"Oregon's Volcanic Legacy"
Every person living in Oregon or even visiting the state should take the time and travel over the volcanic and historic McKenzie Pass in the Central Oregon Cascades.
The McKenzie Pass and Santiam Pass was given the National Scenic Byway status in June of 1998. The 82 mile loop illustrates best how the Cascade Range was formed.
Lava fields adjoin snow fields, providing a stark black and white contrast between the forces of fire and ice, a contrast that is often mirrored in crystal-clear lakes, whose still waters are countered by several cascading waterfalls.
The Byway boasts the highest concentration of snowcapped volcanoes and associated glaciers in the lower 48 states.
The Three Sisters (among other peaks) tower above the Byway.
At 5325' above sea level, the McKenzie Pass summit reveals a violent past in a 360 degree view. Though my mother and I were both in shorts, it was not warm out! The high elevation, lack of trees and being early October make up a recipe for...COLD!
To the immediate south you can see the North and Middle Sisters, the most recognizeable peaks along the Pass.
To the northwest you'll see Belknap Crater, (on the left) and next to Belknap Crater is Little Belknap Crater, (on the right) in the photo below. From this viewpoint, you can see the Belknap Crater Complex, clear evidence of "recent" volcanic activity. The Belknap Crater Complex, is a broad shield volcano five miles in diameter and about 1,700 feet thick, and was formed by fields of lava vents that erupted profusely about 1,500 years ago.
The exception in this Complex to that particular activity is Little Belknap. When Little Belknap was formed, lava poured 12 miles to the west and ash was ejected from the northernmost of the two summit craters.
Beyond Little Belknap Crater lies Mt. Washington. This peak is better seen from the Santiam Pass.
To the East, (below), Black Crater rising 7,251' dominates the view.
The Civilian Conservation Corps, Camp F-23 of Company 927, (Belnap Unit), built the observatory from the black lava basalt rock from the immediate area. This unique structure was built during the Great Depression as part of the "recovery" projects during that time. The Dee Wright Observatory is a stone memorial named after the (CCC) foreman who oversaw its construction, but died before it was completed. The basalt tower offers panoramic views of the Cascade Mountain Range, from the Sisters to the south and as far north as Mount Hood.
I took this picture of my mother inside the Observatory, she was trying to keep warm, but without success.
This peculiar structure allows the viewer to easily identify the visible Cascade peaks in a very unique way. The viewing windows inside the structure are referred to as "lava tube" viewing holes. Through these windows or holes, visitors can view and identify all of the visible Cascade Mountain peaks.