Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Fort Rock Lava Beds Wilderness (Proposed)

Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 113-115.

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The collision of lava, forest, and sage.

Location: Lake County, 10 miles north of Christmas Valley

Size: 111 square miles (71,117 acres)

Terrain: Rugged basalt lava flows with a variety of volcanic features

Elevation Range: 4,315-5,612 feet

Managing Agencies: Lakeview District BLM, Deschutes National Forest

Agency Wilderness Status: 70,620-acre BLM wilderness study area; 58,270 acres recommended

Recreation Map: Northwest Quarter, Lakeview Resource Area, Lakeview District BLM

The area is covered by vast expanses of extremely rugged, broken, and sharp basalt lava. Spatter cones, lava tubes, domes, cinder cones, vents, fissures, flows, and other results of volcanic action are evident.

While the lava flows dominate the area, other features also stand out. In this area, the lava flows are in a pine forest/sagebrush ecotone, which provides for a diverse range of habitats.

Mammals include porcupine, yellow-bellied marmot, badger, and big-eared bat. Cougar, bobcat, and black bear, all species with restricted ranges in the desert, are found here. Pronghorn are common. The area is crucial winter range for thousands of mule deer.

Bird species include bald eagle, golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, turkey vul- ture, great horned owl, raven, western meadowlark, white-crowned sparrow, lark sparrow, and sage grouse. Mountain bluebirds are quite common and are espe- cially noticeable in the fall when they form flocks.

Numerous reptile species have been reported.

Kipukas (areas of undisturbed vegetation surrounded by lava fields) offer pristine grasslands. Because of the harshness of the terrain, many stands of rela- tively undisturbed native bunchgrass exist.

Of particular interest is desert sweet (Chamaebatiaria millifolium), an unusual shrub in the rose family that is abundant in the lava flows. It has a very sweet fragrance.

The proposed wilderness consists of three units: Devils Garden, East Lava Field, and Four Craters Lava Field. All are within the proposed national monument. (See Fort Rock Lava Beds National Monument.)

Devils Garden Unit

The unit is an area of rugged lava flows, dense vegetation, cinder cones, and highly broken terrain. The Devils Garden itself is a series of kipukas. The Blowouts are exceptional spatter cones. Derrick Cave is a well-developed lava tube cave. Little Garden is a pine-covered kipuka. The unit offers "truly exceptional opportunities for solitude," says BLM.

East Lava Field Unit

Containing both the as (rough, jagged, spinose, clinkery surface) and the pahoehoe (smooth, billowy, or ropy surface) lava, the unit is the most rugged to hike. Tumuli (fractured basaltic domes), squeeze-ups (molten lava forced through fissures), spires, and ropy lavas can be found here.

Scattered aspen, juniper, and mountain mahogany stands exist, along with some shrub cover. In many areas, the lichens are quite colorful.

Four Craters Lava Field Unit

The Four Craters are cinder cones on a distinct linear alignment and the most obvious feature of the unit.

The most interesting feature in the unit is Crack in the Ground. With its cool temperatures, grasses, and ferns, it is in dramatic contrast to the desert landscape just above. The crack is a 2.5-mile-long rift along a fault formed along with the creation of Four Craters Lava Field several thousand years ago.