Est. 1001 A.D. (Approximately)
Story and photos by Kevin S. Abel
A visit to Crack-in-the-Ground near Bend is like traveling back in time to Oregon’s volcanic past.
BOOM! For more than a millennium, Oregon’s Crack-in-the-Ground has served as a majestic memento of its explosive past.
Across eons, earthquakes and volcanos have split and splintered the earth’s surface. Such shocks to the system are not uncommon over the span of six billion years. But still, they have caused many cracks and blisters in the ground.
So…why doesn’t more of our earth look like the Grand Canyon – if not “Land of the Lost?”
The reason we don’t see as much blunt trauma to local landscape is because, over time, rock rubble along with hardening lava generally serve to refill and patch up fissures. As the earth cracks, so it fills itself. Think bondo. But not all breaks mend equally.
Eight miles north of Christmas Valley in south central Oregon – some 100 miles from Bend – there’s a unique fissure called, aptly, Crack-in-the-Ground. The volcanic crevice covers over two miles and descends 70 feet. This particular split has likely been open for 1,000 years.
And it’s also available to visit on your public lands.
Normally, fissures like this one would have been washed away with soil and rock through years of erosion and changing landscapes. But because Crack-in-the-Ground exists in such an arid, desert-like region, very little filling-in has occurred.
The Lost Fountain…of Ice Cream?
Crack-in-the-Ground may live in the desert, but it is also a source of cool weather. The temperature at bottom of the crack can be as much as twenty degrees cooler than that of the surface above it.
Reub Long, renowned author of The Oregon Desert, reported that when he lived at Christmas Valley as a boy, he used to explore “the Crack” as it was called locally. He remembered homesteaders who went there to hold picnics where they made homemade ice cream from the ice they found in the caves of the chasm.
Today there’s no guarantee of free ice cream. But the entire two-mile length of the fissure can be hiked. An established trail runs along the fissure’s bottom from the parking area – which is open to the public year-round.
Ultimately, Crack-in-the-Ground is a gateway to the past. And if you’re ready to drop down into an adventure and go back in time to see what this land looked like 1,000 years ago, your journey awaits.
Published Winter 2014 Edition of the Northwest Passage magazine.