Mount Tehama, Brokeoff Mountain and the Lassen Volcanic National Park

Fig 1. The Milky Way over Lake Manzanita with the Chaos Crags, Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain in the background (Wally Pacholka, astropics.org)

Fig 1. The Milky Way over Lake Manzanita with the Chaos Crags, Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain in the background (Wally Pacholka, astropics.org)

This article began as a regular piece on Lassen Peak but quickly expanded as I discovered how incredibly complex the geology and history of the Lassen Volcanic Complex was. Unlike nearby Shasta, Lassen Peak is but a dacite lava dome, one of the largest lava domes on Earth but only one of the dozens of lava domes and peaks to be found within the Lassen Volcanic National Park. Before we begin to unravel the very complex history of eruptions, collapses and glacial erosion, it is a good idea to acquaint ourselves with the area and its main features:

Fig 2. Major features of the Lassen Volcanic Complex. The most important ones are Brokeoff Mountain, the major remnant of ancestral Mount Tehama, Lassen Peak itself and the Chaos Crags. Please note the extent of volcanic features within the Park. (USGS)

Fig 2. Major features of the Lassen Volcanic Complex. The most important ones are Brokeoff Mountain, the major remnant of ancestral Mount Tehama, Lassen Peak itself and the Chaos Crags. Please note the extent of volcanic features within the Park. (USGS)

Volcanic activity in the area goes back at least three million years. About 600,000 years ago, contemporary with the formation of nearby Mount Shasta, a series of large eruptions formed a huge volcano, Mount Tehama. Just to put it into perspective, the largest of these eruptions was about 50 times as powerful as the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens or five times that of Mount Pinatubo. Mount Tehama was immense. At its base, it measured 18 km (11 miles) by 24 km (15 miles) wide and it stood more than 3,353 m (11,000 feet) tall. Its total volume must have been well in excess of 400 kubic kilometres, a rough calculation yields a volume of 425 cu km, comfortably larger than either present-day Mount Shasta or Mount Hood, both of which have volumes of about 350 cubic kilometres.

Fig 3. Brokeoff Mountain, a sad remnant of what was once the largest of the Cascade volcanoes. (Sing H. Lin, shltrip.com)

Fig 3. Brokeoff Mountain, a sad remnant of what was once the largest of the Cascade volcanoes. (Sing H. Lin, shltrip.com)

Activity at Mount Tehama continued for about 200,000 years and consisted mostly of  pyroclastics and andesitic lava flows containing olivine. During the same period of time, other volcanic vents began to appear such as the shield volcanoes Raker Peak, Red Mountain, Prospect Peak and Mount Harkness. The distances from the central volcano, never more than eight miles, argues that they were satellite cones of Mount Tehama. As for the central volcano itself, there was a final, large lava flow on the north-eastern flank consisting of glassy dacite and further dacite flows formed smaller cones such as Mount Conard and Diamond Peak on the flanks of Mount Tehama.

Fig 4. Diamond Peak, a dacitic satellite cone of Mount Tehama. (vibadirect.com)

Fig 4. Diamond Peak, a dacitic satellite cone of Mount Tehama. (vibadirect.com)

Subsequent glaciation combined with extensive hydrothermal activity led to major erosion and to a subsequent collapse of Mount Tehama of which today the only visible, large remnant is Brokeoff Volcano, also known as Brokeoff Mountain. The collapse structure, a caldera about 3 km (2 miles) in diameter, was quickly infilled by debris and material from later eruptions. Further activity built more than thirty other cones which are sometimes referred to as the Lassen Domes.

As we have already seen, Mount Tehama began life as a rather typical andesitic stratovolcano, but subsequent activity became more and more silicic. After its collapse and disappearance, local volcanism shifted to what had been its northern flank. The last 400,000 years have seen at least three known lava flows, parts of which can be seen on or near Raker Peak and Mount Conard. There is also evidence of a very large explosive eruption which ejected an estimated 50 km3 (12 cubic miles) of material and created a large crater which was soon obliterated by subsequent lava flows and emplacements. During this period, a further twelve lava domes were emplaced throughout the Park area. The next period of eruptive activity spanned some 50,000 years and ejected between 15 to 25 km3 (3.5 to 6 cubic miles) in the form of pyroclastic flows, viscous lava flows and mainly dacitic lava domes.

