Three Sisters, Oregon

Locations and Elevations:
North Sister: 44.2N, 121.77W; 10,090 feet (3,075 m)
Middle Sister: 44.1N, 121.77W; 10,050 feet (3,063 m)
South Sister: 44.1N, 121.75W; 10,360 feet (3,158 m)
Last Updated: April 8, 2004


Photograph of Three Sisters by Kyle Jones, October 1985. North Sister is on the right. Middle Sister is sharp peak just left of North Sister. South Sister is on the left.


View of North and Middle Sisters (left and right, respectively) from the McKenzie Pass of the Oregon Cascades. Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Highway Department.


Collier Cone, a cinder cone, at the north base of North Sister. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.


North Sister (right) and Middle Sister (left). Photo by Steve Mattox, August 1987.

North Sister is a shield volcano made of basaltic andesite. The shield is about 5 miles (8 km) in diameter. The summit cone is made of cinders, lava flows, dikes, sills, and a central plug. The flanks of North Sister have been cut by Pleistocene and Holocene glaciers.


South Sister (left), Middle Sister (just right of center), and North Sister (near right margin). View from the south. Photograph by Steve Mattox, August 1987.

Middle Sister formed after North Sister. Basalt was erupted from fissures on the flanks of the volcano. Andesite lava flows were erupted from a vent near the base of the volcano. Domes and flows of dacite and rhyodacite also make part of Middle Sister. The most recent eruptions were from vents high on the north and south sides of the volcano. The produced long dacite lava flows. Middle Sister has also been eroded by glaciers.


Lava flow on the south flank of South Sister. Photograph by Steve Mattox, August 1987.

South Sister started erupting as activity waned at Middle Sister . South Sister is the youngest of the Three Sisters. A summit crater was formed by a late Pleistocene eruption. The main cone is made of andesite, dacite, and rhyodacite. The most recent eruption was about 1,900 years ago. Glaciers carved cirques in the volcano but did not remove the summit crater.


Rhyodacite lava flow near Sparks Lake. South of South Sister. Photograph by Steve Mattox, August 1987.


Close-up of lava flow near Sparks Lake. Note glassy nature of lava and the presence of flow banding. Photograph by Steve Mattox, August 1987.

Additional information about Three Sisters is presented on the Cascade Volcano Observatory homepage of the U.S. Geological Survey.


View of Rock Mesa on the southwest flank of South. Rock Mesa is a rhyodacite dome. Broken Top is in the left background. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. Special thanks to Rosemary Kenney.


Looking west across the Deschutes River to the Three Sisters from near Redmond, central Oregon. Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Highway Department.

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March 30, 2004

Uplifting is still ongoing at South Sister. On March 23 activity increased in the NE quadrant of the uplifting area: a 48-hour long period of seismic swarm, with more than 300 volcano-tectonic earthquakes (< M 1.9), was recorded.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report
11 May 2001

On 8 May, the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory detected a slight uplift of the ground surface over a broad area 5 km W of the South Sister volcano. The uplift may reflect the intrusion of a small volume of magma at ~7 km beneath the ground surface. CVO reported that if the intrusion of magma continues it could over time result in a volcanic eruption. However, there is no precursory activity that suggests an eruption is imminent.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


Sources of Information:

Scott, W.E., 1987, Holocene rhyodacite eruptions on the flanks of South Sister volcano, Oregon: Geological Society of America Special paper 212, p. 35-53.

Scott, W.E., Gardner, C.A., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., 1989, Guidebook for field trip to the Mount Bachelor-South Sister-Bend area, central Oregon High Cascades: U.S. Geological Survey Open-file Report, 89-645, p. 1-68.

Taylor, E.M., MacLeod, N.S., Sherrod, D.R., and Walker, G.W., 1987, Geologic map of the Three Sisters Wilderness, Deschutes, Lane, and Linn Counties, Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Map MF-1952.

Wood, C.A., and Kienle, J., 1993, Volcanoes of North America: Cambridge University Press, New York, 354 p.



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