Going with the flow – La Pine, Oregon

This summer we were able to visit the Newberry Volcanic Monument which is part of the Deschutes National Forest. This area is just south of the well-known town of Bend, Oregon. The weather was warm and we took the opportunity to visit the “lava tubes” that are always around 50 degrees year around.

The Lava Lands of the Newberry Volcanic Monument contains the much visited “lava tubes.” There is a a mile-long, self-guided tour of the underground passage created by lava flows. This one is the longest lava tube in the state and was the first one discovered. You are asked to wear a mask (not because of Covid) but to protect the bats! Visitors are asked not to wear any clothing that they had been previously worn in other caves to help protect the bats from the spread of “white-nose syndrome.” We were told that the spores that carry the syndrome can last for years on clothing.

We had the option to rent a high powered flashlight to help view the inside of the lava flow, which we did, and it turned out to be a good decision. The tubes that were created with basalt lava flows are quite large and can travel for miles. The ledges of the flow gradually meet and create a crust that serves as a “roof.” As the crust hardens the lava continues to drain creating the large tubular passageways. Compared to some of the caverns that you can visit across the country, there is not a lot to see when walking through these enormous tubes, so it not take very long to explore.

We went from the tubes underground to the highest point in the area, the 7985 foot Paulina Peak. The views are wonderful here and because of the elevation, the weather was cool and windy. There are views of a large black obsidian flow created over 1,300 years ago.

From this view-point you can also see Paulina Lake and East Lake.

For lunch we hiked a section of the Deschutes River Trail toward Benham Falls. The trail is perched high over the falls and the powerful flow of water heads toward Bend, Oregon and eventually the Columbia River Gorge.

Another fun side-trip is taking the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center to Lava Butte.

At the 5000 foot summit, there is an active fire tower on top of a cinder-cone volcano with a short trail that circumnavigates the area. A fire tower was first constructed here in 1931. Forest fires are a serious threat in this region as the states of Oregon, Washington, and California have had multiple years of devastating forest fires.

From this high view point there are great views of the Oregon Cascade Mountains and the monument area itself. There is also a short trail that encompasses the cone called the Lava Butte Trail. Here is a link to an aerial view.

As you can tell we had a busy but enjoyable day. Sometimes it is best to just go with the flow.

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