an influx of settlers. They incorporated explanations for some of the volcanic events into their mythology.
Be sure to check out the small gift store next to the exhibit area. There is a large 3-D map of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument that not only shows you the scale of the Monument but also shows some of the geological features. Can you see the many cinder cones? It’s a better than average gift store and it contains books, maps, art prints, t-shirts, mugs, and toys.
Note that the Visitor Center is only open for part of the year. It closes in mid-October and opens again in the beginning of May. For more information about the center, go here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/deschutes/recreation/recarea/?recid=38394
Last week I went to the Metolius Preserve on a short hike with the Deschutes Land Trust (DLT). This 1,240 acre preserve is located about ten miles west of Sisters, OR and was acquired by the DLT in 2003.
Ponderosa pine trees dominate the landscape but there are also Douglas fir, grand fir, incense cedar, and western larch trees. The pine trees near the kiosk are spaced about 30-40 feet apart and bunchgrass forms the dominant ground cover. Though the habitat appears natural, the forest has been restored with the help of Pacific Stewardship. The forest has been thinned and prescribed burns have been planned to foster an old-growth type of habitat. They have even created snags so that some of the 13 types of woodpeckers that live here find a good place to feed and nest. Bunchgrass has also been planted.
October is a great month to visit the area because the vine maple trees are in full color and the western larch is turning its distinctive golden-yellow color. Western larch, aka tamarack, is an unusual type of conifer tree because they drop their needles in the winter. This region is at the southwestern edge of the larch’s range.
We learned that grand fir competes with western larch in this area so DLT has taken steps to manage it. They host a Christmas tree-cutting event in December where visitors are encouraged to cut grand fir so that the larch can flourish.
One of the first things our guide, David Miller, pointed out to us was lichen. Lichens are a partnership between a fungus and an alga and/or cyanobacteria. The lichen we were looking at is called Brown-eyed sunshine. Isn’t that a great common name?
We paused at a small lookout dock to look at Lake Creek and learn about some of the fish in this area. Redband trout are in this area and if they can manage to get all the way to the ocean and then come back, they are then known as steelhead. There are also bull trout here. Kokanee are a landlocked type of salmon and if they go out to sea and come back they are known as sockeye salmon. A lot of effort has gone into making sure some of the kokanee can make it back. They are trucked around two dams. It is hoped that Chinook salmon will one day be a major player here.
DLT employed the help of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council to improve the habitat for fish on the preserve. A road and culvert were removed. Plants were put in by the stream in the riparian zone. We looked at some of the plants near the creek including black hawthorn, mountain alder, ninebark, chokecherry, serviceberry, willow, mock orange, wax currant, Nootka rose, bald hip rose, bittersweet nightshade, and horsetail. We saw lots of bulrush in the streambed.
In drier areas nearby we saw vine maple, Oregon grape, green-leaf manzanita, chinquapin, snowberry, dwarf bilberry, bracken fern, Virginia strawberry, yarrow, trailing blackberry, and Peck’s penstemon. We saw a silky lupine and also a dwarf form of lupine. We saw some pearly everlasting flowers (another one of my favorite common names), round-leaf alumroot, flax, and salsify. There were few flowers left at this time of the year. Dried tarweed plants were on the trail that we walked on.
Here are a few tidbits I learned about some of these plants:
The year is 1905 and you have traveled thousands of miles across the country. You spot a fort-shaped rock formation in the distance and know you are finally close to your destination. A sage thrasher perched atop sagebrush seems to be singing its melodic song to welcome you. As you draw closer, you see several buildings clustered around a windmill-driven well. The wind blows the desert dust into your eyes. Blinking to make sure it’s not a mirage; you can’t help but let out a sigh of relief. You made it – you are finally here.
Though that account was fictional, it would be easy to imagine that kind of scenario as you tour the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Village Museum. The site currently contains 12 buildings from the early 1900’s that were moved to the site from various locations in Central Oregon. A replica blacksmith shop was constructed at the site in 2006 using reclaimed wood and other materials. Volunteers restored the buildings and carefully furnished them with artifacts. As you walk into a house with the table carefully set, you really get a feel for how the early pioneers lived. You will be impressed by the attention to detail. There is a small store with items related to the area on the front of the property.
