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Central Oregon Day Trip: High Desert

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

On this trip we’re exploring the High Desert of Central Oregon, two hours east of Eugene.

Here, we’ll hike along a canyon rim, dig for thundereggs (the state rock), and cool off at a desert waterfall. Peter Skene Ogden viewpoint shows off a canyon carved by the Crooked River into solid basalt, hardened lava rock that flowed from Newberry Crater, 45 miles to the south.

Scavengers and birds of prey like hawks, vultures, and falcons are plentiful here. Sometimes you’ll see bald eagles carrying fish overhead.

At Richardson’s Rock Ranch near Madras, you can explore an extensive rock shop and dig for your own thundereggs in one of several beds.

We’re digging in tuff, a deposit of cemented volcanic ash. Air pockets in the ash became filled with water, laden with dissolved minerals.

These crystalized into the pockets, creating thundereggs. You can have your finds cut at Richardson’s.

Steelhead Falls is a beautiful place to hike, cliff jump, and relax along the Deschutes River. These trees are geologically recent additions to the landscape, spread over the shrubland after settlers suppresed wildfire and started grazing cattle. These changes are major challenges to the local ecology.

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.