In this area the river cascades through a constricted channel of basalt lava and the gorge was formed over many years by the erosive action of the river.
I still can’t believe that I’ve lived here since I was a teen and this was the first time I had seen the Gorge. I have driven by in the past, but never stopped to walk the trail… I guess it took me over 20 years to visit Crater Lake for the first time too!
Here the opposite wall of the Gorge exposes two lava tubes. One, partially collapsed, looks like a cave. The other tube was plugged by a later lava flow.
The lava tubes were formed by the rapid cooling of the outer surface of a basalt flow, while the hot lava continued to flow underneath. As the molten lava drained out, it left behind a hollow tube.
The Gorge forms a chasm 500 feet long. The Gorge narrows to 25 feet from the platform’s edge to the opposite wall, and it drops 45 feet to the River.
Here on the flat surface of the lava flow, away from the Gorge wall, the trees live as a group rather than as individuals. The roots of these Douglas-firs have grown together, providing each other with nutrients and water.
Before it was cut, the roots of this tree had grafted onto those of a neighbor. Because of this, the stump continues to live.
Here at the outlet of the Gorge, a tree must be a “rugged individual” to survive the harsh conditions – the lack of soil, hot and dry summers. The Douglas-firs across the River – by sending their roots deep into the fractured rock in search of water – cling to the wall like climbers on a cliff.
This was as far as we hiked with with the little ones, but Sean took the older children down to the end of the trail to the Natural Bridges where the river disappears entirely underground into a lava tube for about 250 feet before reappearing and then continuing it’s journey towards the ocean.