There are buildings of businesses representative of what would have been present in a small town of that time period. A small doctor’s office sits waiting for the next patient. The Fort Rock General Store welcomes visitors with a wide selection of goods. It is the only building original to the site. It supplied goods to 1,200 people at one time. Sunset School has lessons on the chalkboard and rules for teachers to abide by near the door. The pews at Saint Bridget’s Catholic Church are empty now but were once full of people at the only building in the vicinity built expressly for worship. It still serves as a place for weddings and memorials.
Six buildings served as homes for pioneers in the early 1900’s. There was a major influx of settlers after the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 increased the allotment of land from 160 to 320 acres. Fred and Hannah Stratton moved to the area from Michigan in 1912. Their sons, Frank and Lewis, grew up in the house and Frank later married Vivian. Frank and Vivian founded the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society and opened the Museum in 1988. The Widmer cabin was moved from the Bend area and now houses a large collection of arrowheads and other ancient tools crafted from obsidian collected in the area. George Mekenmaier built a cabin in 1910 before he married Hazel Penrose. Their children, Beatrice and George, played in the area now known as Fort Rock Cave. Many years later, Hazel encouraged anthropologist Dr. Luther S. Cressman to explore the cave. He excavated the cave and discovered nearly 100 sagebrush bark sandals that were later determined to have been made 9,000 to 13,000 years ago. They are the oldest ever discovered and they were arranged in a ceremonial pattern. Simon Boedigheimer came to Fort Rock around 1912 and built one of the few two-story houses in the area. He left his wife and two children in the Willamette Valley while he worked on the house. A carpenter by trade, his house included special features such as built-in shelving and a stairwell closet. The Websters and their six-year old son moved to the area in 1912. They bred Hereford-Shorthorn cattle and were very successful. Their son Carl went on to become a successful trapper and he kept careful records of his trap lines on the bedroom door casings. Alex Belletable and his wife came to Fort Rock in 1911. He was one of the wealthier homesteaders in the valley. The couple were French immigrants and they tried farming in the area but were not nearly as successful as they had been in France. They left the area in 1922.
Fort Rock is a short drive away and it is now part of a state natural area. After a short walk uphill, you enter an amphitheater-like setting. The formation is part of a 6,000 foot wide caldera. About 12,000 years ago this area was covered by ice hundreds to thousands of feet thick. Temperatures warmed and a 900 square mile lake formed over the site. Three thousand years later sagebrush replaced the marshlands.
The Brother’s Fault zone lies beneath the site. Faults allow magma to get to the surface. As the lava hit the water, it caused a massive explosion. This explosion, and the prevailing Southwesterly winds, caused the horseshoe shape of the Fort Rock formation. The tuff walls are all that remain as it collapsed upon itself. Terraces formed by the pounding action of the waves can be seen on surfaces of the tuff ring.
When I was there in May of 2015 on a Bend Parks and Recreation field trip, wildflowers were in full bloom and cliff dwelling birds flew around the site. There was a thick stand of death camas in the crater. A few bitterroot plants bloomed nearby. Early pioneers quickly learned from the resident Native Americans that the camas was poisonous while the bitterroot root could provide sustenance. Meriwether Lewis ate bitterroot during his explorations and brought specimens back east. The scientific name, Lewisia rediviva, reflects his discovery of the plant.
A walk along the mile-long trail of the Lava Cast Forest gives you a glimpse of how recent volcanic activity has affected the local environment. The trail is located several miles directly west of Sunriver, Oregon in part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument .
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument was established in 1990 and it preserves some unique features created in the recent geological past. Newberry volcano erupted 7,000 years ago and smooth textured pahoehoe lava flowed through a series of fissures along its northwest flank. This is known as the Northwest Rift Zone. The lava enveloped the forest creating lava trees and tree molds that are still visible today.
The most recent activity related to the Newberry volcano occurred 1,300 years ago. You can see the results of that activity by visiting the Big Obsidian Flow nearby.
The area is slowly recovering from the past volcanic activity and healthy plant communities can be seen along the trail. Ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, white fir, and a variety of shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers are present. At certain times of the year, flowers such as Indian paintbrush and purple penstemon display a marked contrast against the grayish-black volcanic rock. Many plants have established themselves in the wind-blown ash that settled on the soil.
