By Mikael Krummel

Marli Miller would like you to consider rocks. Miller’s a structural geologist, the author of a popular guidebook, Roadside Geology of Oregon. She’s fascinated by rocks, and truth be told, sometimes she gets downright giddy about them. No surprise that she’s intrigued by the rocks in Lane County.

“Okay, some rocks are boring,” confesses Miller. “Some you might look at and not know what you’re looking at. But the fact is, rocks are formed by earth processes that speak to magnitudes of time that we can hardly comprehend!

“Even young rocks are hugely old. Like around here, the rocks in the bedrock alone are 30 million years old! And that’s nothing compared to some of the older rocks that are 300 million, even 3 billion years old!”

Did you know that Lane County is one of only two Oregon counties that stretch all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascade Range? To a geologist like Miller, that means big opportunities for field study.

Most locals are familiar with the rock wall favored by climbers on Skinner Butte. The rocks are uplifted basalt formations, cooled magma produced by undersea tectonic plates shifting off the Oregon coast. Much like the Fisher Formation near Goshen. Or the “Eugene Formation,” at Spores Point along I-5 North of the McKenzie River near Coburg.

Miller ticks off a list of other fascinating, local sites that include the “huge sandsheet” coastal dunes running south from Florence to Coos Bay. And the basalt cliffs extending north from Heceta Head up the coastline.

“But,” says Miller, “for the biggest WOW! factor, the old McKenzie Pass is outstanding.” It marks an important point, she says, along the boundary between the volcanic peaks of the High Cascades and the younger Western Cascades. The Pass represents a stunning example of lava flows generated by very recent volcanic activity, and like most rock, the pumice fields hold a message for Miller.

“The message,” says Miller, “is that human beings are a part of the earth. Humans are not apart from the earth. We are all part of the planet!”