NEWBERRY NATIONAL VOLCANIC MONUMENT
  Explore a cave. Climb a volcano.
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If Mars had trees and an atmosphere, it would look like this area of Central Oregon. The huge flows of  jagged cinnamon-red rock lends to this area's otherworldly look. A result of recent volcanic activity (that is, within the last few thousand years). Within just a few miles, visitors will encounter snow-capped mountains, massive lava flows, a huge cave and beautiful lakes. Outdoor recreational opportunities are almost limitless.

Lava River Cave is located just off the highway about 12 miles south of Bend. The turnoff on the east side of US 97 is clearly marked. Lava River Cave is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The cave is a constant 40 degrees, but it was about 85 degrees outside, so it was difficult to convince the young’uns to bring a jacket. The cave entrance is very close to the parking lot. Definitely bring your flashlight. You can illuminate specific spots with them. I’d also recommend renting a lantern. The warm glow illuminates the trail and cave features as well as your condensed breath. The cave was formed by a fascinating process of flowing and ebbing molten lava. The first 300 or 400 feet of the cave trail descends with moderately steep stairs. After that, the trail is mostly on gently descending wood and steel platforms with handrails. It is an easy hike for reasonably healthy folks, although some may be unnerved by hiking further and further away from any visible sunlight. Yes, this cave contains bats... thankfully we did not see any. Visitors encounter many interesting geologic features as they walk deeper into the cave, but your family’s real adventure is seeing how far you are willing to hike into the darkness before turning back. Admission to Lava River Cave is $3.00 per person. Lantern rental is an additional $3.00.

We drove north on Rt. 97 for just another mile and turned left to the Lava Lands Visitor Center, the informational hub of the Newberry Volcanic Monument. This well-maintained building houses many interesting exhibits about the area and a bookstore / gift shop. Outside, there are short trails and a picnic area.

Just north of the Lava Lands Visitor Center, we drove to the top of Lava Butte, a huge, conspicuous weird-looking formation situated in the midst of the flat lava flows. The steeply sloped Lava Butte towers about 500 feet above the surrounding level terrain. Formed about 7000 tears ago, Lava Butte is one of the largest of the 400 or so volcanic cinder cones in this area. Its caldera (crater) is about 150 feet deep. A narrow roadway spirals around the butte, ending at a small parking lot just below its summit. A short but vigorous walk leads to the top of the butte... where visitors will find an aging ranger station as well as spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. To the west, you will see flat lava flows in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the distance. To the north, you’ll see Rt. 97 leading through the pines into Bend. A hiking trail circles the crater’s rim. Although a few trees and bushes have managed to establish themselves in the red volcanic rock (especially within the crater), Lava Butte has very sparse vegetation which lends to its strange otherworldly appearance. Visitors should be prepared to be approached by hordes of golden-mantled squirrels. Although its against the rules to feed the wildlife, these creatures’ fat little bellies and bold nature seem to indicate that they are fed daily. Even if you don’t feed them, the squirrels will approach you, follow you... even climb all over you if you sit down at a picnic table. Golden mantled squirrels look almost exactly like chipmunks. The only visible difference is their stripes. Chipmunks have stripes on their heads and faces. The squirrels do not. Although they didn’t seem to pose any threat, it is always wise to exercise caution when interacting with wildlife.

Newberry Volcanic National Monument has several other geologic attractions, the most prominent being Newberry Crater, a 17 square mile caldera of a 500 square mile volcano. Paulina Lake and East Lake are located within the huge crater. The two lakes are separated by cinder cones and an obsidian flow. Visitors may camp, fish and hike in this scenic area. Daily passes to the crater are $5.00 per vehicle.

Oregon’s most famous travel destinations include the state’s Pacific Coast, the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood. This beautiful and diverse area in central Oregon should be added to the list. You can take just a couple of hours to enjoy the scenery from the highway, or you can spend a week or two and take in all this area has to offer.

  CLICK ON THUMBNAILS FOR LARGER IMAGE
LAVA RIVER CAVE - RANGER STATION
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LAVA RIVER CAVE ENTRANCE
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LAVA RIVER CAVE ENTRANCE
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LAVA RIVER CAVE
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LAVA RIVER CAVE
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LAVA RIVER CAVE
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  LAVA BUTTE   LAVA BUTTE   LAVA BUTTE CALDERA
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  VIEW FROM SIDE OF LAVA BUTTE   VIEW FROM LAVA BUTTE   VIEW FROM LAVA BUTTE
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  VIEW FROM LAVA BUTTE   LAVA BUTTE PARKING LOT   GOLDEN MANTLED SQUIRREL
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FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH SQUIRREL   BRAVER EXPERIENCE WITH SQUIRREL    
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Read my reviews from our 2003 travels on epinions.com:

Helena, Montana

The Oregon Coast

The Bend Area - Central Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

The Mall Of America - Minneapolis

North Dakota (Don't Laugh!... There ARE some things to see here!)

Science Fiction Hall of Fame - Seattle

Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming

A LIST OF ALL OF MY EPINIONS.COM REVIEWS