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Central Oregon Day Trip: Lava Lands

Part 2 of a 3-Part “Day Trip” series from Connor Henzel, a recent University of Oregon graduate.

Just south of Bend, in a High Desert forest of Ponderosa pine, lies lava. This region is studded with volcanoes, lava vents, mountains, and caves. It’s here you’ll find some

of the state’s most recent flows.

On the Trail of Molten Lands at the Lava Lands Visitor Center, you can hike across such a flow and learn about some of its features. In the twisted shapes, stretched air bubbles, and crevasses preserved in this lava, you can see how the rock might have flowed before it cooled and solidified.

Overlooking the flow are some of the larger snow-capped volcanoes of the Cascade Range, including Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters

Just above this flow is the vent from which it flowed, Lava Butte. It is a cinder cone, typified by explosive eruptions that produce small fragments full of gas. Take a walk around the crater rim and see more of the volcanoes beyond.

All around is Ponderosa forest. Wildfires here are natural and normally beneficial, leaving trees unharmed. However, settlement has caused many changes. Tree densities have increased over ten­fold and ground fuel has built up. Now when a fire occurs it is catastrophic, and can wipe out a stand.

You’ve walked on a lava flow, now it’s time to go inside of one. Lave River Cave is a lava tube, a former conduit for molten rock.

It forms when the outside of a flow cools, but the inside remains flowing, forming a pipe. When the pipe is emptied of it’s lava, a hollow cave is left.

At just short of a mile, it’s the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon.

Connor Henzel
Connor Henzel
Connor Henzel is a recent graduate in environmental science, with a background in the digital arts. His projects (like the nature travel series “Day Trip!”), often combine these two fields. Studying abroad in the Galapagos Islands helped to spur an interest in the intersection between outdoor tourism and environmental issues. Hiking, camping, and kayaking across Central Oregon are some of his favorite outdoor activities. Connor called Redmond home for eight years before moving to Eugene for his degree.
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