The Mountain Reawakens
Lassen Peak's May 1914 eruption launched three years of sporadic volcanic outbursts. In the largest eruption, May 22, 1915, the peak blew a huge, mushroom-shaped cloud of ash over 30,000 feet into the air. The volcano's reawakening profoundly altered the surrounding area. Congress made this area a national park in 1916 because of the eruption and active volcanic landscape. Lassen Volcanic National Park is a valuable natural laboratory of volcanic events and associated hydrothermal features. The park lies at the southern end of the Cascade Range, which is a chain of active volcanoes that stretches north to Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia.
The western part of the park features great lava pinnacles, huge mountains created by lava flows, jagged craters, and steaming vents. The vents are rimmed by beautiful yellow sulfate crystals formed by hydrogen sulfide gases they emit. Cut by spectacular glaciated canyons, the area is dotted by lakes and threaded by clear rushing streams. At higher elevations snowfields can be found year-round. Spring and summer wildflowers adorn meadows. The eastern part of the park is a lava plateau over a mile above sea level, where you can find shield volcanoes and cinder cones. Forested with pine and fir, this area is studded with small lakes but boasts few streams. Warner Valley marks the southern edge of the Lassen plateau and features hydrothermal areasBoiling Springs Lake, Devils Kitchen, and Terminal Geyser. This forested, steep glacial valley also has gorgeous meadows.
Lassen Volcanic National Park serves as a century-long example of how Mount St. Helens might recover from its eruptions in 1980. The Devastated Area shows the combined mud flow and avalanche destruction typical of Cascades volcanic eruptions. A different mechanism 350 years ago destroyed the Chaos Jumbles. A rock avalanche crashed down the Chaos Crags volcanic dome, to slam across the valley at 110-plus miles per hour with such force that it ran 400 feet up Table Mountain before losing momentum and surging back down across Manzanita Creek.
Lassen hydrothermal areasSulphur Works, Bumpass Hell (the largest). Little Hot Springs Valley, Boiling Springs Lake, Devils Kitchen, and Terminal Geyseroffer bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and boiling water. These thermal features undergo constant changesome are getting hotter and more acidic and others less so. To shed light on regional volcanic hazards, U.S. Geological Survey scientists along with National Park Service staff investigate and monitor the geologic variations.
Lassen and the Pacific Ring of Fire
Lassen Peak is one of many active, dormant, or extinct volcanoes found around the Pacific Ocean in a Ring of Fire. On this seismic zone, edges of plates that form Earth's crust grind against each other, and one plate subducts, sinks down.
Subduction creates molten rock, magma, at the plate margins. As the magma rises into the continental crust it becomes the feeding chambers of volcanoes.
Ancestral Brokeoff Volcano Some 400,000 to 600,000 years ago Brokeoff Volcano, a big composite volcano, built up through countless eruptions. Hydrothermal activity and weathering weakened and broke down the great volcano. Brokeoff Volcano's main vent probably stood above what is now Sulphur Works. The remnants of its flanks are Brokeoff Mountain, Mount Diller, Pilot Pinnacle, and Mount Conard. If you connect these peaks in a circle you can envision how big Brokeoff Volcano wasover eight miles wide at its base and at least 11,000 feet high.
Lassen Peak Lassen Peak formed 27,000 years ago as a volcanic vent on the northern flank of Brokeoff Volcano. It is one of the world's largest plug dome volcanoes, rising 2,000 feet to an elevation of 10,457 feet.
The Landscape Recovers
How does the landscape recover from volcanic episodes? That question revived as Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, but the answer has been in process here for nearly a centurysince Lassen Peak quieted down.
Important post-eruption plant succession sites in the park illustrate how, slowly yet relentlessly, plant life returns. The Devastated Area and Chaos Jumbles were initially revegetated to conifer forests without significant preparation by herbaceous plants. New forests in disturbed areas are more diverse than previous mature forests. Seeds carried from the higher elevations have brought species like hemlock and whitebark pine that are not usually found in this forest's normal succession.
The opportunity for trees to become established is great in earlier stages of species recovery and competition. At Chaos Jumbles competition will eventually crowd out four of eight coniferous species now found there.
