Updated: Nov 13
One of the "youngest" lava flows in the area!
What? Bootprints in the lava?
Jordan Craters are one of the lava beds that were a result of North America’s jarring collision with the North Pacific seafloor plate. The force of that impact stretched Oregon diagonally and let lava seep through 200-miles of fractures between Jordan Craters and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument south of Bend. Volcanic eruptions began less than 9,000 years ago when an explosion created Coffeepot Crater at the lower end of a string of fractures at Jordan Craters. Soupy pahoehoe (a Hawaiian term meaning “rope” or “ropy” to describe smooth, billowy lava flows) basalt lava then oozed through a 300-yard row of spatter cones in the remote sagebrush landscape and flowed over 27 square miles of desert.
It has been said that the Jordan Craters lava beds are so "fresh" that you can find cowboy boot prints in them. And that may be true! Geologists discovered an 18-acre area of the lava beds that may only be 100 years old!
Coffeepot Crater is the only feature of the lava beds with vehicle access and covers about two-thirds of a square mile at the far northwest of the flow, with a well-preserved, steep-sided crater. In the Coffeepot Crater area, you can see a series of roughly aligned spatter cones, made up of blocks of lava which probably erupted in a semi-molten state, then welded together to form cones. The insides of these cones have a shiny lining because they were the vents for the hot gasses from the eruption. There are also several circular features northeast of the crater that are "collapse pits" presumably formed by the collapse of the tops of the lava tubes.
You can see the magnitude of the size of the site if you look at the Jeep in the upper left corner of the picture:
The origin of the lave flow is Coffeepot Crater, a deep cavity at the far northwest of the flow. If you want to feel like you're on the surface of the moon, just hike around Coffeepot and explore the pits, tubes and caves. From where you park your car, you can walk a loop around the rim and down a red cinder path into the crater. Just remember to wear stable footwear and watch your step because the lava can be sharp and break off if you step on it. The walk is about 1 mile and descends 150 feet - but you may find trenches and tubes to explore along the way, making your route a little longer. The best times to visit this trail are April through October. Just remember that winter temperatures are like to be below freezing and the hot summer sun in the desert may reach temperatures close to 120 degrees. During rainy weather, the dirt access road can be muddy with ruts and large puddles.
LATITUDE/LONGITUDE: 43.151930415260125, -117.46075139634829
STARTING POINT: Boise
DISTANCE FROM STARTING POINT: 95 miles (one way)
TIME TO REACH: Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes (one way)
ROAD SURFACE: Paved and dirt
WHEN ACCESSIBLE: Year-round; best access April - October
RECOMMENDED VEHICLES: A high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended; accessibility is dependent on road conditions.
PET FRIENDLY: Yes
WHEN WE WENT: Fall
TRAILHEADS: Hiking trails are throughout the area; for an easy hike, try the loop trail around the crater from the parking area.
CAUTIONS: When you travel in this area you need to be prepared and self-sufficient. You will not find services when you leave the paved roads. Have a full gas tank and even consider carrying a spare gas can.
Driving conditions can be challenging. Pay attention to vehicle clearance and four-wheel drive recommendations. Even a little rainfall makes the roads here slippery, which will clog wheel wells with mud and limit travel.
There is no drinking water, so remember to bring your own water.
Take I-84 west to Exit 33A, head right on the ramp for ID-55 South toward Marsing/Nampa. Turn right onto ID-55. Turn left onto US-95 South / High 95. Keep right to stay on US-95 South. Take US-95 S to Curly Lodge Rd in Malheur County. Continue on Curly Lodge Rd. Take Blowout Reservoir Rd to Coffeepot Crater Rd. Follow the left fork of the road down the hill to the parking area.
You will be driving approximately 70 miles without gas or other services, so plan accordingly. Gas and food are available at Jordan Valley and Homedale. Most of this area is private land, so please stay on trails or marked roads unless you have a land map to show private lands.
This area can be dangerous in bad weather. If it is wet or snowy, it is not recommended to drive the dirt roads in this area. Getting stuck out here could be costly - or worse.
I'm Here - Now What?
Enjoy the hiking trail around the crater and explore the tubes and caves. Also, please be respectful of the environment while you are enjoying the beauty of this remarkable place!
Motorized vehicles should be limited to existing roads and parking areas.
Wildlife and plant viewing
There is a lot of wildlife as you travel through this area. You may see deer, antelope, rabbits, coyotes, big horn sheep, wildflowers and a variety of birds.
One of the MANY caches is listed below but there are hundreds within this area.
From Opa and Oma on geocaching.com:
Jordan Craters GC1TT2J
N 43° 08.833 W 117° 27.583
25 miles off of highway. In dry season a sedan may be able to drive to this, but SUV/4WD recommended.
Jordan Craters volcanic field consists of well-preserved basaltic lava flows and scoria cones that are the youngest and northernmost of a group of three Quaternary lava fields covering an area of 97 sq mi (250 sq km) in SE Oregon. The Pleistocene 4,833 feet (1473m) high Clarks Butte shield volcano and Rocky Butte (Lava Butte) lava fields lie to the south, along the trend of regional Basin and Range faulting. Jordan Craters lie on the Owyhee-Oregon plateau at the SE end of a series of widely scattered young volcanic fields extending SE from Bend, Oregon. Coffeepot Crater at the NW end of the lava field was the source about 3200 years ago of one of Oregon's youngest lava flows, which covered 29 sq mi (75 sq km) with 2,092 cu yds (1.6 cu km) of olivine-basaltic lava having a smooth or billowy surface. The flows dammed local drainages, forming the two small lakes at the SE end of the lava field. Jordan Craters is renowned for its excellent exposures of a wide variety of youthful lava-flow features and has similarities to Holocene basaltic flows of Idaho's Snake River Plain to the east.
Another series of geocaches are the 136 (yes, 136!) Blowout Trail Geocaches you will find on geocaching.com