Fort Rock is a National Natural Landmark, located in the high Oregon desert some 70 miles southeast of Bend, Oregon and about 1 mile north of the town of Fort Rock. Part of the northern Great Basin, the Fort Rock Valley is part of an ancient dried lake. Fort Rock itself is an extinct volcano. Fort Rock is an old tuff ring created by volcanic action in what was a shallow sea in prehistoric times. It looks like a huge fort from forgotten times, its jagged rock walls tower 325 feet above the plain. There is a great view of the valley if you climb to the top of the ring. Not a good hike if you are bringing a dog. The interior is dog friendly how hiking, just very dry.
In 1936 an archaeologist named Luthar Cressmann discovered the oldest pair of sandals ever found in North America in the Fort Rock Cave located about 1/2 mile west of Fort Rock. The sandals were woven from bark and were dated as being over 9000 years old. Even though it is dry and covered in sagebrush now the area at the time was marshy with a lake surrounding Fort rock. The pounding of the waves is what created a break in the walls of Fort Rock.
Nearby to Fort Rock is the Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum. In a hope to save the historic buildings in the area the Fort Rock Valley historical society opened up the village in 1988. Many of the homestead era building that remained in the valley were moved to this location to preserve them.
If you are in this area exploring I very much recommend visiting both locations. During the summer it gets very hot so remember to bring plenty of water. There are a lot of trails circling the inside and outside of fort rock. There is no fee’s at this park so stay and enjoy the site. And yes there is a water fountain at the parking site.
Other Central Oregon locations to visit