  Fig 5. Lassen Peak showing the cirque gouged out by the period of glaciation from 25 to 18 kA. It also shows the area devastated by lahars and the 1915 major eruption. (Wikimedia Commons)


Fig 5. Lassen Peak showing the cirque gouged out by the period of glaciation from 25 to 18 kA. It also shows the area devastated by lahars and the 1915 major eruption. (Wikimedia Commons)

About 27,000 years ago,Lassen Peak started to form as a mound-shaped dacite lava dome pushed its way through the shattered north-eastern flank of Mount Tehama. As the lava dome grew, it shattered overlaying rock, which formed a collar of angular talus around the steep-sided volcanic dome. Lassen Peak reached its present dimensions of nearly two km across at the base and prominence of 606 metres above the surrounding landscape in a remarkably short time, probably in just a few years or at most tens of years.

From 25,000 to 18,000 years ago, during the last glacial period of the current Ice Age, the shape of Lassen Peak was significantly modified by glacial erosion. The bowl-shaped depression – cirque – on the volcano’s north-eastern flank is the result of erosion by a glacier that extended some 11 km (7 miles) from the dome.

To inject a piece of human history, Lassen Peak was named after the Danish blacksmith Peter Lassen (most likely an Americanisation of Larsen), who guided immigrants in covered wagons past this peak into the Sacramento Valley during the 1830s. The trail that Lassen blazed never found general long-term use because it was considered to be unsafe.

Fig 6. A beautiful sunset view with reflection of the pink Chaos Crags in the still waters of Lake Manzanita. The Chaos Crags, a series of five dacite lava domes, were extruded as recently as 1,100 to 1,000 years ago.  (Sing H. Lin, shltrip.com)

Fig 6. A beautiful sunset view with reflection of the pink Chaos Crags in the still waters of Lake Manzanita. The Chaos Crags, a series of five dacite lava domes, were extruded as recently as 1,100 to 1,000 years ago. (Sing H. Lin, shltrip.com)

Just over 1,000 years ago, a major period of activity resulted in the extrusion of five dacite lava domes that form the 177 metres high Chaos Crags. Initially, they must have been considerably higher as a major rockslide occurred just 300 years ago. Riding on a cushion of compressed air, the sturzstrom landslide travelled 20 to 30 times the vertical fall height and resulted in the formation of beautiful Lake Manzanita, 3 km (2 miles) from the Chaos Crags.

The most recent period of activity at Lassen Peak took place between 1914 and 1921. After 27,000 years of dormancy, Lassen Peak was shaken by a steam explosion on May 30th, 1914. By mid-May 1915, more than 180 steam explosions had gouged out a 300 metre-wide (1,000 ft) crater near the summit. On the evening of May 14th, 1915 the character of the eruption changed dramatically as incandescent blocks of lava could be seen bouncing down the flanks of Lassen Peak from as far away as the town of Manton, 30 km to the west. Next morning, the crater had been filled by a rapidly growing dacite lava dome.

Late in the evening of May 19th, the lava dome was fragmented by a large hydrothermal explosion. Glowing blocks of lava fell on the summit and snow-covered upper flanks of Lassen Peak and launched an 800 metre (half mile) wide avalanche of snow and volcanic rocks that roared 10 km (6 miles) down the volcano’s steep northeast flank, over a low ridge at Emigrant Pass and into Hat Creek. The lahar was deflected north-westward at Emigrant Pass and flowed more than 11 kilometres (7 miles) down Lost Creek. During the night of May 19–20th, dacite lava slightly less viscous than that which erupted on the night of May 14–15th, welled up into and filled the new crater at Lassen’s summit, spilled over low spots on its rim, and flowed 300 metres (1,000 ft) down the steep west and northeast flanks of the volcano.

Fig 7. This view of the climactic eruption of May 22nd, 1915, was taken from Anderson, California, more than 33 km (20 miles) from the volcano. (smate.wwu.edu)

Fig 7. This view of the climactic eruption of May 22nd, 1915, was taken from Anderson, California, more than 33 km (20 miles) from the volcano. (smate.wwu.edu)

At 4:30 p.m. on May 22nd 1915, Lassen Peak exploded after two quiet days in what is referred to as “the Great Explosion”. The eruption column rose more than 10,000 metres (30,000 ft) and was visible from as far away as the Pacific coast 240 km (150 mi) to the west.

