Saturday, October 8, 2005


on the way home from work I can see four volcanoes. Two state highways take off from the Springfield area. Through a gap in the Cascades up through the McKenzie pass area you can see the Three Sisters. Looking through the gap they aren’t as tall as the other Cascade Peaks. You have to remind yourself that they are at least sixty miles away.

There are actually four major peaks in the McKenzie Pass area but you can’t see Broken Top through the McKenzie Pass gap. The three peaks you can see have been given really imaginative names. North, Middle and South Sister. Several years ago either the BLM or the forest service suggested that the peaks be renamed. Something a little more dramatic. The silence that met that suggestion was deafening. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The mountains speak for themselves. All three are over ten thousand feet high and have year round glaciers.

The North Sister is probably the oldest and probably topped out at over eleven thousand feet when she went dormant. Heavily eroded, the northern peak probably won’t become active again.

The Middle Sister is the smallest of the three. The cone is gone but the mountain has permanent glaciers. The third peak, the South Sister, is the tallest and still has a distinct cone. The last eruptions probably occurred two or three thousand years ago. And that’s ok by me. Where volcanoes are concerned, dormant is good, permanently asleep is better, and comatose is best.

My reference book “Fire & Ice-the Cascade Volcanoes” has a sketch showing the heaviest ash fall from the explosive eruption that formed the caldera that holds Crater Lake. The fall extends beyond the Canadian border into B. C. and Alberta. The debris fields near the mountain are forty to fifty feet deep. And that was only 6,600 years ago. Give or take a century or two. The original Mt. Mazama may, emphasis on the may, have had an elevation of between 11,000 and 12,000 feet. Parts of the rim are between six and eight thousand feet high now. Think Mt. St. Helens on steroids. Lots of steroids.

State highway 58 heads southeast of Springfield and through the Willamette Pass. On a good day you can see Diamond Peak. It’s a good sixty-five or seventy miles from my front door. Diamond is currently just over 8,000 feet high. The mountain hasn’t erupted since the last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago and also has permanent glaciers. I could see the mountain from my old hometown of Oakridge. I can remember walking home backwards more than once on a winter day because the sun was getting close to setting and the peak was a wonderful rose color.

These are the mountains I can see from Springfield but there is a string of peaks from Mt Shasta in California to Mt Garibaldi in Canada. Some have the potential to erupt again. And land in the area of the Three Sisters is rising. We may be looking at a fourth sister. Probably won’t happen in my lifetime.

The pictures are from the net. First is a side view of Diamond Peak from Summit Lake in the Cascades. The Second is the South Sister and the third are the Middle and North Sister. The North Sister is the one in front.


toonguykc said...

AWESOME pics!!!  Think of me here in Kansas where everything is flat!  LOL


oceanmrc said...