Tuesday, September 22, 2015

2015 Western Trip – Day 52 – Cascade Volcanoes

If you have any knowledge of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980, you are likely aware that the Cascade Mountains has several volcanoes – that was my trivial understanding until we visited the area.

The Cascade Volcanoes (also known as the Cascade Volcanic Arc) are a number of volcanoes in a volcanic arc in western North America, extending from southwestern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California, a distance of well over 700 miles.

The Cascade Arc includes nearly 20 major volcanoes, among a total of over 4,000 separate volcanic vents including numerous stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, lava domes, and cinder cones, along with a few isolated examples of rarer volcanic forms such as tuyas. Volcanism in the arc began about 37  million years ago; however, most of the present-day Cascade volcanoes are less than 2,000,000 years old, and the highest peaks are less than 100,000 years old.

I’d already reported on the activity near Mt. Bachelor and this day we took a drive on the McKenzie Highway expecting to see great views of the surrounding mountains from the Dee Wright Observatory, but what we found amazed.

Turns out the observatory was built by the CCC in 1935 and sits within the lava field created by the eruptions of Belknap Crater (above) which is a shield volcano.  Below is the observatory and Bev exploring it at the top of McKenzie Pass (elev. 5325)

We expected to see lots of wildlife on our trip west and so far it has been confined to mule deer that visit the towns – until now when we saw this guy out in the wild.

That afternoon we decided to head down below Bend to the Newberry Volcano, which is the second largest in the Cascade Arc at 25 miles in diameter, and we were once again impressed by the volcanic activity. 

Our first stop was at the Lava Lands Visitors Center where we drove to the top of Lava Butte, a 509’ high cinder cone which last erupted about 7000 years ago.  The first shot is from the web and the others are mine from the top – the building is a fire watchers tower.

Then we drove to the caldera which is roughly 4 miles by 5 miles and contains two lakes – by comparison the Yellowstone Caldera is about 34 x 45 miles.  These are a couple shots of the lakes which seem to be popular for fishing and boating.

Reading about the Cascade Arc was fascinating to me and I suggest you do it if you have a little time, and if you’re looking for a new way to spend your BD – go volcano-ing.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


9/13/15 event date


  1. Very interesting, thank you for the information and pictures!

  2. I'm not familiar with this area at all and it's very interesting. 37 million years ago - wow, that is hard to fathom.I would guess going volcano-ings was the most unusual b'day you've had so far.

  3. Volcano-ing sounds like an awesome way to spend your birthday !

  4. It is an amazing sight! I recall the first time we drove along the beautiful McKenzie River and miles of lushness, towering Douglas firs and a floor of foliage, when suddenly there it was_ lava everywhere. It takes a while for the mind to grasp all of that.

  5. I am embarrassed to say that I have never explored that area and I've lived here for nearly 20 years. This is a must see the next time we are in the Bend area. Thanks for teaching me about my own state Larry!

  6. That is so completely cool! Walking around volcanoes and just thinking about the sheer forces of the historical eruptions right where you are standing. Thanks for post, very interesting.

  7. Larry, Very cool! We've been to Mt. St. Helen's but not this area... Very interesting and something else to add to our to do list! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


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