The blast created the larger and deeper of the two craters seen near the summit of the volcano today. Pyroclastic flows devastated an area of 8 km2 (3 sq miles) below the volcano, and melting snow created a series of lahars that rushed nearly 16 km (10 miles) down “Lost Creek” to the Old Station. The lahars released large masses of water that flooded the lower Hat Creek Valley a second time. A layer of volcanic ash and pumice was traceable for 25 miles (40 km) to the northeast and fine particles of ash rained down as far away as 320 km (200 mi) to the east.

For several years after the main eruption, rainfall triggered steam explosions indicative of  fresh lava just below the surface, and in May 1917, a series of vigorous hydrothermal explosions obliterated the two older craters and dug out the second of the two summit craters visible today. It was not until 1921 that the eruptive period was officially declared over.

Fig 8. The sulphur and mud springs of Bumpass Hell located near to what was the central vent of Mount Tehama. (Sing H. Lin, shltrip.com)

Fig 8. The sulphur and mud springs of Bumpass Hell located near to what was the central vent of Mount Tehama. (Sing H. Lin, shltrip.com)

Mount Tehama today. Activity at the Lassen Volcanic complex is far from over. There are several areas of hot springs and fumaroles of which the Sulphur Works and the hot mud springs at Bumpass Hell on the Lassen trail are the most well known. With major eruptive activities during the Holocene, the area around Mount Lassen, which more accurately ought to be referred to as Mount Tehama, and the nearby Mount Shasta are considered to be the most likely volcanoes in the Cascade Range to erupt during the coming decades and centuries. Should they do so during our lifetimes, it is not inconceivable that we might see a repeat of the rapid growth of Mount Shastina, Lassen Peak or the Chaos Crags. I for one would much rather see this volcanic creation process than a truly huge eruption that has a “human impact”, to put it euphemistically…

HENRIK

For further stunning views of the Lassen Volcanic National Park, please visit

http://www.astropics.com/Lassen-Volcanic-National-Park-Pictures/

http://vibadirect.com/photos/lassen-volcanic-trip.html

http://www.shltrip.com/Northern-California_Part_1.html

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186 thoughts on “Mount Tehama, Brokeoff Mountain and the Lassen Volcanic National Park

  1. This is what I am getting when I refresh… tell it to foad IE cancel and no prob
    A username and password are being requested by themovieblog . com. The site says: “Access Restricted (pwrestrict)”

    DragonEdit: Disarmed the link. Do not write this link out fully.

  2. I see the msg 2…i could be a hidden java script in somebodies post, but that would normally come from an unusual poster and only if wordpress formats tags in such a way as to make it hidden in the 1st place..or somebody has modified on the server side.

    • It might even be an issue with the themovieblog.com…if you try to refresh the page it also refreshed all links

      if you try to go to themovideblog.com, you will also see the error..if you cancel you will get the cached version of the image…of course i think everyting else is refreshed at that stage so you will see updated posts

      • In Summary I think all is ok..somebody has broken something at themovieblog.com website, I suspect it will resolve it self when somebody who owns that website notices..or one of the dragons removes the image above

  3. I did not have that message using Google Chrome browser but when I switched to IE for testing there it popped up! However, going back to earlier posts does not bring it up. So, probably there is something with one of our links on this page here which Chrome can deal with and IE cannot.

  4. EMEDIATE SAFETY RULE IN EFFECT!!!

    IT IS EXPRESSELY FORBIDDEN TO LINK TO IMAGES FROM MOVIEBLOG . COM. PLEASE DO CHECK THAT YOU DO NOT POST LINKS FROM THAT SITE. ANY LINK LEADING TO THAT SITE WILL LEAD TO A SAFETY HOLE OPENING UP. IF YOU SEE AN ODD LOG IN BAR ASKING FOR YOU TO LOG IN, DO NOT FILL THAT IN. ONLY USE THE REGULAR TWO MODES OF LOGGING ON TO VC.

    THE PROBLEM REPORTED AND DEBATED UP ABOVE IS NOW FIXED. THERE IS NOT LONGER A SAFETY PROBLEM IN HERE!

  5. OT: But I got an update on my dad. He had to have surgery on Tuesday night because he had lots of blood surrounding his chest wall. From what my mom told me, they took almost 2 liters of blood out of him. The day after the surgery, he looked really pale when my mom visited him yesterday. She visited him again today and said he looks better.

    • Hi Tyler, I remember well my fright and fear when my dad had a similar problem after a big heart OP a couple of years ago. But he recovered well and is alive and kicking as good as an 82-year-old can be. Hope the same comes true for your dad!

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