Fort Rock State Natural Area, a sacred place

This is the first of a couple of posts I will do on Fort Rock State Natural Area (formerly park), in the high desert of south central Oregon. I wanted to show its features today from the perspective given by my GoPro, which has a unique and very wide angle perspective (and distortion).

These sandals were found a mile from Fort Rock State Natural Area and are approximately 10,000 years old (photo courtesy of the University of Oregon). These sandals were found in 1938 by archaeologist Luther Cressman.

These sandals were found a mile from Fort Rock State Natural Area and are approximately 10,000 years old (photo courtesy of the University of Oregon). These sandals were found in 1938 by archaeologist Luther Cressman.

Fort Rock is a gem. It stands prominently on the floor of what was once a lake bed. The formation is an extinct volcano that blew about 1.8 million years ago. Archaeological evidence dates Native American habitation here for at least 10,000 years. A research expedition in 1938 unearthed dozens of sage bark sandals under a layer of volcanic ash about a mile from here that are carbon dated as 10,000 years old. So clearly the continent’s first peoples have been coming here for many millenia.

I felt a touch of the divine and sacred here. How can one not. Its circular formation, its prominence on a desolate landscape, its energy when one stands on the rim of the crater–all create a feeling of otherworldliness. I saw deer and jackrabbits, so clearly food could be hunted here. It is well worth a visit. The area is about 70 miles southeast of upscale retirement city Bend, and there is no entrance fee. The state has also erected a recreated historic pioneer village near the entrance.

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

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2 comments

  1. Good article and beautiful shots of Fort Rock. I share your sense of the sacred nature of this place and an appreciation for the depth of human experience evident in this region. A correction however, with credit where due: The Fort Rock Homestead Village collection consists entirely of original buildings, rescued and transported from all over the region, lovingly restored and furnished entirely by members of the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society and the community at large. Members and volunteers manage the nonprofit and the museum. They are not re-creations erected or run by the State. They’re open tomorrow; you should come back and check it out.

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