May 10, 2016
Exploring southern Oregon’s largest and most active volcano
By Lindsey Banks
Photo at right: The Central Pumice Cone sits between East Lake (left) and Paulina Lake, with the Obsidian Flow in the background. All these landmarks are found inside the Newberry Caldera. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service
Less than 100 miles north of Crater Lake National Park and roughly 20 miles southeast of the city of Bend is the largest and most active volcano in the southern Cascade Range: the Newberry Volcano.
The Newberry Volcano was established as a national monument on Nov. 5, 1990 to protect the 1,200 square mile active volcanic and geothermic region in central Oregon.
The monument spans 54,000 acres and includes over 400 cinder cones and vents, hundreds of lava flows and lakes and geologic features, including an active caldera that covers almost 20 square miles.
The Volcano itself is called a “shield volcano” because it oozes a liquid type of lava into the shape of a warrior’s shield. In contrast, a mountain-shaped volcano typically erupts with a thicker lava, ash and more pyroclastic-like explosions, like Mt. St. Helens, for example.
Tucked within the Deschutes National Forest, Newberry National Volcanic Monument offers many opportunities for exploration and outdoor recreation. A good start would be to head to the Lava Lands Visitor Center—the interpretive hub of Newberry National Volcanic Monument—on Hwy. 97 just 12 miles south of Bend.
Here are a few adventures to get you started.
Lava Butte is one of Newberry’s many cinder cones rising 500 feet above the lava flow. The Butte is closed to automobile traffic from May through October but visitors can take a shuttle bus from the Lava Lands Visitor Center to Lava Butte. Circle the rim on foot along the quarter-mile Lava Butte Rim Trail which offers gorgeous views of the Cascade Mountains and Newberry Caldera.
The Lava Cast Forest was created when a lava flow overtook an old-growth forest over 7,000 years ago and tree casts were formed. Hike along the 1-mile paved Lava Cast Forest path for views of the ancient forest and lava flows. Drive 3 miles south on Hwy. 97 from the Lava Lands Visitor Center, turn east on Forest Road 9720 and drive for 10 miles on a gravel road. The paved path is at the end of this road.
Black Rock is a popular single-track mountain bike trail that parallels the edge of Lava Butte’s lava flow. While this section is less than 5 miles long, the trail connects Lava Butte, Benham Falls and the Deschutes River Trail for a great day of mountain biking adventure. The Black Rock trailhead starts at the Lava Lands Visitor Center.
Nearly a mile long (5,211 feet) the Lava River Cave is the longest lava tube in Oregon. Located about 15 miles south of Lava Lands Visitor Center, the well-marked entrance is located on the east side of Hwy 97. You can take a guided tour of the cave or explore on your own. Bring battery-operated lights to guide your way.
Be sure to take the trip to the Newberry Caldera. Within the caldera are several lava flows, including the Big Obsidian Flow along a 1-mile loop trail. Don’t miss the easy hike to the twin lakes, East Lake and Paulina Lake, both are tributary water sources for the Deschutes River.
Paulina Falls is a beautiful destination along Paulina Lake—a lake well known for some of the best fishing in the state of Oregon.
Approximately 37 miles from the Lava Lands Visitor Center, take Hwy. 97 south about 21 miles. Turn east on Paulina-East Lake Road. Follow for 15 miles and look for the directional signs for each lake.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument: fs.usda.gov/centraloregon
A Recreation Day Pass is required to park at all locations in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Passes can be purchased at the Lava Lands Recreation Center or online: fs.usda.gov/detail/deschutes/passes-permits
Lindsey Banks is a Florida-raised, Oregon-living wife, dog mom, outdoor enthusiast and fitness lover. Connect with Lindsey at Fitlifepursuits.com