I last visited Newberry Crater, Oregon, and it’s flank cinder cone Lava Butte, in the summer of 2003. Husband and I met up with his parents in a campground near Bend, and introduced them to volcanoes. Newberry Crater is interesting to potter about — especially its Big Obsidian Flow — but it has such fascinating underlying geology (hint: it isn’t a classic subduction zone volcano) that it deserves a blog post of it’s own. Soon. For now, I want to talk about Lava Butte, a classic cinder cone.About 7000 years ago (the day before yesterday in geologic time) Lava Butte erupted. It probably started as a fissure that threw up volcanic ash and cinders, and kept erupting them until it had built a cone some 500 feet (152 meters) above the surrounding ground. Not content with ash and cinders, it also “leaked” lava from its base, toward the south. Thick, viscous lava that forms lumps and blocks — what the Hawaiians call “aa”, pronounced “ah-ah”. Lots of it.
Now, cinder cones are one-shot deals. They do their pyromaniac routine, leak their lava, and they’re done. Sort of a geologic burp. Newberry Volcano may only be quiescent, but if it decides to make another cinder cone, it’ll be somewhere else.
There’s a road of sorts — though FSM help you if you encounter an RV going the other way as you drive it — to the top, and a visitor’s center. There’s a trail that goes around the rim, and offers some great views of Cascade volcanoes. There’s also a trail that was painstakingly dug/blasted/ground through some of the lava, letting visitors see this aa stuff close up. It’s impressive. (I’ve heard at least one geology professor address it in less flattering terms, encountering it in southeast California: “Oh, hell.”)
I didn’t think to get a clear shot of the cinder cone from the parking lot, and it’s somewhat obscured here by the lava along the trail.
There are trees growing inside the crater! Shrubs, too. I can’t imagine how a plant could get a start inside a cinder cone, where water just goes right through, but these plants are doing nicely. Amazing.
Here you can see how blocky the lava is. That’s my mom-in-law posing for scale.
The lava flow isn’t regular, either; it has peaks and valleys.
And lest you think this is just a few lumps of rock next to the cone, here’s a shot of the lava field. You can see the line of trees where it stops. Though I have to admit, I’m almost more impressed by the plants than the lava. How could any growing thing colonize that?
Some geologic burp, indeed.