Established by Presidential Proclamation in 1990, the numerous points of interest in Newberry National Volcanic Monument are administered by the U.S. Forest Service rather than the National Park Service. Newberry Crater itself is just part of a massive volcano that covers some 600 square miles and has erupted sporadically for many thousands of years.
I spent a very full day exploring the monument in depth. I began by taking in wonderful panoramic views of lava flows, forests and distant peaks from the summit of 500-foot Lava Butte, adjacent to the Lava Lands Visitor Center. Please note, however, that the road to the top is limited to vehicles no longer than 22 feet. Hopefully a shuttle bus system will eventually be established here, as parking is also very limited atop the butte.
From here it’s just a short drive to reach an easy, ½-mile trail to Benham Falls, a series of rushing rapids on a particularly scenic stretch of the Deschutes River. Nearby also is the entrance to the Lava River Cave, a mile in length and Oregon’s longest lava tube.
Next, about two miles further south, a 9-mile-long gravel road leads to the fascinating Lava Cast Forest, where another easy, one-mile interpretive loop trail leads to a basalt lava field. Approximately 7,000 years ago, the lava flows here engulfed a mature forest and took the shape of the trees that it enveloped.
Finally, continuing south on U.S. 97 for about another eight miles brings the traveler to the Paulina Lake Road. From the intersection, it’s 12½ miles to the Newberry Welcome Station and about another five miles to the end of the road at East Lake. Between the two are Paulina Peak, the highest point on the rim of the huge Newberry Volcano; the Paulina Visitor Center; Paulina Lake; and the fascinating Big Obsidian Flow, where a huge mound of the jet black volcanic glass erupted from the caldera just 1,300 years ago. I also beheld the splendid, twin Paulina Falls, the waters of which plunge some 80 feet over volcanic cliffs.
Rapids on the Deschutes River
Lost Lake at The Big Obsidian Flow