“I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the Volcano blows?” We sing out loud as we make our way across the lake that sits inside of a massive caldera. Our family dog gives us a concerning look — we suppose it’s because we’re quite off-key and not as a warning of an imminent natural disaster. There’d be plenty of warning if the Newberry Caldera volcano was reawakening.

The family recites where they’d want to land if there was an eruption, and agree with Jimmy Buffett, it’s not in New York City, especially amid a global pandemic. Social distancing is much easier to practice here, and there is no one nearby, just a few fishing boats scattered around the lake. After all, it’s not every day that you get to paddle on top of a volcano, so we push onward... “Sulfur smoke up in the sky, pretty soon we’ll learn to fly.”

Of the nine Cascade Lakes within the Deschutes Paddle Trail, Paulina and East Lake are among our favorites to paddle. The two lakes are a part of the Newberry National Volcano Monument, an impressive 54,000+ acres of spectacular geologic features including massive obsidian flows and amazing scenery. The Newberry Crater remains active to this day as visible by its over 400 vents and its many hot springs. Hot springs exist at both lakes and recently we took a paddling excursion to the more popular ones located at Paulina Lake.

Paulina Lake offers several put in options via easily accessible boat ramps located at Paulina Lake Lodge and Little Crater Trail Campground. The lodge offers boat rentals though we brought our own and began our paddle at the boat ramp at the entrance to the Little Crater Campground. There is a second boat ramp within the campground and closer to the trailhead, however, the Forest Service wants to keep that available for trailers. Paulina is a popular fishing lake and known for its kokanee, as well as sizable brown and rainbow trout.

Paulina Lake is approximately 5 miles in diameter. Winds can make for a challenging paddle so be sure to have proper gear including life vests, sunscreen, hats and a whistle. We hugged the shore to avoid the whitecaps on the lake and the view from the lake is beautiful. Paulina Peak, at almost 8,000 feet elevation stands in the background and the lake itself sits around 6,000 feet. Osprey and Bald Eagle soar above looking for their catch.

As we near the north shore we can make out some folks sitting in the hot springs. Most people hike the trail from Little Crater Campground to get here. Upon arrival, we choose a vacant pool and decide to soak. It’s a good idea to test the pool before making a plunge, which is better reserved for Paulina Creek. Check out the Paulina Plunge for information on that.

It’s a nice paddle back to the boat ramp which took us about an hour and a half. Depending on your plans, it’s a good idea to leave sometime in the day to check out other interesting sites within the Monument including Paulina Peak, Paulina Falls, and the fascinating Big Obsidian Flow, where you take a walking trail thru a 1,300-year-old lava flow mantled by volcanic glass. ‘Mon you better watch your feet.”

Bend Paddle Trail Alliance with the help of Travel Oregon and Oregon State Parks put together a Cascade Lakes Guide, which provides detailed maps of the nine largest Cascade Lakes including Paulina. The Lake Guides are free and available at local outdoor paddling shops in Bend. Please note that if one visits Newberry National Monument, there is a day-use fee required, it is $5. An annual Northwest Forest Pass is available for purchase online or at local outdoor shops in Bend. It’s $30, which covers Newberry as well as many other scenic National Forest sites in Oregon and Washington. We keep one hanging on the rearview mirror, which reminds us of this recent family adventure and has us looking forward to the next one.

Mark Schang is a former Bend Paddle Trail Alliance Board Member and Paddling Enthusiast.

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