Simply Nahala

Writer. Photographer. Soul Traveler.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Abert Lake

When I get a chance, I like to head out to The Oregon Outback and decompress. It is an arid desolate place located in the high desert Basin country in southeast Oregon. A place where time seems to stand still. There is no traffic or people rushing to get from one place to another. Just high desert solitude. This particular day that I took these photos, I decided to head over to Abert Lake. Then stop at Summer Lake Hot Springs for a soak before heading home.

Abert Lake is a large, shallow alkali lake that along with Summer Lake are the remnants of Ancient Lake Chewaucan that existed in the Basin during the Pleistocene epoch. It is a harsh area where the weather can be unpredictable. The lakes in the area vary in size from year to year depending upon precipitation in the region. As the planet heats up, Abert Lake appears to be drying up quite rapidly once again.

For thousands of years, the Paiute, Klamath, and Modoc people gathered along the lakeshore and rivers of the Great Plains. They came to harvest local resources such as wapato, Sagittaria cuneata, an aquatic plant that grows in wet meadows and rivers with arrowhead-shaped leaves and edible tubers, called "chewa" in the Klamath language. It is this plant for the once lush area around Lake Abert was named, Chewaucan.

One of Oregon's largest lakes, it was named after Colonel John James Abert in 1843 by Captain John C. Freemont, both explorers of Oregon. The 19th century brought changes that altered the landscape of the region. Homesteaders arrived and brought cattle, sheep, and agriculture crops. The area was transformed from desert, grassland, and forest to farms, ranches, sawmills, and small towns. By the 1870's most of the Native American settlements were forced onto reservations.

Abert Lake contains no outlet and its only source of freshwater is thundershowers and from the Chewaucan River, which flows into the lake from the southern end. Due to the arid conditions, the lake contains high levels of sodium carbonates, common salt, and alkali. Fish cannot survive in the lake because of the high salt and alkali content. However, Abert Lake is home to millions of brine shrimp and alkali flies that thrive in the environment, making the area a stopover for many species of migratory birds.

There are no recreational activities allowed on the lake due to its extreme alkalinity. There is one family owned brine shrimp enterprise owned by Keith Kreuz that harvests brine shrimp from the lake for food to industrial shrimp farms. Other than that, people mostly engage in bird watching and take photographs. For me, it is a sacred place that is eerily peaceful and full of secrets from Spirits past that will share stories if we are willing to be quiet and listen.

While driving along the eastern shore of the lake, one cannot help but notice the massive cliff structure that appears to stand guard over the lake. Abert Rim rises over 2,000 vertical feet above the valley floor. It is one of the most spectacular exposed fault scarps in North America. Escarpments occur when there are a split and shift on the ground surface where one side moves vertically with respect to the other side. This process is formed by erosion and faulting. Bighorn Sheep were transplanted to the rim in the 1970's and can often be spotted on the top of the cliff dwelling from the Abert Rim geological marker sign. Although difficult to find, petroglyphs can also be found near this area on two basaltic boulders that marks major migration routes.

Below are some more photos of Abert Rim

Peace and Calm,


The Bureau of Land Management

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