STS028-082-005 Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert, Oregon, U.S.A. August 1989
The rugged fault block of the Steens Mountains, formed nearly 15 million years ago, is visible from the top center to the bottom center of this low-oblique, north-northeast-looking photograph. The western slopes of the mountains rise gradually for approximately 18 miles (29 kilometers) to an elevation of 9354 feet (2851 meters). The eastern face drops more than 5500 feet (1678 meters) in about 3 miles (5 kilometers) to the Alvord Desert, a graben that was created when a portion of the Earth's crust dropped between two faults, creating a valley (the white area in the photograph) rimmed on both sides by cliffs. East of the Alvord Desert are the Sheepshead Mountains. Precipitation is light in the area, except along the upper slopes of the Steens Mountains. Hot, dry summers and cold, dry winters, during which most of the precipitation falls in the form of snow, characterize the climate of the region.
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