Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Newberry Volcano, a vast shield volcano that reached to about 10,000 feet before it blew its top about 1,500 years ago, covers 500 square miles. Its caldera alone is five miles in diameter and contains two alpine lakes, Paulina and East Lakes. A 1981 U.S. Geological Survey probe drilled into the caldera floor and found temperatures of 510°F, the highest recorded in an inactive Cascade volcano.
The volcano itself is at the southeastern end of the area designated the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which extends in a swath from Newberry Crater, south and east of Sunriver, all the way to Lava Butte, on the highway between Bend and Sunriver. It preserves the obsidian fields, deep mountain lakes, and lava formations left in the wake of a massive series of eruptions. While lacking the visual impact (and great depth) of Crater Lake, this preserve is more accessible and less crowded than its southern Cascade counterpart.
The main focus of interest here are the two lakes in the caldera: Paulina Lake and East Lake. A 9,500-year-old circular structure called a wickiup was excavated at Paulina Lake in 1992, which dates back well before the latest eruptions of the volcano and indicates that native people used this area through various stages of volcanic activity.
Several campgrounds and two resorts are located along the shores of these lakes, which are noted for their excellent trout fishing, said to be best in the fall. In Paulina Lake, fisherfolk can troll for kokanee, a gourmet’s delight, as well as brown and rainbow trout. Paulina’s twin, East Lake, features a fall run of German brown trout that move out of the depths to spawn in shoreline shallows.
Be sure to take the four-mile drive (summer only) to the top of 7,985-foot-high Paulina Peak, the highest point along the jagged edge of Newberry Crater, on Forest Service Road 500. Towering 1,500 feet over the lakes in Newberry Crater, the peak also allows a perspective on the forest, obsidian fields, and basalt flows in the surrounding area. To the far west, a palisade of snow-clad Cascade peaks runs the length of the horizon.
The other must-see site on the volcano is the Big Obsidian Flow, which was formed 1,300 years ago and served as the source of raw material for Native American spear points, arrowheads, and hide scrapers. Prized by the original inhabitants of the area, the obsidian tools were also highly valued by other Native American nations and were exchanged for blankets, firearms, and other possessions at the Taos Fair in New Mexico.
These tools and other barter items helped to spread Newberry Volcano obsidian all across the West and into Canada and Mexico. Centuries later, NASA sent astronauts to walk on the volcano’s pumice-dusted surface in preparation for landing on the moon. A 0.9-mile trail now crosses the obsidian flow. Find the trailhead on the road between the two lakes.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is managed by the Deschutes National Forest; contact the Lava Lands Visitor Center (58201 S. U.S. 97, Bend, 541/593-2421, www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/newberrynvm) for more information. During the summer, a Forest Service guard station (541/536-8802) is staffed at Paulina Lake. A Northwest Forest Pass or a three-day monument pass ($10, available at Lava Lands Visitor Center or at the monument entrance) is required for day use.
Getting to Newberry National Volcanic Monument
To reach Newberry Crater, head south from Sunriver about 12 miles (or 27 miles from Bend) on U.S. 97 to the turnoff to Paulina and East Lakes. The 16-mile paved but ragged County Road 21 twists and turns its way up to the lakes in the caldera of Newberry Crater.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel