This short interpretive trail starting at the Lava Lands Visitor Center in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument will give you an informative glimpse into the geology of the Cascades and much of the Pacific Northwest. The trail takes you on a short, one-mile tour of one of the largest currently-exposed lava fields of the Cascade Volcanic Arc.
Young in geological time, this basalt flowed out of a vent on Lava Butte's southern side between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago at a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The lava finally cooled much as it lays today, stretching 5 miles to the north, 3 miles to the west, and covering an area of over 6,000 acres. The lava flow completely moved the Deschutes River off of its original track.
Both Lava Butte and the lava field are made up of basalt (extrusive igneous rock), which comes in many forms depending on its particular chemical composition and the manner in which it cooled. Unlike obsidian, however, igneous rock has far less silica, the chief mineral in glass, making it duller or more matte in appearance. In contrast to the lava field, Lava Butte is not a monolithic solid form; rather, it's a giant pile of cinders (gas-charged basalt). In case you are wondering, pumice, similar in weight and texture to cinder, is gas-charged obsidian.
While you are walking around this volcanic "wasteland," look for signs of life coming back to inhabit this formidable landscape, and what you find might surprise you.