Friday, July 22, 2016

Belknap Crater Volcano - Sisters, OR - 07/22/16

Friday – July 22, 2016
Belknap Crater Volcano
Sisters, Oregon

We spent a restful night at the Paradise Campground in McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. We headed east on Oregon Route 126 toward Bend, Oregon. Sharon suggested we explore the scenic McKenzie Highway on Oregon Route 242.

This highway is noted as one of the most picturesque scenic byways Oregon offers. There are warning signs posted at the east and west entrances to this route that prohibits vehicles over 35 feet in length. A turn-around area is provided for oversize vehicles. We are 34 feet overall… so off we go!

The McKenzie Highway travels through Lane, Linn, and Deschutes counties, beginning at the junction with OR 126 near McKenzie Bridge and ending at the junction with US Highway 20 and OR 126 at the city of Sisters. The highway is part of the McKenzie Pass - Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway.

The McKenzie Highway route was originally built with private funds in the 1870's as a wagon toll road. The section between the towns of Blue River in Lane County and Sisters in Deschutes County became a Forest Road in 1919. The road was relocated and widened in 1920, graded and surfaced between 1920 and 1924, and became a Oregon State Highway in 1925.

The McKenzie Pass Highway became a seasonal scenic highway in 1962. The narrow, twisting roadway and high elevation (5,325 feet) made the highway too difficult to maintain and keep clear during the winter months. Since this time, ODOT closes the highway each fall and reopens it in early summer after the snow melts. During the summer, about 300 cars a day travel the highway.​

The western section of McKensie Highway contains a series of 15-25 mph sharp curves as the elevation increases from 1,600 feet to over 5,000 feet. The scenery along this route is filled with flourishing green forests lining both sides of the route. As we continue our travel eastward we enter a section of highway that is engulfed on both sides by towering, black lava fields, probably 10 to 15 feet high. The lava fields extend off into the distance as far as the eye can see. We have arrived at the Belknap Crater Volcano.

Belknap Crater Volcano is a small Holocene shield volcano with a capping cinder cone. It is located in the Cascade Range near central Oregon’s McKenzie Pass. It is a typical example of one type of volcanism responsible for construction of the High Cascade volcanic arc. The Belknap complex comprises many lava flows. The lava flows cover about 40 square miles. The main Belknap shield has a diameter of approximately five miles.

Eruptions from this area took place from about 3,000 to 1,500 years ago as a few different phases. The first eruptions produced tephra that spread over a broad area to the northeast and southeast as basaltic lava flows traveled eastward for 6 miles from a growing shield. About 2,900 years ago, a second phase produced a smaller shield known as Little Belknap. The third phase produced the remaining bulk of the volcanic complex, which erupted basaltic andesite lavas from the central vent, Belknap Crater, about 1,500 years ago, and from a vent just over one mile to the south, South Belknap cone, about 1,700 years ago. The final eruptions from the base of Belknap Crater sent lava 9 miles west into the McKenzie River valley.

Exploring the McKenzie Highway was a wonderful experience. With the evening fast approaching it was time to find a place to stay for a few nights. The state park campgrounds throughout Oregon are some of the finest in the Northwest Region of the United States, and not surprising, campsites are booked in advance for the summer season. Fortunately, we are now traveling through the Willamette National Forest on the McKenzie Highway. This national forest has several campgrounds and dispersed camping areas. Seven miles west of Sisters, Oregon we pulled into the oversize vehicle turn-around-area. Within this area, there was a dirt road, going up a hill, and then leading off into the interior of the forest. While Sharon waited in our vehicle, I hiked into the forest and discovered a dispersed camping site.

As I pulled our trailer into the campsite, Sharon found it to her liking and we set up our campsite. This is perfect! Free camping! We are totally isolated from civilization. We are looking forward to the solitude for a few days.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

Travel Details:
Departed: McKenzie Bridge, Oregon
Departure Time: 11:50 A.M.
Arrived: Sisters, Oregon
Arrival Time: 3:30 P.M.

Campground Name: Dispersed Camping
Type: Willamette National Forest
GPS Coordinates:
Latitude: N 44.30965
Longitude: W 121.70728
Elevation: 4,245 Feet
Camping Fee: Free
Campsite: Primitive
Campsite Hookups: None
Campground Amenities: None
Total Campsites: 2 or 3 dispersed campsites

Cellular Service: Verizon – 4G-2 Bars
Internet Service: Verizon Jetpack – 5 Bars
Dish TV Satellite Service: No Service (too many trees blocking antenna)

Total miles traveled today: 30
Route Traveled:
East on OR-126
East on OR-242 to Dispersed Campsite

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