The Devastated Area is now undergoing a successional process of revegetation, with herbs, grasses, shrubs, and trees. Lodgepole pines are generally the first trees to give way in time to other pines and firs. By contrast the Cinder Cone and Fantastic Lava Beds areas were slower to recover from eruptions in those areas in the mid-1600s.
Diversity abounds here because plant life mixes species from the Sierra Nevada to the south, the Cascade Range, and the Great Basin to the east. The park hosts nearly 800 plant species, whereas nearby Mount Shasta has only 485. In the park, 24 Sierran species occur at the northern limit of their range, and 14 Cascadian species are at their southern limit.
The forces that created the Devastated Area and Chaos Jumbles also created Hat and Manzanita lakes, fortuitous landscape recoveries for us today. Hat Lake has undergone succession too. As the basin fills with debris from higher elevations, the lake will disappear and become a meadow that will then eventually become a forest.
American Indians, Emigrants, and Historians
Atsugewi, Mountain Maidu, Yahi, and Yana Indian tribes have ancestral lands in this area. Because of deep snow, the high elevations, and seasonal deer migrations, they spent only warmer months here, for hunting, gathering, and spiritual activities.
They left few artifacts except stone points and knives. Ishi, last known Yahi Indian, appeared in Oroville, Calif., in 1911, having long avoided white settlers. He then lived at the University of California Museum in Berkeley, where he was an invaluable source of first-hand information for ethnologists.
Trapper Jedediah Smith traversed this area in 1828 on his overland trek to the West Coast. Euro-Americans began to settle here in the early 1840s. With California's 1848 Gold Rush, emigrants streamed into California.
Peter Lassen developed the Lassen Trail using the tall St. Joseph's Peak (Lassen Peak) to orient emigrants. Both the peak and park now bear his name. More successful was Nobles Emigrant Trail, that William Nobles developed in the 1850s. It took on regional transportation importance. Sections are still visible in the park. People tried mining, power development projects, ranching, and logging in the area. Early federal protection as a park saved it from heavy logging. Today this is one of the largest areas of old-growth forest in northern California.
B.F. Loomis documented Lassen Peak's eruption cycle and promoted the park's development. Loomis photographed the eruptions, explored geologically, and developed a large museum collection. The Loomis Museum, open summer and fall, is one of the park's information sites.
Visiting Lassen Volcanic
Information The park newspaper and website list area accommodations, services, seasonal activities, and wheelchair-accessible facilities. Get your free newspaper at park information sites or contact the park. Buy maps and publications at information sites or from the nonprofit Lassen Association. Fees are charged at park entrances.
Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For details go to an information site, ask a ranger, call, or check our website.
Auto Tour The main road around three sides of Lassen Peak offers access to trails, lakes, and volcanic and hydrothermal features. The Road Guide to Lassen Volcanic National Park is sold at information sites. Speed limit is 35 mph or as posted. Do not stop on roadways; use the overlooks to view wildlife and scenery. Off-road vehicle travel is prohibited.
Campgrounds The eight park campgrounds are all above 5,650 feet elevation; ask your doctor about health problems at high altitudes. Reservations can be made and are required for group campsites. Call the park or see the website for more information. Camping at roadsides or in picnic areas and parking lots is prohibited except at the Southwest Walk-in Campground • Do not disturb any natural features. • Bears are present; store food properly. Do not feed wild animals. • Build fires only in campground fire grates; do not leave any fire unattended.
Hiking The 150 miles of park trails include 17 miles of Pacific Crest Trail. Self-guiding trails can introduce you to hiking. • Acclimate to high elevations gradually. Wear sturdy foot gear. • Avoid exposed areas in lightning storms. • Never hike alone. • Pets are not allowed on trails or boardwalks. • Stay on trails; take no shortcuts. • Bicycles, motor vehicles, and all wheeled conveyances are prohibited on trails. Ask a ranger about wheelchair use on trails. • Rock climbing is discouragedvolcanic rock is unstable. Talk to a ranger before climbing. • To safely drink backcountry surface water use an absolute 1-micron filter and then also boil the water for at least five minutes or treat it with iodine tablets.
