September 22, 2016

9/15/16 - Newberry NVM

We hooked up with friends at a campground near Sunriver, Oregon, and went with Carolyn and Larry to visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  This park isn’t part of the National Park Service, but is overseen by the U.S. Forest Service.

The FS and BLM sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to national monuments, but this time the FS got lucky.  This is a pretty cool place to visit, even if it doesn't get all the publicity the NPS parks get.

First up was Lava Lands Visitor Center for the ubiquitous passport stamp and museum.  I swear 87%* of Oregon is formed by volcanoes.  It’s not that those of us from Seattle aren’t used to that sort of thing.  After all, Washington has all those big volcanoes like Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier and Mount Baker.  Oregon's big one is Mount Hood, but everywhere you go in Oregon there are lots of smaller volcanoes, buttes, cinder cones, lava tubes, craters, calderas, upheavals, aa and pahoehoe lava flows.  Apparently Oregon got greedy and took some of everything.
Lava Butte is 500’ higher than its lava flow, and almost next to the highway!  There’s a little spiral road that goes up to the top of this cinder cone.  It has a very small parking lot, so you have to sign up for timed access tickets.  They only allow you 30 minutes to check out the top.  Not a big deal, since the trail around the rim is just ¼ mile.
Standing at the top is Lava Butte Lookout, where there’s been a fire lookout since 1913.  This particular tower is the 4th one on this site, constructed in 1998.  The fire lookout gets the upstairs so he gets the best view. The downstairs is for tourists.  You can see the Cascades to the west, and can identify Mt. Bachelor and the 3 Sisters.  Turn a little more and there’s Bend, with its own signature cinder cone.
Lava Butte Trail No. 18 circles the rim.  On one side you can see down into the crater, and on the other you can see the flow from it.
After going up, our next stop was underground.  Lava River Cave is almost a mile long, making it Oregon’s longest lava tube.  The cave is not lit, so you have to take your own lights—and it’s really dark down there!  (Take two, just in case.)
The entrance is full of chunks of rock, part of a collapsed corridor.  I kept looking up.  To get across the blocks, they’ve built a metal walkway, with railings.  I really hated it when they stopped because I had liked something to occasionally hang on to.  In some places the walls are slimy and not fun to grab. (Ick!)
After the first section, the cave smooths out, but there are some places where you have to step down or around.  I was surprised to find all the sand on the floor, but the ranger we talked to after we got back said it was all washed down from the end of the tube.

It’s tricky to hold a light and then hold still enough to take pictures.  George’s flashlight has an LED bulb, mine doesn’t.  His showed up better than mine did, but it’s blue on the walls.  Mine's more yellow.

There’s one section called “Sand Gardens” where sand has accumulated when sediment is washed down through cracks in the roof.  As water droplets fall on the sand and erodes it, it makes tiny castle-like spires.  Use your imagination because my light seems to have none.
There’s a sign at the end of the trail where we turned around and headed back.  I don’t think George bumped his head as much as he does in some caves.
Pretty interesting.  Maybe next time we’re in the area, we’ll drive out to the Newberry Caldera to see the rest of the park.  After all, just because you’ve seen one volcanic feature at one national park, it doesn’t mean you won’t see something completely different somewhere else--even in the same park.

NOTE:  * I made up that number—please don’t quote it to anyone who knows anything about Oregon geology.  I suppose it might actually be higher...or lower...

Interested in more pictures of Newberry NVM?  Go here:  Newberry National Volcanic Monument

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