The past and present come together in south central Oregon. A number of great excursions await those who are inclined to search for clues to the past, from prehistoric days to the more recent movements of the pioneer settlers. The high desert is so remote that it's easy to picture yourself back in those historical days as you gaze out across the never-ending stretches of space and time.
Picture Rock Pass, elevation 4830', lies just west of Summer Lake. Hike the Medicine Man Trail and you will see ancient petroglyphs (right), a 150' long cascading hollow log water trough built by the early settlers, and early scab telephone posts in rock cairns. From Picture Rock Pass, you can look east and gaze across the Summer Lake Valley, or look west across the Silver Lake Valley to the snow-capped Three Sisters on the horizon.
More petroglyphs are scattered throughout the surrounding valleys, including these examples photographed near Crump Lake (below). Rock art in Oregon's high desert is estimated to be from the Pleistocene era 7000 years ago, making it some of the country's oldest. Lakes and meadows where ancient peoples probably had camps make excellent hunting grounds for petroglyphs and other artifacts. We do encourage you to look for but to not take any artifacts home with you.
An old Indian trade route can be traced from the Warner Basin to the south end of Lake Abert where it joined a similar trail coming up from the south. The trail continued northwest, somewhat following the Chewaucan River until it reached Summer Lake.
Wagon ruts, old homestead buildings and pioneer artifacts can be spotted periodically which bear witness to the immigration of modern culture into the area.
Fort Rock, a rock formation nearly one-third of a mile across and 325' high, was named by William Sullivan in the late 19th century for it's resemblence to a fort. In 1938, prehistoric artifacts, including sage-bark sandals estimated to be 9000 years old, were discovered in the Fort Rock Cave.
Fossil Lake, a dry lake bed which has yielded dinosaur bone fragments, lies near the Hidden Forest, an unusual setting of Ponderosa pine trees in the middle of the desert. Large sand dunes surround you as you enter the Hidden Forest from the west.
Other geological features include Crack-in-the-Ground, a long natural crack deep enough to contain ice year round; Hole-in-the-Ground, a large volcanic depression in the landscape; and a great number of caves and lakes.
Here and there along the way lie numerous hot springs, most found accidently or by word of mouth. Many hot springs are on private property so be sure and obtain permission before walking onto the land to search for the springs.
Cattle drives, reminisent of the past cowboy days, still take place regularly in this part of Oregon. In September 1998, the folks at the Lodge hosted "The Great Shootout", a traveling troupe of western actors who relived the shootouts of the past. Contact the Lodge for more information on places to explore on your visit.