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As It Was: Bulldozer Uncovers Mazama Tree in Chemult, Ore.

Since 1993, the Klamath County Museum in Klamath Falls, Ore., has displayed a 7,700-year-old relic of the Mount Mazama volcanic explosion that created the Crater Lake caldera.  The ancient object is known as the Mazama Tree.

Two years earlier, a bulldozer cutting a new ditch for the country landfill in Chemult, Ore., about 25 air miles from Crater Lake, had uncovered the tree in a 15-foot-deep vertical hole covered by a 40-foot-thick layer of ancient pumice and mud.  The tree was saturated with water when found.

On display at the museum is an 8-foot section of the ponderosa pine estimated by carbon dating to have been buried 7,700 years ago.

At the time of its discovery, scientists hoped the Mazama Tree’s youngest growth had been preserved since its burial.  If its outer rings had been present, an even more accurate date for the volcano’s eruption might have been obtained by calibrating the growth-ring-count values with results from carbon dating.

Scientists believe the Mount Mazama explosion, the largest in a million years in the Cascade Mountains, was about 40 times as powerful as the Mount Saint Helens explosion in 1980.

Sources: Mastrogiuseppe, Ron, and Steve Mark. "A "New" Date for Mount Mazama's Climactic Eruption." Nature Notes from Crater Lake Vol 23 1992, Crater Lake Institute, 1992, www.craterlakeinstitute.com/online-library/nature-notes/vol23-mazama-eruption-date.htm. Accessed 22 July 2018; Hoiness, Don. "Yesteryear: Mazama Tree Ready for Display." The Bulletin, 25 Mar. 2015 [Bend, Ore.] , www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/6082553-151/yesteryear. Accessed 22 July 2018;  "The Mazama Surviver." The Free Library by Farlex, 1 July 1992, "The Mazama survivor." The Free Library. 1992 American Forests 22 Jul. 2018 www.thefreelibrary.com/The+Mazama+survivor.-a012826795. Accessed 22 July 2018.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.