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Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument (now Lassen Volcanic National Park), California

(NPS Photo) Lassen Peak erupting in 1914.

Forged by volcanic fire and carved by glaciers, populated by American Indians, pioneers, miners, and artists: for hundreds of thousands of years dramatic natural and cultural forces have shaped the landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The park is located at the southern end of the Cascade Mountains in northeastern California and boasts all four types of volcanoes found in the world.

Lassen Volcanic NP includes two former national monuments, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak, which were both proclaimed on May 6, 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Cinder Cone NM was described in its proclamation as, “the elevation known as Cinder Cone, and the adjacent area embracing a lava field and Snag Lake and Lake Bidwell of great scientific interest, as illustrations of volcanic activity which are of special importance in tracing the history of the volcanic phenomena of that vicinity” (Proc. No. 1907). Lassen Peak NM marked “the southern terminus of the long line of extinct volcanoes in the Cascade Range from which one of the greatest volcanic fields in the world extends, and is of special importance in tracing the history of the volcanic phenomena of that vicinity” (Proc. No. 754). The two national monuments were incorporated into Lassen Volcanic NP by Congressional action in 1916 for the region's significance as a volcanic landscape (39 Stat 442).

The volcanic rock seen as the park today has taken millions of years to emerge. Continental plates collided and warped around 600,000 years ago, which led to violent eruptions and the formation of Brokeoff Volcano, or Mt. Tehema, in the southwest area of the park. About 27,000 years ago, Lassen Peak was one of a series of smaller volcanoes that drew magma away from the main cone as it pushed up through one of the vents near Brokeoff Volcano. Hydrothermal areas eroded Brokeoff Volcano until its southern side and center crumbled away. A series of eruptions in the mid-1700s created Cinder Cone in the northeast corner of the park. In 1914, Lassen Peak's volcanic activity began, followed by major activity in 1915 and minor activity through 1921.

People have left a historical imprint on the landscape. American Indian tribes such as the Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Maidu met here. The elevation, harsh winters, and migrations of the deer would have made human life difficult year-round, and archeologists believe American Indians used the area on a seasonal basis. The few artifacts found by archeologists include stone points, knives, and metal objects. Tribal descendants still live in the area.

Emigrants and pioneers passed through this volcanic region beginning in the 1820s. The California Gold Rush encouraged settlement. William Nobles and Peter Lassen, for whom a volcanic peak is named, developed pioneer trails as alternate routes to California. These trails went through the current park. Edward R. Drake was the first person to settle in the valleys of the region circa 1870. Companies attempted to develop the area for mining, power, ranching, and timbering.

Lassen Volcanic NP today consists of 106,372 acres and hosts 370,000 visitors annually. Visitors can travel over 150 miles of trails and a culturally significant scenic highway to view the volcanic wonders including steam vents, mudpots, boiling pools, volcanic peaks, and painted dunes.

Visitors have said about Lassen Volcanic:

  • “Lassen is a treasure in our California 'backyard.' From steam vents and mudpots to a quite volcano, lakes and creeks.”
  • “A wonderful opportunity to observe volcanic activity and see its effect on the landscape.”
  • “Outstanding, inspiring volcanic scenery and Wilderness - A hiker's paradise!”
  • “Fresh geology - children love volcanoes and this one is real and accessible.”
  • “Awesome volcanic learning experience!”
 

MJB/TSM

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