You may also catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife living in the area. The small mammal called a pika prefers to live in rocky habitats and you may hear its whistling call. Red-breasted nuthatch birds can be seen working down the sides of trees and heard calling in short nasal tones. Golden-mantled ground squirrels and yellow-pine chipmunks may scurry across the trail in front of you. A red-tailed hawk may drift over you carried by the warm thermals.
Remnants of a lava lake can be seen along the trail. Pahoehoe lava poured through a series of vents and settled into a depression.
Tree molds can be seen in many places along the trail. As lava flowed through the forest, it piled up along the upstream side of the trees burning them out but leaving a “mold” of the tree’s form. Some of the trees snapped off and were carried away by the lava; others fell to the ground and were hollowed out by the flows.
At one point along the trail you can see an island of trees surrounded by a rocky landscape. This feature is called a “kipuka”. This particular spot consists of older cinder cones that were encircled by younger lava.
To learn more about this and other volcanic features in the area, be sure to visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center located south of Bend. See this link for hours of operation and additional information. Note that this center is only open from May 1 to mid-October. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/deschutes/recreation/recarea/?recid=38394
The Warm Springs Museum, located in Warm Springs, Oregon, is impressive inside and out. As you approach the building, note the interesting architecture that echoes some of the structures local tribes lived in. Be sure to view the building from the back as well. The building honors the Wasco, Warm Springs, and Northern Paiute tribes that reside in the Warm Springs Reservation area. There is a ¼ mile long interpretive trail behind the Museum.
Historically, the Paiute lived in a large area of Southeastern Oregon and traveled far in search of food. The Wascoes, or “river people”, lived east of The Dalles along the Columbia River and were primarily fishermen. The Warm Springs people lived in a large area in the vicinity of the current reservation. They moved between summer and winter villages and were more dependent on game, roots, and berries. There was a lot of trading that went on between the tribes for food and other resources.
Tribes looked to their elders for guidance and passed on traditions to their children. The family was the center of learning. Children learned subsistence skills such as basket making and hunting but also learned the value of traits such as patience and commitment.
Each tribe chose their own chief. They respected the values and traditions of other tribes. For example the seven drum religion of the Wasco was shared with other local tribes.
When white men entered the scene in the 1700’s, the importance of trade increased. Coffee, sugar, cloth, and especially beads, were valued trade items. Unfortunately the settlers also brought diseases that native people had very little immunity to. By the time Lewis and Clark arrived in 1804, the numbers of Native Americans had plummeted due to many succumbing to various diseases.
Exploration of the area by early settlers continued into the 1800’s. The Indian Removal Act was approved in 1830. In the 1840’s immigrants began moving to the area on the Oregon Trail. From 1840 to 1860, 250,000 settlers traversed the Oregon Trail. John C. Fremont explored the area that would become the Warm Springs Reservation in 1843.
In 1855 Native Americans were forced onto reservations. Most of their ancestral lands were ceded to the U.S. The Wasco and Warm Springs tribes ceded ten million acres.
The Northern Paiutes fought against scouts, soldiers, settlers, and other tribes in an attempt to keep their lands. They were finally defeated by General George Crook between 1866 to 1868 and forced on to the reservation.
The tribes were forced to give up their culture. Certain traditions were outlawed. Children were forced to attend boarding schools. If they were caught speaking their native language they were given demerits.
The Warm Springs Museum preserves part of the past and passes on valuable information to future generations. A short film on the history of local Native Americans plays as you enter the exhibit hall. You learn that water was important to all tribes and was referred to as the “blood of life”.
As you make your way through the Museum you will see an impressive collection of artifacts and recreations that give you a glimpse into the various tribes’ way of life. Many of the items are decorated with tiny seed beads that show an amazing amount of detail and artistry. Belts, bags, buckskin clothing, and war bonnets all feature intricate beadwork.
Re-creations of a wickiup and tule mat lodge invite visitors to look inside the structures local Native Americans lived in. A small, rustic cabin stands nearby. Tools of daily life are visible inside the structures.
There are a few parts of the exhibit that are interactive. A camera films you as you attempt to use a hoop and copy the moves playing in a video of the hoop dance. Another display features recordings of the languages of the three tribes living on the reservation.
