Steen’s Mountain

Jeff Dunn

Steen’s Mountain is a rarely visited shield volcano in the nearly deserted southeastern corner of Oregon. It once had a diameter of 42 miles, but the eastern half of it has disappeared underground along a huge fault line. My series of photos takes you across the volcano’s spectacular scenery from west to east.

From the West, Steen’s Mountain seems unimposing, but over 20 miles, the gradual slope upwards reaches a summit of nearly 10,000 feet.

As you approach its crest, Steen’s Mountain displays deep, U-shaped valleys cut by ice-age glaciers.


Volcanic outcrops display plagioclase feldspar crystals the size of quarters. These lavas started erupting 17 million years ago when a seafloor spreading center plunged underneath Nevada via a subduction zone.


At the crest of Steen’s Mountain, there is a 6,000 ft drop-off along the fault that bisects the volcano north to south. The lava flows on the east side of the shield are now buried at least 2,000 ft below the Alvord Desert playa visible in the photo. Earthquakes responsible for this separation continue, averaging one per 700 years, according to scientists.

From the East, Steen’s Mountain is a spectacular sight that few tourists have experienced, though the summit is accessible by well graded dirt roads.

BIO: Jeff Dunn is president of the Alameda Photographic Society and is the author of the photographic study Big, Bad, Beautiful: Death Valley, available on Amazon. See his work at



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