Newberry Volcano, Oregon, is the largest volcano in the Cascades volcanic arc. This north-facing view taken from the volcano’s peak, Paulina Peak (elevation 7,984 feet), encompasses much of the volcano’s 4-by-5-milewide central caldera, a volcanic depression formed in a powerful explosive eruption about 75,000 years ago. The caldera’s two lakes, Paulina Lake (left) and the slightly higher East Lake (right), are fed in part by active hot springs heated by molten rock (magma) deep beneath the caldera. The Central Pumice Cone sits between the lakes. The mostly treeless, 1,300-year-old Big Obsidian Flow, youngest lava flow on the volcano, is surrounded by forest south of the lakes.
Once again we woke at dawn to a perfectly still lake. We knew from the previous morning that it was important to be on the lake by 7 or so to enjoy at least a couple of hours of paddling before the winds come up. This time we decided to kayak in the opposite direction toward the west side of the lake. Unlike the previous day, the smoke from the Bootleg Fire was being blown into the Caldera. We were especially happy when looking up toward Paulina Peak through the haze that we had decided to go to the top yesterday when it was clear.
We paddled west along the shoreline to the cliffs where we had seen the eagles and ospreys on the previous day. The winds were still calm, and we paddled close to the shore of the slightly rocky beach at a quiet little bay on the far northwest shoreline. Neither of us felt like getting out of the boats, but we let Mattie off leash and let her run and play on the beach a bit.
We called to her and she didn’t want to come, so we simply started paddling away just to see what she would do. We were both quite surprised when she suddenly ran down to the water and jumped right in, swimming hard to reach Mo’s kayak. Mo missed grabbing her and Mattie swam toward me where I was able to easily reach her life jacket and haul her right into my kayak. For a little dog that really doesn’t like to swim, she did great. Of course, I have no photo of that little Mattie adventure because I was too busy trying to grab her out of the water.
Hiking the Big Obsidian Flow
The Big Obsidian Flow is one of the popular “To-Do’s” when visiting the Newberry Crater. Because Mo and I have hiked Glass Mountain and other obsidian flows in the Medicine Lake Caldera in northern California we never felt the need to see this one. The last couple of times we camped at East Lake we never bothered to hike the Big Obsidian Flow.
The view above is the Big Obsidian flow with East Lake in the distance. This photo was taken from our trip yesterday to Paulina Peak. The trailhead isn’t far from the campground, and we knew from the information we received at the visitor center that we would need a parking pass. For us, the Senior Pass covered the parking fee and we merely had to be sure to hang our pass in the window of the Tracker.
There were a lot of cars in the parking area, but the trail wasn’t terribly crowded once we climbed the stairs to the higher part of the trail. It is a lovely trail and very well maintained. The signs are wonderful, with lots of information about the flow, the caldera, and local plants and animals.
Even though the trail isn’t terribly difficult, it is a bit rough and just a little bit steep in some places. Good shoes are a must since the obsidian creates shards of very sharp glass on the trail that could easily cut your feet to shreds if you weren’t careful.
The trail meanders to the higher elevations via a stairway that ascends the eastern flank of the flow. Dogs are NOT allowed on the trail due to the sharp glass and tight quarters along some areas of the route. We had a great time enjoying the views of Paulina Peak where we had been the previous day.
We met some interesting people, including a sweet young couple from Minnesota who were happy to take our photo.
Another young couple had tattoos that were photo worthy.
At the highest point of the trail a volunteer ranger was roving and providing information and answering questions. I got a big kick out of him, and was reminded of Gaelyn’s stories of roving and answering questions at Bryce National Park. People do ask a LOT of questions.
Paulina Creek and Paulina Falls hike:
After returning from our Obsidian hike for lunch and a rest, we drove to the trailhead for Paulina Falls. We were warned at the visitor center about the steep trail to the lower viewpoint. Viewing the falls from the top was enough for us rather than taking a steep switchback trail to the base of the falls.
As I did a bit of research to add to the Visitor Center publication we received on the previous day, I discovered this fantastic guide to the Newberry Crater Area. There is a ton of information here about the geologic history of the area with directions to amazing volcanic features. The link to this PDF is Field Trip Guide to the Geologic Highlights of Newbery Crater Volcano, Oregon. Even if you don’t read the entire publication, it is worth a quick look. Great photos and descriptions of the area.
