Monday, October 06, 2014

Black Butte, Siskiyou County

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Just south of Weed, California, near Mt. Shasta, Interstate 5 passes right along the base of a big volcanic cinder cone called "Black Butte". Not to be confused with the one near Bend, OR (the one the beer's named after), or any of the others out there. The USGS geographic name database has 196 entries for things named "Black Butte", although some are rivers, schools, dams and so forth. Still, as a place name it's probably right up there with "Bald Peak", "Larch Mountain", and "Salmon Creek" in terms of unoriginal pioneer-era names.

The puzzling thing is why they ran the freeway right along the base of a volcano when they didn't have to. It's definitely scenic this way, but they've placed a pretty serious bet that the thing will never erupt again. It's only thought to be around 9-10k years old, which is less than a heartbeat in geological time. It was after the Bering Land Bridge era, so there could very well have been people around to witness it forming, hopefully from a safe distance. Undoubtedly there was a planning discussion about where to put the freeway, and I imagine it was all documented for posterity somewhere, but I have no idea where to look for that sort of thing.

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