Spend Your Summer Outdoors Around La Pine
The natural wonder around La Pine has been in the public consciousness for thousands of years.
Going back some 15,000 years, early Native American tribes converged on Newberry Volcano—enchanted and intrigued by its immense obsidian deposits that would be harvested, shaped into arrowheads, and traded with other tribes. Those arrowheads would eventually turn up as far away as western Montana, demonstrating their vast appeal. “Finding a place like Newberry was akin to striking gold in Native American times,” says Courtney Braun, naturalist guide and group sales manager at Wanderlust Tours.
Later on, local tribes would camp each fall at nearby Wickiup Reservoir, named today for traditional huts crafted from wood and grass.
That all changed with the Middle Oregon Treaty of 1855, which forced Native American tribes throughout the region to cede 10 million acres to the United States and move onto what would become the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, now home to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
Today, those same lands around La Pine remain alluring to outdoor enthusiasts from all over—drawn by epic angling, high concentrations of wildlife, stunning mountain views, and the rare chance to camp, hike, fish, boat, and play inside an active volcano. So as you make your summertime plans, here’s a look at how you can enjoy the outdoor attractions around La Pine.
You could spend weeks exploring all 54,000 acres of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and still only scratch the surface. But the monument’s attractions near La Pine help tell a story that connects visitors with hundreds of thousands of years of local history.
Take the caldera at Newberry Volcano, for instance. Sitting within the collapsed caldera are two lakes, numerous campgrounds, several miles of hiking trails, boating opportunities, and even a few hot springs—all of which connect to a history that dates back more than a half-million years. “It has been erupting, and ebbing and flowing and changing for 500,000 to 700,000 years,” Braun says.
A pair of eruptions—one as far back as 300,000 years ago and the other just a scant 80,000 years ago—helped cause the collapse of the Newberry Volcano, creating the caldera that’s home to so much outdoor recreation today. Even now, the volcano remains active; the monument’s Big Obsidian Flow trail passes through fields and hillsides of pumice and shiny black obsidian—all of which was deposited just 1,300 years ago.
Surrounded by a quiet forest of lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine in the Cascade foothills, Wickiup Reservoir boasts a variety of outdoor adventures—whether you want to catch your dinner in its cooler channels or spy wildlife patrolling its expansive shore.
The reservoir took shape in 1949, following the construction of a 2.6-mile earthen dam on the Deschutes River. Today, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
Wickiup Reservoir is beloved by anglers for its relatively warm waters and deeper, cooler channels that offer ideal habitats for several species of fish. Angling season lasts from April to October, and popular species include brown trout (which can reach 20 pounds or more in early spring), kokanee, coho salmon, and the occasional rainbow trout.
Just keep in mind that you’ll likely want a boat—motorized and non-motorized craft are allowed on the lake—when fishing. Sandy beach areas offer some shore fishing opportunities when water levels are high, but lower water levels make a boat almost necessary as water levels fluctuate.
And if you’d rather watch for wildlife, you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to stay engaged. Four species of loon, five species of gull, tundra swans, sandpipers, falcons, and several other species of bird have been spotted at the reservoir in spring and fall. Other species include deer, elk, raccoons, bats, and more.
However long you spend at LaPine State Park, you’ll find a lot to love about the scenic natural area along the Upper Deschutes River, where nearby Cascade peaks rise above a forest of ponderosa pine.
A 14-mile network of multi-use trails follows both sides of the Deschutes River through the park, heads to the winding Fall River, and connects to the area’s most-visited landmarks—all providing a nice outing for hikers, mountain bike riders, and equestrian users. Visitors can also float the Deschutes River through the park, visit the “Big Tree” (a 500-year-old ponderosa pine—and the largest in Oregon), fish the trout-filled rivers, and—as summer turns to fall—watch for wildlife such as elk in the park’s quiet forests.
There may be no more scenic highway in Oregon than the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway—and it can be accessed as a partial loop from the heart of La Pine, or as a full loop just a half-hour from town.
Most drivers set out from Bend and travel in a counterclockwise loop, but the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway can also be done as a clockwise trip that leaves from La Pine.
Highlights along the early stretch include the aforementioned Wickiup Reservoir—the largest of the Cascade lakes for which the highway is named—and Crane Prairie Reservoir, home to its own population of massive rainbow trout. Several species of bird call Crane Prairie Reservoir home, as well—including osprey, bald eagles, egrets, and owls.
Further north, natural wonders include Little Lava Lake (headwaters of the Deschutes River), Elk Lake (where the scenic Elk Lake Resort offers campsites and cabins, along with boat rentals for a day on the water), Sparks Lake (which boasts incredible views of South Sister—one of the most-photographed sites in Central Oregon), and Mount Bachelor (the largest ski area in the Pacific Northwest and a four-season destination).
Whether visiting Newberry National Volcanic Monument, LaPine State Park, or another scenic Central Oregon outpost, we’d appreciate your help to Take Care Out There.
When you Take Care Out There, it’s easy to have a fun outing. Before you leave, that might mean packing everything you need (so you can limit stops while you’re out and about) and having a backup plan (in case your desired trailhead, lake, or park is crowded), being intentional with your plans (by choosing an activity suited to your skill level, preparing for the weather, and following all posted signs), and finding ways to deepen your connection with your desired destination (such as by supporting local business).
Learn more about how to Take Care Out There.
Photos courtesy of Matt Wastradowski