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Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in the northeastern portion of the state of California in the United States. The park contains 106,452 acres of land that was once inhabited by Native Americans, who knew that the park’s main feature, the Lassen Peak volcano, was full of fire and would erupt at some point. Explorers of European ancestry used this peak in the nineteenth century as a landmark while traveling to Sacramento Valley. One of the guides that accompanied the explorers was Peter Lassen, a Danish blacksmith whom the peak was later named for.

The establishment of Lassen Volcanic National Park began when the area was established as Lassen Peak Forest Preserve, and in 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt designated the area as two national monuments, known as Lassen Peak National Monument and Cinder Cone National Monument. It was not until 1916, after Lassen experienced major eruptive activity, that the area became a national park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park contains four types of volcanoes including strato, cinder cone, plug dome, and shield. The western portion of the park contains lava pinnacles, active sulphur vents, and jagged craters, while the eastern portion of the park contains a large lava plateau where cinder cone volcanoes can be found, including Crater Butte and Fairfield Peak. This area of the park holds several water systems including small lakes and streams that support patches of fir and pine forests. Lassen Peak sits on the southeast edge of the Tehama caldera, which are the remains of Mount Tehama. The park contains four shield volcanoes including Mount Harkness in the southwest and Prospect Peak in the northeast.

Because Lassen Volcanic National Park is found at medium to high elevations, the weather varies depending upon the season. Summer months bring mild temperatures at elevations of 7,500 feet, while winter temperatures are typically cool or cold. At elevations above 7,500 feet, temperatures are much colder. The park receives high amounts of precipitation in the form of rain and snowfall. At the southwest entrance to the park, near the visitor center, snowfall can reach up to 430 inches. At Lake Helen, which is located at an elevation of 8,200 feet, snowfall can reach up to 700 inches.

Lassen Volcanic National Park holds varying species of plant life depending upon the elevation of each area. At the northern end of the park, where the area merges with the Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion, there are 27,130 acres of old growth forests that have remained virtually untouched even after Euro-American settlement. Below 6,500 feet, coniferous forests dominate the area with species including sugar pine, ponderosa pine, gooseberry, violets, lupin, and irises. Above the mixed coniferous forests, at elevations between 6,500 and 8,000 feet, are forests of red fir and other plant species including mountain hemlock, satin lupine, and wooly mule’s ear.

Lassen Volcanic National Park can be accessed by State Route SR 44, which occurs in the north, or by State Route SR 89, which extends from north to south throughout the entire park, with five entrances to the park. A visitor center was created in and opened in 2008 that provides full services to visitors with a campground, museum, and store.

Image Caption: Mt. Shasta towering over Lassen Peak, even at this distance. Credit: Kai Schreiber/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lassen Volcanic National Park


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