The small gift store is a great place to browse for local products. There are several books on regional topics. Jewelry, bags, and colorful prints are also available. Huckleberry jam and syrup are tempting to buy for yourself or as a gift for someone else. Boldly patterned Pendleton blankets are neatly tucked into shelves patiently waiting for someone to wrap themselves in their warmth.
If you are interested in the history of the Central Oregon area, consider a stop at this Museum. It is nicely laid out and has some remarkable artifacts in its collection. The information provided with the displays is interesting and may pique your curiosity into learning more. That is always a sign of a great museum.
If you are looking for an interesting historical area to visit that is close to Bend, try following parts of the route of the Santiam Wagon Road as it parallels present day Highway 20 and parts of Highway 126 between the cities of Sisters and Lebanon, Oregon. This particular wagon road is interesting because its purpose was to provide safe passage from the Willamette Valley eastwards into central Oregon. A route was found in 1859 by connecting old Native American trails to a route discovered by Hudson’s Bay Company trapper Thomas McKay. It became the main route across the Central Cascades from 1865 to 1939. In 1939 the Santiam Highway opened.
The road was maintained by the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road. Local ranchers formed the company with Andrew Wiley, John Gray, and John Brandenburg, the pioneers who originally proposed the road and scouted a route. Tolls were collected along the route. Settlers used the road to move their livestock eastwards to pasture lands and markets. The new road also enabled trade, commerce, and communication to pass between areas East and West of the Cascades.
On a recent visit, we stopped at an abandoned building just north of Hoodoo Ski Resort. The Santiam Ski Lodge was built in 1939 by the US Forest Service with help from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It is a big lodge-style building with a rock wall base supporting large log beams. It slept 60 people. Now in disrepair, a potential buyer found out that it would cost as much as $5 million to make it usable.
Another bit of local history in this vicinity focuses on a mile and a half of railroad track that was constructed at Hogg Rock. Colonel T. Eggenton Hogg thought he could make a lot of money by creating a rail line across the Cascades which would have connected Newport, Oregon and Boise, Idaho. As a part of his money making scheme, he had workers start at the summit of Santiam Pass and start building a track through the sheer rock face. He only built a small section of track and then used mules to move a boxcar along the tracks to retain the rights to the pass by having a “working” right of way. The line was never completed after Hogg lost financial backing for the project.
Our group hiked 2.2 miles starting at USFS Road 2672 near Hackleman Creek. This trail follows the old wagon trail through old growth forests. You can almost imagine what the early settlers had to go through following the slow progress of their wagons along the road. We had to ford a few streams and climb a short hill as we made our way to the Fish Lake Remount Station. In May, trillium, fairy slipper orchids, and Oregon grape were in full bloom. Winter Wrens made sure we were aware of their territory by singing loudly as we made our way along the trail. The distinct distant calls, and large cavities observed in Ponderosa pine, cued us in to the presence of pileated woodpeckers.
We arrived at the Fish Lake Remount Station in a little over an hour. The seasonal lake had faded away to be replaced by a large meadow. Native Americans hunted, fished, and collected plants in this area long ago. Settlers stopped at Fish Lake to stay in the roadhouse, built in 1867, and get much needed supplies as they made their way along the wagon road. The Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road Company ceased operations to Fish Lake in 1907. The area was also popular for camping and it was not uncommon to see 100 wagons camped there in summer months. The saloon and hotel burned down in the 1920’s.
The Forest Service used the site to rest their pack animals and stock up on supplies. Packstrings sometimes had as many as 20 horses and mules tied together. Three cabins and several outbuildings were built in the 1920’s and 1930’s and are still standing today. The CCC built several of the structures in 1934.
There is a parking area about ¼ mile away from Remount Station. There are several picnic tables at the site and a great view of the lake (or meadow depending on the time of year). If you want to spend more time there, Hall House, which served as the supervisor’s cabin, is available to rent out through http://www.recreation.gov/.
Skeleton Cave – the name immediately brings questions to your mind. The designation refers to the discovery of several animal skeletons that were found inside of the cave. This lava tube cave is located south of Bend off of the China Hat Road (also known as Road 18). To date, 690 caves have been discovered in Deschutes County and 577 of them are lava tubes.
