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2015 President's Field Trip: Geologic Wonders of Southeast Oregon

  • Steens Mountain Resort 35678 Resort Lane Frenchglen, OR 97736 (map)

REGISTRATION FOR THIS TRIP IS CLOSED. President Janet Rasmussen will lead a field trip to the Steens Mountain area of Southeast Oregon. The first and last days are travel days. Participants are encouraged to make lodging plans at or near the Steens Mountain Resort (SMR), just a few miles east of the town of Frenchglen, Oregon. This trip will explore four general areas:

  • Diamond Craters and the Peter French Round Barn
  • Steens Mountain Loop
  • Lakes and springs east of Steens Mountain
  • Older terranes on the eastern side of the Pueblo Mountains.

The Steens Mountain Resort has cabins, RV sites, and tent sites. There are showers, laundry, a camp store, and wifi. Nearby is Page Springs Campground, which is less expensive, but in an attractive natural setting with primitive campsites, potable water, and vault toilets. As you plan your drive to SMR, use Marli Miller’s new Roadside Geology of Oregon to plan your route and make stops of your own as time permits. You may want to go home a different route to see even more.

I recommend getting Roadside Geology of Oregon, by Marli Miller. It has great geologic maps of every region, and good background, great diagrams. Plus, as people drive down and back, it’ll be a good resource for them to check out the geology across Oregon. Since everyone ought to have a copy, they should get it soon, so as to enjoy their other travels over the summer. Amazon has it for about $22.
Dr. Marli Miller,  Roadside Geology of Oregon  (2014)

Dr. Marli Miller, Roadside Geology of Oregon (2014)

Participants should check in with Janet to sign waivers and pick up field guides on arrival Tuesday afternoon/evening, September 8, at Cabin #4. Brief procedural and geologic overviews will be presented each morning prior to departure. The trip will begin Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. from Steens Mountain Resort.

Day 1: Wednesday Sept. 9, 2015


Leave SMR at 9 am. Drive to Krumbo Reservoir, stopping at pictograph boulder. Drive north to Buena Vista Overlook via Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Take short hike on geological overview interpretive trail. Return south and then east to Diamond Craters. See selected stops and short walks on Diamond Loop Auto Tour. Continue east to Round Barn, where there is now a comfortable Visitor Center. Have presentation there by local rancher. Return to SMR.

Day 2: Thursday Sept. 10 

Leave SMR at 9 am. Drive east on Steens Mountain Loop Rd. Following USGS Field Guide to Steens Mountain Loop, will visit about 10 of the 26 stops. Optional walk to summit at radio towers, up steep road, or enjoy beautiful scenery above Little Wildhorse Lake basin. Lunch stop will be overlooking Big Indian Gorge. Return to SMR.

Day 3: Friday Sept. 11 

Leave SMR at 8 am. Drive south on Hwy 202 along west side of Steens (Catlow Rim), observing paleo lake terraces, and stop at Fields. Drive north along east face of Steens Mountain. Stop at Borax Lake. Drive north to Mann Lake. Drive south then east on dirt road to Mickey Hot Springs. Return to main road, and drive south to Pike Creek Canyon to hike and do some rockhounding. A short distance south of this is Alvord Hot Springs. Participants may stop and soak. There is now a comfortable Visitor Center. At all water stops, we’ll test temperature and pH, and obtain small samples at some areas. Later we can look for diatoms and small creatures in the digital microscope.

Day 4: Saturday Sept. 12 

Leave SMR at 8 am. Drive south on Hwy 205/202 to Roaring Springs Ranch. Meet with biologist/tour caves in cliffs. Drive several miles on dirt road along western margin of Pueblo Mountains to see other caves (pending outcome of next scouting trip.) Drive to Fields for gas/restroom stop. Continue south to Domingo Pass Rd and turn right. Stop about 2 miles in to examine outcrops and rockhound. Drive to summit. Short walk to top of hill (optional) to see rock shelter. Return to E. Steens Rd and continue south. Drive short distance up one or two canyons (pending outcome of next scouting trip) to examine outcrops of Jurassic Pueblo Terrane rocks.

Participants are responsible their own lodging, transportation, and food arrangements. Carpooling is required each day, due to limited parking at many of the stops. Much of the trip will be on gravel roads, so vehicles with better clearance are preferable. More importantly, cars should be in good mechanical condition with good tires & full tank. It is recommended to gas up in Burns prior to driving south. Gas (regular only) is available at two locations: Frenchglen and Fields, & may be pricey. The weather is very changeable and unpredictable, so come prepared for both heat and cold, and all forms of precipitation and wind. Don’t forget to bring a bathing suit and towel on Day 3 for Alvord Hot Springs.

There is cell phone service in almost all areas now.

Trip Participation Policies



If you have questions, contact Janet Rasmussen (, or call 541-760-7846. If the weather is bad or there are fires in the area, some (or all) of the trip will be canceled and your money refunded. More information about specifics will be emailed or sent to participants after the deadline.

Strictly enforced: No persons under 18 years of age, and no pets will be permitted on this trip, due to the multiple hazards we may experience. There are precipitous cliffs on the east face of Steens Mountain, boiling hot springs at Mickey Basin, and always the possibility of rattlesnakes.