Lassen Volcanic Center


Lassen Volcanic Center has experienced hundreds of eruptions scattered over about 500 km2 (200 mi2) during the last 825,000 years. The most recent three notable eruptions were: Chaos Crags (1,100 years ago), Cinder Cone (1666 A.D.), and Lassen Peak (A.D. 1914 to 1917). The region hosts a vigorous geothermal system, numerous hot springs, steam vents, and boiling mud pots.


Lassen Volcanic Center lies in Lassen Volcanic National Park 88 km (55 mi) east of Redding. The park draws over 350,000 visitors each year with its spectacular volcanic landscapes.

Within the last 825,000 years, hundreds of explosive eruptions came from vents scattered over 500 km2(approximately 200 mi2). Surrounding Lassen Volcanic Center, over fifty effusive (non-explosive) eruptions have occurred in the last 100,000 years. The area has been relatively quiet for the last 25,000 years with three notable exceptions—the Chaos Crags eruption (1,100 years ago), the eruption of Cinder Cone (1666 A.D.), and the Lassen Peak eruption (A.D. 1914 to 1917).

The Lassen Peak eruption consisted mostly of sporadic steam blasts. In May of 1915, however, partially molten rock oozing from the vent began building a precarious lava dome. The dome collapsed on May 19 sending an avalanche of hot rock down the north flank of the volcano. Three days later, a vertical column of ash exploded from the vent reaching altitudes of 30,000 feet. The ash column spawned a high-speed ground flow of hot gas and fragmented lava. Ash from the top of the column drifted downwind 200 miles to the east, as far as Winnemucca, NV. On both days, melting snow fueled mudflows, flooding drainages 20-30 miles away. The older Chaos Crags eruption was similar in style, but considerably larger in magnitude.

Volcanic earthquakes are common at Lassen, although most are too small to be felt. Non-volcanic earthquakes along regional faults also occur—earthquake swarms in 1936, 1945-1947, and 1950 included several events above magnitude 4.0, with the two largest registering 5.0 and 5.5. Ground surveys show localized subsidence of the volcano, probably due to motion on regional faults.


Date published: May 13, 2020

Unpacking CalVO's new seismic monitoring boxes

If you've noticed any changes to the earthquake counts released in CalVO's weekly updates, don't worry - some behind-the-scenes improvements to our monitoring system have been implemented which allow us to focus on unrest specifically related to our volcanoes and volcanic regions.

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