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.
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.
Lava River Cave
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.
Lava River Cave sand gardens
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 veryshort talk on protecting local bat populations from White-nose Syndrome prior to going into the cave.
Lava River Cave entrance stairs & ramps
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…
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.
Newberry is covered with many lava flows and 400 cinder cones on its northern and southern flanks. It has likely erupted hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the last half-million years.
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
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.
There is evidence of three distinct lava flows in this area of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. These are identified as the Lava Cast Forest Flow, the Cascade Flow, and the Forest Road Flow.
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.