Flickr album link: Hat Rock State Park
Hat Rock State Park is an interesting place to experience in the Umatilla region of Oregon. Grassy rolling desert sagebrush hills surround this part of the Columbia River basin, which was once subject to unbelievably massive floods during the ice age. The floods carved this landscape in magnificent ways and they are the original erosive force that created the Columbia River Gorge. The Cascade Range to the west is where tectonic plates collide, so it goes without saying that areas east of the mountains have a long history of tremendous lava flows. Thick lava flows harden like a cap to seal the softer sedimentary bedrock below, so an event like a massive flood washes the substrate away and the hard basalt cap crumbles to pieces. Only magma plumes, volcanic plugs and islands of thick lava caps tend to survive such a catastrophic event and this is where Hat Rock State Park fits into the picture.
Hat Rock State Park features a few volcanic rock formations that are difficult to explain, unless a little something is known about the natural history of this region. Boat Rock and Hat Rock are the two most recognizable landmarks in this area, which were actually noted during the Lewis and Clark expedition way back in the 1800s. This state park is nestled next to a large Columbia River reservoir lake, so swimming boating and world class angling are part of the venue. Migration season birding is also super along the waterfront and there are many cozy picnic spots next to the river. Basically, Hat Rock State Park is a recreation area and a large day use picnic site, so camping options can only be found on private land nearby. With this in mind, be sure to pack a large picnic basket and enjoy the fun in the sun at this odd looking riverside oasis!
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