The A-to-Zs of Central Oregon: G is for GEOLOGY


The geology of Central Oregon is quite unique and accounts for much of the beauty in Central Oregon. We enjoy pools of clear blue water, high desert plains, lava fields, and some of the most intriguing rock features on the continent. And for all of that, we have millions of years of volcanic activity to thank! 




It's true, we owe a lot to volcanoes. They've left us these gorgeous landscapes, some great rock climbing, and even the opportunity to find fossils underneath our feet. There are still a number of volcanoes-- active and inactive-- surrounding the town of Bend. We have some of the most recent faulting, and youngest volcanic activity in Oregon. We'll talk more about Central Oregon's volcanoes in a later blog post.

We lead amazing Volcano Tours in the summer if you're interested in learning more about these geological giants! 

Photo by Chaney Swiney

Photo by Chaney Swiney


These sharp, glassy rocks are an amazing sight to behold as they sparkle in the sunlight. At 1,300 years old, our obsidian fields are significantly younger than most others in Oregon. Obsidian is created when felsic lava (which has a lower percentage of the heavier elements) cools quickly, before any crystals can form. We have lots of obsidian throughout Central Oregon! 



Calderas are large volcanic craters. They're formed either by an explosive volcanic eruption, or the collapse of surface rock into an empty magma chamber. Crater Lake is a caldera filled with centuries of accumulated waters from rain and snow.



Just east of Bend is the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, over 29,000 acres of stunning public lands. The landscape is known for its castle-like rock formations, dry river canyons, and desert terrain spotted with ancient juniper and sagebrush. In the Badlands, you can find Native American pictographs.

The Badlands are a high desert terrain, and associated with a "volcanic rootless shield." While rootless lava shields are not themselves volcanoes, they are accumulations of lava flows fed from skylights above lava tubes. In short: 80,000 years ago, this whole places was lava!



In the 1960s, astronauts trained on the volcanic terrain in this area to prepare for their upcoming trips to the moon. In fact, Astronaut Jim Irwin of the Apollo 15 mission brought a volcanic rock from Central Oregon and placed it on the moon!