There is currently a metal staircase leading down into the cave but in the past it was just like a large pit trap that animals sometimes fell into and then could not escape. Skeletons and fossilized remains of several species of animals have been found within the cave. These included horse, deer, elk, bear, fox, a large hyena-type canid, lynx, a small carnivore, and various rodents. The horse skeleton found in the cave was determined to be that of Equus niobrarensis. It lived during the Pleistocene era that ended 10,000 years ago.
The cave was discovered in 1924, although writing on the cave wall indicates it may have been visited in 1894. An old still was found in the cave. It was surveyed by Walter T. Perry and Phil Brogan. They measured the main cave at 3,036 feet long with a side passage of 1,734 feet. In 1971 Jim Neiland measured the cave more accurately at a length of 3,560 feet.
Lava tubes are tunnels that form when slow moving lava develops a hard exterior crust that thickens as the interior, faster flowing, lava continues to flow through until it drains away.
The cave is popular with visitors and many people have enjoyed exploring it. The temperature inside the cave averages 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors can walk into the first part of the cave and explore deeper sections by climbing and crawling.
Unfortunately visitors are impacting the habitats within Skeleton Cave and other caves nearby. The number of recreational cavers (or spelunkers) increased as Bend’s population increased. The parking lot was located close to the cave opening and provided easy access. Skeleton cave was known as “The Party Cave”. Vandals spray painted graffiti and left their garbage behind. Some of the sport climbers left bolts and chalk lines that began to accumulate on the cave walls and ceiling. Bat populations in the caves were dropping since people were in the caves during their hibernation period. Unlike other mammals that hibernate, bats have very little body fat so if they are disturbed they may die. There are nine species of bats living in the caves near China Hat Road.
The Road 18 Caves Project Environmental Assessment was designed to “analyze effects of humans on wildlife resources (including bat habitat), recreational opportunities, geologic features, native vegetation, and cultural resources in nine caves in regards to past, present and future use” in the area located eight miles Southeast of Bend, Oregon. The findings were published in 2001. Some of the recommendations included gating some of the cave entrances, moving parking lots farther away from entrances, preventing entry during the time when bats hibernate, and limiting or removing bolts used by sports climbers. This was a controversial decision because people have a right to explore caves but the caves are also protected under the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act.
In order to protect the habitats within Skeleton Cave, it can only be accessed through private commercial tours. Wanderlust Tours has a special permit to access the caves. They provide helmets, lights, and a naturalist guide.
To learn more facts about caves, visit the Oregon High Desert Grotto website at http://ohdgrotto.caves.org/
If you are looking for something to do that isn’t too far away, consider a trip to the Bowman Museum located in downtown Prineville. The main part of the Museum is in what used to be the Crook County Bank building, built in 1910. You walk past bank teller cages and through the vault doors as you explore the Museum. Downstairs there are displays on the railroad, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Prineville Hotshots, local sports, and an interesting firearms exhibit.
There is a great collection of books for sale near the Museum’s entrance. Many relate to regional and local history. There are also nature related books and several novels.
Upstairs, themed rooms show some of the ways people lived and the services they used. A dining table sits ready to feed a large family. A medical office shows what a typical exam room looked like. Be sure to pull open the drawers to get a closer look at some of the medical tools of the time. A tack room contains intricately designed saddles and bridles as well as more utilitarian chaps and lassoes. A general store shows some of the items early settlers purchased.
In 2012, the Crook County History Center opened in an adjoining building. Displays along one wall focus on the local cattle business, the roles women played in the family and business, local businesses and events, and Native Americans. In one corner of this building there is a research library maintained by The Genealogical Society. Another room is devoted to the history of Les Schwab and his now thriving business. The company started in Prineville with the purchase of a run-down tire business.
The Timber Exhibit Hall has lifelike models of ponderosa pines shading parts of the exhibit. You will learn about the history of logging in the area and the process a log goes through in becoming usable in a variety of ways. Open the cabinet doors and look inside for a few examples of wood products.
Here are a few facts learned on a recent visit with Bend Park and Recreation District. Be sure to visit the Bowman Museum to see what new things you can discover.
Photos by Siobhan