A Few Buttes in Central Oregon

March 4, 2011 at 8:30 am (History, Landscape Photography, Oregon, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Central Oregon is a geologically interesting area.  It owes its geology to volcanic activity, which has been occurring here for the last 45 million years.

Things have been pretty quiet in Central Oregon, volcanically speaking, for the last  1300 years.  Since Central Oregon experiences eruptions about every 500 years, we, it seems, are overdue.

There was some hoopla beginning around the year 2000, because geologists discovered a bulge in the South Sister.  A brief spate of seismic activity accompanied the bulge, and for a time there was worry of an eruption.  Things have quieted down a bit, but now the concern is with the Newberry Volcano/Lava Butte, south of Bend.  Concern over Newberry is driving scientists to install eight seismic monitoring stations on Newberry Volcano this coming summer due to the new classification of Newberry as a “very high threat”.

But I digress.  This is a photo blog, and what sent me off on this volcanic tangent are several recent shoots, capturing some of the interesting geological features in the area. 

I will share some of these images in this and some up and coming blog posts.  This one will feature some of the buttes in the area. 

A panoramic view of several buttes in the area, beyond the trees, including Newberry and its massive lava flow toward the center, and Paulina Peak to the right.

Lava Butte and its massive basaltic flow, dominates the landscape in the area, cutting a black swath through the trees.  The butte itself is a lapilli cone with a deep crater at its summit and is composed of cinders and scoriaceous fragments, and volcanic bombs.

Early in Central Oregon’s pioneer settlement history there was a post office established in the area, named Lava,  for obvious reasons.  It was located on the Aldridge Ranch a few miles north of the Vandevert Ranch.  It opened on December 29, 1899 and operated until November 1908.

Last light on Ash Butte

Ash Butte was so-named because of the volcanic ash deposits on its sides.  It looms over the near ghost-town of Ashwood, Oregon, so named in combination for the butte and for Whitfield T. Wood who settled in the area in the 1870’s.  His son, James Wood, was the first postmaster.

Sunset on Grater Butte

3643 foot high Grater Butte takes its name from one of the earliest settlers on upper Trout Creek.  James Grater came to the Ashwood area in 1869.

Logan Butte Panorama

Logan Butte is a fossil rich area, and the public land portion of the butte is restricted from the public for this reason.  The privately owned areas of Logan Butte are located on the historic 96 Ranch (once the second largest ranch in Oregon) established by Thomas Jefferson Logan in the 1870’s.  Logan Butte takes its name from Tom Logan.

Powell Buttes

Powell Buttes have several summits, the highest of which has an elevation of about 5100 feet.  The Buttes are named for either Daniel or John Powell who came to the area to raise range stock.  Powell Butte post office was established near the northwest foot of Powell Buttes on March 12, 1909 with Moses Niswonger serving as its first Postmaster.

Unnamed Butte at Little Willow Creek reservoir

Pilot Butte

Early maps refer to Pilot Butte as Red Butte, but for some reason the name didn’t stick.  It most likely became known as Pilot Butte because of its importance to pioneer travellers who used the butte as a guidepost to a suitable river crossing and camp ground.  There is a road to the top of Pilot Butte, affording a panoramic view from its 4139 foot summit.  In 1928 F. R. Welles, Kempster B. Miller and Charles A. Brown presented the state of Oregon with Pilot Butte as a park and memorial to their former business associate, Terrence Harding Foley who died in an automobile accident in 1925.  Generations of fitness minded individuals have since enjoyed hiking the butte, and the less motivated automobile travellers have enjoyed the scenery from their car windows, marvelling at the view from the top of Pilot Butte in Bend, Oregon.


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