Photo of Boat on Upper Deschutes River

Meander Belt on the Upper Deschutes River

What do river meanders and the results of a train wreck have in common? Both reflect the dissipation of excess energy. When a moving train impacts a large object on the tracks, the extra kinetic energy of the railcars causes them to scatter in a serpentine pattern behind the engine. When a river has more energy than it can dissipate through turbulence and sediment transport, it will carve meanders in its floodplain to reduce its gradient and stream power. A classic example of this river dynamic is found in a 6-mile meander belt on the Upper Deschutes River, between LaPine State Park and the Big River Campground.
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45th Parallel Road Sign near Shaniko

The 45th Parallel - Linking Shaniko to the World

Is there a link between the towns of Shaniko, Oregon and Turin, Italy? Surprisingly yes, as both are located on the 45th parallel, a line of latitude circling the earth halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. When standing on the line near Shaniko, this latitude also connects you with the hot springs of Yellowstone Park, with the wine regions of Bordeaux, with the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, with the deserts of Mongolia, and with the snowy northern islands of Japan.
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Panoramic Photo of McKenzie Pass Wagon Road

Pioneer Wagon Road at McKenzie Pass

In the late 1800s, Central Oregon was not an easy place to reach from the Willamette Valley. Though there was great demand for access by stockmen, who desired to drive their cattle east into the vast bunchgrass plains, the Cascade Range was impassable in winter and the few established trails were difficult and dangerous. That is, until John Templeton Craig pioneered a wagon road across the lava fields at McKenzie Pass — a route that can still be enjoyed today by adventurous hikers.
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Panoramic Photo of Paulina Falls

Ancient, Cataclysmic Flood on Paulina Creek

Nearly all the clues needed to solve the mystery were right in plain sight — the huge gravel bars, the dry abandoned waterfalls, the actively-migrating falls just below Paulina Lake today, plus the wave-cut terraces marooned several feet above the lake’s current water level. But it wasn’t until two Forest Service researchers, Lawrence Chitwood and Robert Jensen, put all of these clues together back in the mid-1990s that the full story of Paulina Creek’s ancient flood became clear to everyone.
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Panoramic View of Sand Canyon

Pinnacles of Wheeler and Sand Canyons

Some of the more geologically and visually interesting canyons in Central Oregon are found on the southeast slopes of the Crater Lake caldera. In these lightly-visited canyons are found hundreds of stark stone pinnacles, which have eroded out of the volcanic ash of remnant Mount Mazama. The pinnacles in Wheeler Canyon are easily accessible by car at a viewpoint in Crater Lake National Park, while the rock towers in lower Sand Canyon require a challenging, cross-country bushwhack of 2.7 miles roundtrip.
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Fields of Pink Wild Onion

Wildflowers of Big Summit Prairie

The best spot in Central Oregon to view spring wildflowers? For sheer variety and extent, the loop road around Big Summit Prairie is hard to beat in late May and early June. Located at 4,500’ elevation in Ochoco National Forest about 30 miles east of Prineville, this 15,000-acre prairie is mostly privately-owned, but is surrounded by wildflower meadows, dry grasslands and rock prairies on Forest Service land.
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