Backcountry Use Free backcountry permits, required for any overnight backcountry stay, are issued for one trip at a time. Contact the park about closed areas. • Use self-contained stoves; wood fires are prohibited. • Pack out all trash. • Be avalanche-aware in winter: Always get weather and avalanche information before you enter park backcountry. Use may not be advised because of avalanche conditions.
Stock Use Pack and saddle stock may stay overnight only in the designated horse camps at Summit, Juniper, and Butte lakesreservations required. Permits required for day use of stock.
Fishing and Boating Anglers need a California fishing license and must know park regulations and limits. Only non-power watercraft may be used on park lakes. Power boats (including those with electric motors) are prohibited. Boating is prohibited on Reflection, Emerald, Helen, and Boiling Springs lakes. US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices are required for each occupant of a watercraft. All boats must be removed nightly from Manzanita Lake and its lakeshore. Boat rentals are offered at Manzanita Lake Camper Store in summer.
Pets Pets must be leashed and are prohibited on trails and boardwalks, on lakeshores, in the backcountry, at evening talks, and in buildings.
Thermal Warnings: Boiling, acidic water may be on or near surfaces in thermal areas. Crusts over thermal features can be brittle; if you break through, you're in boiling water. Watch children closely. Stay on the boardwalks and established trails in thermal areas.
Weapons The use or display of weapons is prohibited. Weapons are not allowed in federal facilities. For firearms regulations check the park website or ask at an information site.
Source: NPS Brochure (2014)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
A Comparison of Cinder Cones in the Crater Lake National Park Area With Those in the Lassen National Park Area (K.R. Cranson, June 7, 1967)
A Complex Magma Mixing Origin for Rocks Erupted in 1915, Lassen Peak, California (Michael A. Clynne, extract from Journal of Petrology, Vol. 40 No. 1, 1999, ©Oxford University Press)
A General Index to Lassen Nature Notes, 1932-1936 and Hawaii Nature Notes, 1931-1933 (Hazel Hunt Voth, 1938)
Acoustic Monitoring Report: Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/NSNSD/NRR—2016/1306 (Ashley R. Pipkin, October 2016)
Chemical analyses of thermal and nonthermal springs in Lassen Volcanic National Park and vicinity, California USGS Open-File Report 83-311 (J.M. Thompson, 1983)
Comparison of Limnological Characteristics and Distribution and Abundance of Littoral Macroinvertebrates and Zooplankton in Fishbearing and Fishless Lakes of Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/KLMN/NRTR—2008/116 (Michael S. Parker, August 2008)
Cultural Landscape Report for Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Lassen Volcanic National Park (Amy Hoke and Len Warner, March 2005)
Eruptions of Lassen Peak, California, 1914-1917 USGS Fact Sheet 173-98 (Michael A. Clynne, Robert L. Christiansen, Tracey J. Felger, Peter H. Stauffer and James W. Hendley II, 1999)
Exhibit Planning Report for the Loomis Museum at Lassen Volcanic National Park (Daniel Quan Design, January 1, 1989)
Foundation Document, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California (December 2016)
Fungi of Lassen Volcanic National Park Cooperative National Park Services Studies Unit Technical Report No. 21 (Wm. Bridge Cooke, November 1985)
Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2014/755 (K. KellerLynn, January 2014)
Geology of the Lassen Peak District by Diller (J.S. Diller, 1889)
Geology of the Lassen Volcanic National Park, California (Howel Williams, extract from University of California Bulletin of the Department of Geological Sciences, Vol. 21 No. 8, 1932)
"Hot Water" in Lassen Volcanic National Park Fumaroles, Steaming Ground, and Boiling Mudpots USGS Fact Sheet 101-02 (Michael A. Clynne, Cathy J. Janik, and L.J.P. Muffler, 2003)
How Old is "Cinder Cone"? Solving a Mystery in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California USGS Fact Sheet 023-00 (Michael A. Clynne, Duane E. Champion, Deborah A. Trimble, James W. Hendley II and Peter H. Stauffer, 2000)
