Newberry National Volcanic Monument Celebrates 25th Anniversary, part 3 of 3

The highest point in Newberry National Volcanic Monument is 7,984-foot Paulina Peak. From a distance, Newberry Volcano resembles a mountain range rather than a peaked volcano.

Originally more than 10,000 feet high, the 500-square mile shield-shaped volcano collapsed through violent eruptions to form Newberry caldera. A caldera is a depression caused when the center of a volcano collapses. A crater is caused when the volcano blows its top.

Newberry CalderaSee the Cascade Range from California to Washington, the caldera lakes (Paulina and East Lake), eastern Oregon basin and range, and the Big Obsidian Flow all from Paulina Peak.

Millions of cubic yards of obsidian and pumice, roughly the size of 640 football fields, resulted from Oregon’s most recent lava flow 1,300 years ago.

Climb 78 steps to walk a half mile interpretive trail on rugged landscape of crushed, natural glass. Wear sturdy shoes, and do not take dogs on the trail.

Native Americans used obsidian for tools and trade. They shaped obsidian into razor-sharp arrow points, knives, jewelry, sculptures, and ceremonial objects. Used as money, obsidian bought fish, shells, and roots from other tribes. Each obsidian flow has a distinct fingerprint. Big Obsidian Flow artifacts have been found hundreds of miles away.

Some surgeons use obsidian instruments because it makes a cleaner incision that heals with little or no scarring.

NASA scientists came to the Big Obsidian Flow in the mid 1960s to squeeze water from the rocks. They heated pumice and obsidian to very high temperatures, condensed the water vapor, and drank the water in preparation for surviving on the moon.

Life continues today on this barren, glassy landscape. Thousands of frogs migrate up the flow in August. Lichen catch dust creating moss and soil for grasses and plants to sprout. Penstemon grows well in rocky areas. Their sweet fragrance and brilliant color attract insects, and rodents eat the seeds. Pine seeds grasp a foothold in cracks and crevices and slowly grow into trees.

Deposits of pumice and lava divided the crater into two separate bodies of water thousands of years ago. Paulina Lake, 249-feet deep, named for Paiute Indian Chief Paulina, contains rainbow and German brown trout and kokanee salmon. East Lake, fed by Hot Springs from its 185-foot depth, is stocked with trout and Atlantic salmon.

Paulina Creek, the only surface outlet from Paulina Lake, tumbles over an 80-foot volcanic precipice to create Paulina Falls.

When lava flowed from Lava Butte, it changed the course of the Deschutes River. Hikers, bikers, and equestrians see the distinct alteration from river trails.

Recreation on the Deschutes varies from fishing and floating on calm stretches to kayaking and rafting near Benham Falls, Dillon Falls, and through the Big Eddy rapids. The Deschutes River, a federally designated Wild and Scenic River, borders the west boundary of Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Big Eddy

To order a copy of the 10-minute DVD narrated tour of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, click


About Lynne Schaefer

Lynne Schaefer has written two newspaper columns ("The Schussboomer" about skiing in California, and "Notes from Lynne's Journal" about Oregon wildlife); travel and garden articles for regional magazines copy for DVD tours of the High Desert Museum and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, both in Bend, Oregon. She has published three non-fiction books, A Traveler's Guide to Historic California, Christmas Trivia Quiz, and His Daughter's Remembrance.
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