How Christmas Lake Got Its Name

(Author Unknown)

Christmas Lake, from which Christmas Valley derives its name, is located some five miles east of the Christmas Valley Town site.

Historically, an element of mystery hovers over this lake, for it has never been definitely ascertained just how it received it's name. In fact, Christmas Lake has caused quite a controversy in Oregon History for years, and at times has helped cast a cloud of suspicion toward the famous "pathfinder" John C. Fremont.

It is frequently asserted that Fremont discovered and named the lake that we now know as Christmas Lake; but this is not so ­ Fremont never visited the Christmas Lake Valley.

During the second exploring expedition of Captain Fremont, in 1863, its leader conducted the party through the northern part of Lake Country, and after naming several geographic features, including Summer Lake and Abert Lake, he arrived in Warner Valley; some seventy-five miles southeast of Christmas Valley.

On the night of December 24, Fremont was awakened by the discharges of the company howitser and the names the lake Christmas Lake in honor of the day. Little did he know, that years later, this simple act would endanger the historical value of his entire expedition.

As late as 1869, maps of the Oregon country show the lake now known as Hart Lake in Warner Valley as Christmas Lake. French's "History of Central Oregon", published in 1905, described the Warner Valley as Christmas Lake. The name Hart Lake was not mentioned. In Gaston's "History of Oregon", published in 1912, he writes that from Fremont's map it was impossible for his to have seen Christmas Lake and then goes on to discredit Fremont's integrity and exploration. To Gaston, Christmas Lake was where we now know it to be.

At some time between 1905 and 1912, the Name Christmas Lake magically traveled to its present site on the Oregon map and Hart Lake appeared in the Warner Valley. We can probably attribute this feat to some nameless map maker, who little realized what a controversey he was brewing, as he dipped his pen in the ink well, making the name Christmas Lake one of the puzzles or Oregon nomenclature.

Ironically, the newly named Hart Lake, usurping the old Christmas Lake, was named for a famous ranch on it's shores, with the shape of a heart for its brand and known as the Heart Ranch. Apparently the enterprising map maker was also a poor speller.

Now, the new lake located close to the Christmas Valley Lodge is known simply as "The Lake". This lake will naturally become "the lake at Christmas Valley", then eventually Christmas Lake to the uninformed, and then the old Christmas Lake ­ or rather the new Christmas Lake. This is the way history is made


Crack in the Ground ­ Nature's Accident.

(Author Unknown)

Open cracks or fissures in the earth's surface are not uncommon; they occur fairly often as the result of earthquakes or volcanic activity, but they usually become filled with rock rubble or lava and disappear in a very short time. A large fissure that stays open for hundreds of years is, therefore, a rare feature. Such a fissure occurs about eight miles north of Christmas Valley. It is a deep narrow rift about two miles long and has remained open for perhaps a thousand years. For lack of any official name for it, the fissure is referred to simply as "Crack in the Ground".

Crack in the Ground is closely related to the Four Craters lava field on Green Mountain; one of the many isolated centers of recent volcanic activity within the high lava plains of central Oregon.

The Four Craters lava field was formed from basaltic lava that flowed mainly south and east from craters along a fissure. Sluggish flows piled up a layer of black, spiny lava on the slightly sloping Green Mountain lava surface. Four cinder cones aligned along the fissure rise from 250 to 400 feet above the lava surface. The distance from the northernmost cone to the southernmost is roughly two and a quarter miles. The freshness of the lava and lack of soil and vegetation on the surface indicate a recent age for the field. Crack in the Ground is a tension fracture in basalt. The walls are rough and irregular and show no lateral, and but very slightly vertical movement. Although the crack is open for a distance of more than two miles, it then continues to the northwest and southeast as a trace, which although not visible on the ground is revealed on aerial photographs. Where best developed, the fissure is from ten to fifteen feet tide at the top, narrowing downward. The depth varies, but is as much as seventy feet in some places.

Crack in the Ground opened before the last volcanic activity and as its northwest end a tongue of lava piles up, tumbled into, filled, and buried the chasm for several hundred yards. The opening of the fissure probably took place no more than 1,000 years ago.

Erosion and weathering have been at a minimum but over many years sand has blown or washed in to fill the bottom. At several places the walls have slumped, thus bridging the gap and allowing access to the deeper parts of the fissure. Winter ice is sometimes preserved during the summer in the deeper, more cavernous places where cold air is trapped.

Homesteaders in the area have known about this giant fissure for many years. Reuben Long of Fort Rock, Oregon, notes author of the "Oregon Desert" reports that when he lived at Christmas Lake as a boy, he used to explore "the Crack" as it was called locally. He remembers the homesteaders went there to hold picnics and make ice cream, using ice they found in the caves of the chasm.