Impacts of Visitor Spending on the Local Economy: Lassen Volcanic National Park, 2012 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/EQD/NRR—2014/847 (Philip S. Cook, August 2014)
Integrated Aquatic Community and Water Quality Monitoring of Mountain Ponds and Lakes in the Klamath Network Annual Data Report: 2013 results from Lassen Volcanic National Park, Crater Lake National Park, and Redwood National Park NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KLMN/NRDS—2016/1055 (Eric C. Dinger, September 2016)
Integrated Aquatic Community and Water Quality Monitoring of Wadeable Streams in the Klamath Network Annual Report: 2011 results from Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/KLMN/NRTR—2014/904 (Eric C. Dinger, and Daniel A. Sarr, August 2014)
Klamath Network Landbird Monitoring Annual Report: 2010 Results from Crater Lake National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Oregon Caves National Monument NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KLMN/NRDS—2011//175 (Jaime L. Stephens, John D. Alexander and Sean R. Mohren, June 2011)
Klamath Network Landbird Monitoring Annual Report: 2012 results from Lassen Volcanic National Park, Oregon Caves National Monument, and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KLMN/NRDS—2013/536 (Jaime L. Stephens and Sean R. Mohren, August 2013)
Land Cover and Land Use Monitoring in the Klamath Network: 2016 Summary for Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KLMN/NRR—2016/1308 (Jace Ives, Allison Snyder, Alice Chung-MacCoubrey, Jacob King, Lorin Groshong and Sean Mohren, September 2016)
Landbird monitoring: 2015 Results from Lassen Volcanic National Park, Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KLMN/NRDS-2016/1043 (Jaime L. Stephens, August 2016)
Lassen Volcanic Guide: Post Dixie Fire (October 2021)
Little Gem of the Cascades: An Administrative History of Lassen Volcanic National Park (Diane L. Krahe and Theodore Catton, University of Montana, September 2010)
Long-Range Interpretive Plan 2010-2019, Lassen Volcanic National Park (Edquist Davis Exhibits, March 2011)
Measurements of Heat and Mass Flow from Thermal Areas in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, 1984-93 USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4180-A (Michael L. Sorey and Elizabeth M. Colvard, 1994)
Measurements of Thermal-Water Discharge Outside Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, 1983-94 USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4180-B (Michael L. Sorey, Elizabeth M. Colvard and S.E. Ingebritsen, 1994)
Monitoring Vegetation Composition, Structure, and Function in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and Lassen Volcanic National Park: Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KLMN/NRDS-2014/628 (Sean B. Smith and Daniel Sarr, February 2013)
Museum Management Plan, Lassen Volcanic National Park (Kent Bush, Jonathan Bayless, Scott Isaacson, Lynn Marie Mitchell, James O'Barr and Brigid Sullivan-Lopez, 2000)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms
Drakesbad Guest Ranch (Ann Emmons and Janene Caywood, November 2002)
Horseshoe Lake Ranger Station (Gordon Chappell, June 15, 1977)
Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway Historic District (Ann Emmons, Shaun Provencher and Len Warner, February 2004)
Lassen Volcanic National Park Multiple Property Listing (Ann Emmons, February 2004)
Loomis Visitor Center/Loomis Museum, Manzanita Lake Visitor Center/Manzanita Lake Museum (Gordon Chappell, October 21, 1974)
Manzanita Lake Naturalist's Services Historic District (Ann Emmons and Janene Caywood, February 2004)
Nobles' Emigrant Trail HS-1 (Gordon S. Chappell, November 1974)
Park Headquarters (Gordon Chappell and Robert Cox, May 19 1978)
Prospect Peak Fire Lookout (Gordon Chappell, June 16, 1977)
Summit Lake Ranger Station (Gordon Chappell, April 9, 1976)
Warner Valley Ranger Station (Gordon Chappell, April 22, 1976)
Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/WRD/NRR-2013/725 (Paul R. Adamus, Dennis C. Odion, Gregory V. Jones, Lorin C. Groshong and Ryan Reid, November 2013)
Natural Resources Management Plan and Management Program: Lassen Volcanic (July 1979, rev. April 1984)
Park Newspaper (Peak Experiences)
