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Volcanoes and History
Cascade Range Volcanoes - "Volcanoes and History"

Wheeler Survey, 1878

Mount McLoughlin, Crater Lake, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Hood, Oregon
(Published in 1879)

Excerpt from:

Lieut. Wheeler's Survey Work in Oregon, 1878
as published in the American Naturalist, November 1879

   [p.722-723]     LIEUT. WHEELER'S SURVEY WORK IN OREGON, 1878.-- Mr. J.W. Goad, one of the survey party, sends the following account of Lieut. Wheeler's operations in Oregon during the past year, to the Royal Geographical Society:

"... The Klamath lakes were also visited and found to present the same typical features as Pyramid lake, undoubtedly belonging to the Great Basin plateau. At Klamath Lieut. Wheeler divided the party, himself exploring the Cascade range parallel to the Pacific coast, and Lieut. Symons, Mr. Goad and others carrying the triangulation to the north. Mount Pitt, 4000 feet above the country level and 10,000 feet above the sea, was scaled with great difficulty on account of lava, fallen timber and rock-slides; the latter are accumulations of debris held in position by some slight and unforseen projection, and only requiring the weight of a man or removal of a stone to set them in motion.

"From another peak, Crater lake came in sight-- a vast body of water confined in vertical cliffs 2000 feet in height; its area is about fifty miles and the geological evidence indicated compartively recent volcanic action. Proceeding northwards many huge piles of rock, deep snow banks and innumerable small lakes were found, the party, on one occasion, passing through a frozen snow tunnel seventy to eighty feet thick. This work on the mountain crest was at last stopped by the dense forests and tangled undergrowth, thousands of acres of which are often set on fire by the Indians when driving the game, the entire consumption of oxygen in the woods causing the flame to rise and form a sheet miles in length and from one hundred to five hundred feet high.

"Leaving the mountains for the Deschutes valley, it was found that the turbulent river of that name, after apparently emptying itself into a lake with no outlet, percolated through piled up masses of lava on its shores, and reappeared ten miles further north. It can never be navigable on account of its numerous cascades and rapids. Mount Jefferson was visited but found impracticable from the lateness of the season. On the road from its base to Dalles, on the Columbia river, the warm srpings, much visited by Indians, were examined-- their waters collect in basins which are impregnated with a green mineral substance. Interesting data concerning Mount Hood (12,000 feet) were obtained from Mr. Walker, of the Warm Spring agency, who had ascended it. Far above the snow line, hot steam issues from craters on its side; five hundred feet from the top is a large basin with the main crater giving out sulphurous steam. Other craters and huge glaciers exist also on its south-east side. The White river, which rises in Mount Hood, owes its name to a sediment of pulverized pumice which is washed far down the Columbia river in quantities sufficient to form white dunes on its shores by the action of the winds. Its falls were some 180 feet high.

"At Dalles a base line was measured and a series of triangles carried into Washington Territory. In summing up the capabilities of Oregon, which, west of the Cascades, are well known to be very great, it is observed that although to the east of that range the rain-fall is not great, the land is very fertile in the Deschutes basin, and the supply of water for irrigation abundant."

Digital version of the American Naturalist, University of Chicago Press, available online, 2007.


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