Remembering Lava Butte

Remembering Lava Butte, as Mule Deer Enjoy Some Peace and Quiet

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God, my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God!  When shall I come and appear before God?  (Psalm 42:1-2)

Closed parks, banned hiking trails, curtailed hunting opportunities, and shelter-in-place restrictions–at least nowadays (April AD2020) mean more peace and quiet for wild cervids like Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), one variety of which is popularly called black-tailed deer.

Deer are one of the most populous of wild large mammals (as opposed to wild small mammals like marmots, squirrels, mice, rabbits, and pikas) inhabiting federal lands—which total about 640,000,000 acres. Thus, the term “federal lands” encompasses a lot of territory—the totality of which some have calculated as more than one-fourth (¼) of all America’s land. About three-fourths (¾) of all federally-owned lands are managed by the U.S. Department of Interior—including national parks, “national monuments”, national wildlife refuges, and more.(1),(2)

About three-fourths (¾) of all federally-owned lands are managed by the U.S. Department of Interior—including national parks, “national monuments”, national wildlife refuges, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) public lands, and more. Most of the other federal lands are jurisdictionally overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And deer are commonly found in America’s national forests, including “high desert” montane forests in Nevada and Oregon.

In many of these lands various cervids (“deer”) live, including mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, caribou (“reindeer”), and moose. As a matter of range geography, mule deer habituate states in the Rocky Mountains range (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montana, etc.), plus a few contiguous states on both sides of that range (Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Iowa, etc.).(2)

And many of those mule deer dwell of federal lands, such as national parks and national forests, which are now restricted due to Coronavirus response actions.

For example, consider how (at present) tourists may not visit Lava Butte, a volcano-produced cinder cone landform located within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, contained within a larger ecosystem administered as part of the Natural Wilderness Preservation System (co-administered by the federal departments of Interior and Agriculture) within Deschutes National Forest of central Oregon.

If that description sounds bureaucratically complicated, it is.(1),(2),(3)

Meanwhile, Lava Butte is an amazing place to visit, almost like a pilgrimage site for some creation-appreciating Christians.(3)

However, the federal management of these relatively undeveloped lands is now quite simple: shutdown to visitors. Move along, nothing to see here—for now, at least.


[notice issued] March 27, 2020.

The health and well-being of our employees and the people we serve are our top priorities. While our work continues during the Covid-19 Pandemic, we are closing our offices to the public. If you have questions, please email us at .

To support state and local measures directing people to stay home to save lives, effective March 27, 2020, all Deschutes National Forest campgrounds, day use sites, sno-parks and trailheads will be closed through May 8, or until such measures are lifted.(4)


Thinking of Lava Butte reminds me of a life-changing decision made there, during the summer of A.D. 1992.

As my career was then about to take a professional turn in a new direction, facilitated by an unusual educational opportunity, I needed to choose between a graduate program in American Christian history (which is a subset of Providential history) and a graduate program in creation science education (with special attention to creation ecology and environmental studies, including concentrations in biome ecology and ornithology).

Leaning toward the former, our family took a vacation (providentially — it actually resulted from an airport miscommunication in A.D.1991, about which “Portland” we should book bargain tickets for, to secure air travel for our next year’s summer vacation! — I had originally intended that we fly to Portland, Maine, for our summer A.D.1992 vacation) in America’s Northwest, including a visit to parts of central Oregon, with some relaxing time at Crater Lake and Lava Butte.

While visiting Lava Butte, I overheard a conversation involving an evolutionist “expert” telling lies to a young inquisitive child.  The more I thought about the evolutionary misinformation, and how trusting the child was (while being blasphemously lied to), the angrier I got, about how pervasive evolutionary cosmogony education (including recreation-oriented education) is in America — and what a distraction that fake-science mythology is (illustrating 1st Timothy 6:20-21a), deviating from Biblical Christianity.  So I changed my mind, then and there, about which educational program to pursue — and now, about 28 years later, I’ve devoted much of my professional life and labors to creation science education (linked to Biblical apologetics), with an emphasis in creation ecology.(5)


Nowadays (i.e., as I write this) Lava Butte is devoid of the usual hikers, tourists, and other visitors. Meanwhile, the mule deer (and many other wild critters, big and small) still roam the nearby forests. And, for now, that must make life more peaceful for central Oregon’s forest-dwelling wildlife, including mule deer.

Yet even deer, in calm times, get thirsty.(6)

The psalmist says that our souls should be thirsty, in their longings to know God, to glorify Him, as if our life really depends upon doing so—because it does.(7)

Maybe we can use some of our daily opportunities—in the midst of turbulent and troubling times—to satisfy our souls with some quiet time, with an open Bible and a prayerful heart, in personal worship and appreciation of our great Creator, Maker of heaven and earth, and all who live therein—including Mule Deer and mankind.(8)



1.     James J. S. Johnson, Introduction to Environmental Studies, an Interdisciplinary Analysis of Applied Ecology, Conservation Policy, and Environmental Ethics (Dallas, TX: LeTourneau University/NWQD Press, 1998), pages 60-80, especially at page 69 (regarding Bureau of Land Management lands). See also Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, codified at 43 U.S.C. §§ 1701-1784.

2.     Richard J. Mackie, “Mule Deer”, Restoring America’s Wildlife 1937-1987: The First 50 Years of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) Act. Edited by Harmon Killman et al. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, 1987), pages 265-271.

3.     U.S. Forest Service. 2020. Lava Lands Visitor Center and Lava Butte. Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Deschutes National Forest. Posted at  — accessed April 16, 2020.  Recalling personal observations while visiting and birdwatching at Lava Butte, etc., during summer of 1992.

4.     U.S. Forest Service. 2020. Recreation Closures and Public Service during Covid-19. Alerts & Notices. Deschutes National Forest. Posed at – accessed April 16, 220.

5.     Creation science apologetics-oriented truth was introduced to me, as a boy, by 2 Christian teachers, who taught me in kindergarten and 2nd grade.  James J. S. Johnson, “Attracted to Genesis by Magnets and a Bird Book”, Acts & Facts, 44(8):19 (August 2015), posted at .

6.     Psalm 104:10-11.

7.     Psalm 42:1-2. See also John 10:10.

8.     James J. S. Johnson, “A Hart for God”, Acts & Facts, 43(7):17 (July 2014), posted at .

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