Pika Monitoring at Crater Lake National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Lava Beds National Monument: 2010 Annual Monitoring Report (Mackenzie R. Jeffress, Lisa K. Garrett and Thomas J. Rodhouse, December 2010)
Pika Monitoring at Crater Lake National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Lava Beds National Monument: 2010-2014 Status Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/UCBN/NRDS-2015/782 (Thomas J. Rodhouse and Matthew Hovland, April 2015)
Principal facts for 382 gravity stations in Lassen Volcanic National Park and vicinity, California USGS Open-File Report 83-584 (Robert C. Jachens, D.R. Spydell and R.W. Saltus, 1983)
Quantitative analysis of the hydrothermal system in Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lassen Known Geothermal Resource Area USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 84-4278 (M.L. Sorey and S.E. Ingebritsen, 1984)
Report on Wind Cave National Park, Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin, Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves: 1913 (HTML edition) (Secretary of the Interior, 1914)
Rock-art image in Fern Cave, Lava Beds National Monument, California: not the AD 1054 (Crab Nebula) supernova (R.A. Armitage, M. Hyman, J. Southon, C. Barat and M.W. Rowe, extract from Antiquity, v71, 1997)
Schlumberger soundings near Lassen Volcanic National Park, California USGS Open-File Report 89-670 (Adel A.R. Zohdy and Robert J. Bisdorf, 1989)
Small Vertebrate Inventory Project: Preliminary Results 2000-2004, Lassen Volcanic National Park (John D. Perrine, 2006)
Status of White Pines Across Five Western National Park Units: Initial Assessment of Stand Structure and Condition NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KLMN/NRR—2021/2232 (Matthew J. Reilly, Jonathan C. B. Nesmith, Sean B. Smith, Devin S. Stucki and Erik S. Jules, February 2021)
Teleseismic residual study of the Lassen Volcanic National Park region in California USGS Open-File Report 86-252 (P.A. Berge and M.E. Monfort, 1986)
The Birds of Lassen Volcanic National Park: An annotated checklist (Ryan D. Burnett and Jon R. King, 2004)
The Volcanic Activity and Hot Springs of Lassen Peak (Arthur L. Day and E.T. Allen, 1925)
The Volcanic History of Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California (J.S. Diller, 1918)
Vegetation Community Monitoring: 2015 Results From Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KLMN/NRDS—2016/1051 (Sean B. Smith, August 2016)
Vertebrate Natural History of a Section of Northern California Through the Lassen Peak Region University of California Publications in Zoology Vol. 35 (Joseph Grinnell, Joseph Dixon and Jean M. Linsdale, October 1930)
Volcano Hazards of the Lassen Volcanic National Park Area, California USGS Fact Sheet 022-00 (Michael A. Clynne, Robert L. Christiansen, C. Dan Miller, Peter H. Stauffer and James W. Hendley II, 2000)
Wadeable Streams Monitoring: 2014 results from Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KLMN/NRR—2017/1536 (Eric C. Dinger, October 2017)
Wetlands of Lassen Volcanic National Park: An Assessment of Vegetation, Ecological Services, and Condition NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/KLMN/NRTR-2008/113 (Paul R. Adamus and Cheryl L. Bartlett, March 2008)
Whitebark Pine in Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic National Parks: Initial Assessment of Stand Structure and Condition NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KLMN/NRR—2017/1459 (Erik S. Jules, Jenell I. Jackson, Sean B. Smith, Jonathan C. B. Nesmith, Leigh Ann Starcevich and Daniel A. Sarr, June 2017)
Whitebark Pine Monitoring: 2015 results from Crater Lake National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KLMN/NRR—2016/1319 (Sean B. Smith and Alice Chung-MacCoubrey, October 2016)
Whitebark Pine Monitoring: 2016 results from Crater Lake National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KLMN/NRR—2017/1484 (Sean B. Smith, July 2017)
Whitebark Pine Monitoring at Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic National Parks: Fiscal Years 2012–2014 Project Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KLMN/NRR—2015/1052 (Jenell Jackson, Erik S. Jules, Sean B. Smith, E. April Sahara and Daniel A. Sarr, October 2015)
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Last Updated: 21-Jun-2022