Paulina Creek Falls s where the only creek on Newberry Volcano flows west across eroded tuff that was erupted and deposited here close to what is now the caldera rim during caldera formation by collapse ~75,000 years ago. The height of the falls is about 100 feet.
Within a few hundred yards we arrived at the viewpoint of the falls and looking down toward the bottom of the canyon we were happy with our choice. It didn’t look very inviting, certainly not worth the knee pain that would have been part of doing the switchback trail. There were quite a few people around, some with big dogs on leashes, but even leashes weren’t very helpful in the tight quarters created by the narrow walkway and protective stone walls. Mo took Mattie away from the doggie crowds while I wandered around and took photos of the falls.
I could see another viewpoint on the west side of the falls, and based on our views of local maps we knew the trail to that viewpoint couldn’t be more than a mile and a half or so. The trail was lovely on the east side, meandering through tall forest with plenty of shade.
We crossed the Paulina Creek Bridge and continued on the Peter Skene Ogden Trail on the west side of the creek. Here the forest was more open, with the thin trunks of lodgepole pine providing little shade. The trail was easy, though, smooth and relatively flat. It didn’t take long for us to arrive at the viewpoint we saw from the other side of the falls. We only saw a few people down along the creek and only one person was on the trail on the west side of the creek.
Notice how the falls are split, with Paulina Creek flowing on either side of the volcanic cliff which marks the edge of the Newberry Caldera. Looking on the upper right of this photo you can see the east side viewpoint where a red shirts stands out in the photo. Our day had been very nearly perfect, with a morning kayak and a couple of pleasant day hikes. The smoke was thicker than it had been the previous day when we returned to the campground. The temperatures were in the high 80’s and during the later part of the afternoon it felt quite warm.
I wasn’t interested in swimming in the lake because with the low water the shoreline is a big soft and weedy. The only way for me to enjoy swimming here would be to have a floaty of some sort that I could get on and off into the water where it is deep and clean. I wanted to nap, but the MoHo has a slight flaw. The back bedroom area isn’t conducive to a good air flow, even with the fantastic fan pulling in outside air from the windows along the bed. I got much too warm and decided to move outside in the shade. Only problem with that plan was that the flies thought I was a tasty morsel. Happily, I discovered that the mosquito spray I purchased was also good for repelling biting flies and I was able to sit outside and read for a couple of hours while Mo napped indoors.
07-15-2021 Thursday: Once again the night temperatures dropped to a comfortable 42F degrees and we slept well. At dawn, we looked out toward to lake. Thrilled that the lake was smooth and glassy without a breath of wind we donned jackets and walked down to the kayaks. In addition to the silky lake surface, the skies were startlingly blue, with no smoke visible in any direction. One of the nice things about the beach for us was the big cement block that had iron loops embedded into the cement. It was a perfect place to lock the kayaks up with the bike cable and padlock so we could leave the kayaks there safely for the duration of our camping trip.
We learned later that the best fishing on the lake was near the slide, and sure enough as we approached the beach, there was a fisherman on the shore and a boat in the water. We thought about paddling around the point to the next beach that we visited the previous day, but decided that there was enough room for all of us on our original destination at the first beach.
It was a perfect choice. The shoreline was shallow and clear and the pumice beach sand was clean. Mattie had a wonderful time running around off leash. We sat on the sand and watched the water and the sky for a long time. The only thing missing was our coffee! Next time we paddle to this beach early in the morning we will be sure to bring go cups with us.
Mo decided to see if Mattie wanted to try swimming again but she was having no part of that idea. After much coaxing of a stubborn dog who remained a safe distance away from the water, Mo picked her up and took her out so she could swim back. Mattie is a good, strong, fast swimmer, but she definitely doesn’t choose to do it on her own. I had Mo do it a second time so I could get a movie and I had to be fast to actually catch Mattie in the water.
Little dog gets cold easily, though, and she shivered a bit on the way back to camp, even in the warm sunshine. Mo and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and took our time packing up camp. With a noon check-out there was no rush. The trip back across the mountains to Grants Pass was uneventful with no fires, not much traffic, and very little smoke along our route.
A perfect end to a wonderful camping, hiking, and kayaking getaway.