The Summer Lake Basin is a spectacular and unique landscape, abundant with both desert and forest flora and fauna. It is also rich in geological and archaeological sites, and has a long homesteading history. The large, shallow alkali lake––wet in some seasons, dry in others––is the major feature. The lake separates the wide-open sagebrush steppe of eastern Oregon and the rocky, forested mountains of the Fremont-Winema National Forest.
Bureau of Land Management’s Lakeview District. Boundary encompasses approximately 3.5 million acres of public land in Lake, Klamath, and part of Harney counties in south-central and southeastern Oregon. These public lands vary from the mixed-conifer forests on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains to the beautiful high desert country of Oregon’s Outback.
Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Over 300 species of wildlife (primarily birds) can be found on the 19,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats. An 8.5-mile gravel road loop for vehicles transects the interior of the Refuge, and is open late January through early October. It provides excellent bird-watching opportunities and sweeping views of the surrounding area. Four primitive campsites are located on the Refuge. Best viewing for migrating flocks of waterfowl, including plumaged ducks, geese, and swans is in March and April. Migrant waterbirds and songbirds pass through the area in April and May. 53447 Hwy. 31, Summer Lake, OR 97640. 541-943-3152. Website includes Summer Lake Area map, photos, tour route.
Summer Lake Hot Springs. Has four mineral pools (one indoor, three outside) of various sizes and temperature, beautiful views, a labyrinth walk, and hikes leading out from the grounds.
Ana Reservoir. At the north end of the Summer Lake Basin, Ana Reservoir emanates from cold, clear springs in the Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Because it is ice-free year-round, the reservoir is open to angling 12 months of the year. In fact, the largest hybrid striped bass ever caught in Oregon was taken from Ana Reservoir in 2009.
Ana River. For most of its seven-mile course, the Ana River flows through the Summer Lake Wildlife Area before emptying into Summer Lake. It is a rich oasis in the desert and provides habitat for many mammals and birds. Canoeing in Ana promises sightings of several species of owls, herons, and waterfowl.
Chewaucan basin redband trout. Native to streams flowing into Lake Abert and Summer Lake. Map of the trout’s native range.
Quaternary Studies near Summer Lake, Oregon (2001), a 126-page collection of articles, see below.
Robert M. Negrini, a research geologist and professor at California State University, Bakersfield, CA, has a link on his Website to the downloadable PDF of this 2001 collection about the geology of Summer Lake. Professor Negrini is the author or co-author of many studies about the Summer Lake area, including a recent article published in Geosphere: Stephen C. Kuehn and Robert M. Negrini. A 250,000-year record of Cascade Range pyroclastic volcanism from late Pleistocene lacustrine sediments near Summer Lake, Oregon, USA. Geosphere. August 2010.
Slide Mountain, south of Playa. Slide Rock is the scene of a massive rockslide on the north face of a volcano. Within the last several hundred thousand years, gigantic landslides have occurred along Winter Ridge, which bounds Summer Lake basin on the west. These landslides are typically a mile in width and more than a thousand feet thick. The landslides failed catastrophically, very rapidly running out more than a mile onto the basin floor. Recent engineering study has found that large earthquakes triggered these gigantic landslides. The source of the earthquakes is the active Slide Mountain-Winter Ridge fault, which runs along the base of Winter Ridge and is capable of producing magnitude-7 earthquakes. The last documented ground-rupturing earthquake on the fault occurred between 2,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Books on Geology
Geology of pluvial Lake Chewaucan, Lake County, Oregon. Ira Shimmin Allison, Oregon State University Press, 1982
Geology of Oregon. William N. Orr and Elizabeth L. Orr. Physical and historical geology of Oregon. Maps, illustrations, photos.
In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History. Ellen Morris Bishop. An account of Oregon’s fascinating geological story with over 200 color photographs.
Paisley Caves. Northern Great Basin Prehistory Project: Archaeology Field School, Research at the Paisley Caves.
Books on Archaeology
Villages and Wetlands Adaptations in the Northern Great Basin : chronology and land use in the Lake. Albert C. Oetting, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Oregon, 1989.
Archaeological Investigations on the East Shore of Lake Abert, Lake County, Oregon. Richard M. Pettigrew, with contributions by Paul W. Baxter and Thomas J. Connolly. Dept. of Anthropology, University of Oregon, 1985.
Pictographs and Petroglyphs of the Oregon Country, Part 2: Southern Oregon. J. Malcolm Loring and Louise Loring. 1983. Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, Monograph 22.