Comparison of systematic variations in sediment magnetic properties to changes in pollen assemblages in middle Pleistocene lake sediments from Buck Lake indicates that the magnetic properties are sensitive to changes in climate. Buck Lake is located in southern Oregon just east of the crest of the Cascade Range. Lacustrine sediments, from 5.2 to 19.4 m in depth in core, contain tephra layers with ages of ≈300–400 ka at 9.5 m and ≈400–470 ka at 19.9 m. In these sediments magnetic properties reflect the absolute amount and relative abundances of detrital Fe-oxide minerals, titanomagnetite and hematite. The lacustrine section is divided into four zones on the basis of magnetic properties. Two zones (19.4–17.4 m and 14.5–10.3 m) of high magnetic susceptibility contain abundant Fe oxides and correspond closely to pollen zones that are indicative of cold, dry environments. Two low-susceptibility zones (17.4–14.5 m and 10.3–5.3 m) contain lesser amounts of Fe oxides and largely coincide with zones of warm-climate pollen. Transitions from cold to warm climate based on pollen are preceded by sharp changes in magnetic properties. This relation suggests that land-surface processes responded to these climate changes more rapidly than did changes in vegetation as indicated by pollen frequencies. Magnetic properties have been affected by three factors: (1) dissolution of Fe oxides, (2) variation in heavy-mineral content, and (3) variation in abundance of fresh volcanic rock fragments. Trace-element geochemistry, employing Fe and the immobile elements Ti and Zr, is utilized to detect postdepositional dissolution of magnetic minerals that has affected the magnitude of magnetic properties with little effect on the pattern of magnetic-property variation. Comparison of Ti and Zr values, proxies for heavy-mineral content, to magnetic properties demonstrates that part of the variation in the amount of magnetite and nearly all of the variation in the amount of hematite are due to changes in heavy-mineral content. Variation in the quantity of fresh volcanic rock fragments is the other source of change in magnetite content. Magnetic-property variations probably arise primarily from changes in peak runoff. At low to moderate flows magnetic properties reflect only the quantities of heavy minerals derived from soil and highly weathered rock in the catchment. At high flows, however, fresh volcanic rock fragments may be produced by breaking of pebbles and cobbles, and such fragments greatly increase the magnetite content of the resulting sediment. Climatically controlled factors that would affect peak runoff levels include the accumulation and subsequent melting of winter snow pack, the seasonality of precipitation, and the degree of vegetation cover of the land surface.Our results do not distinguish among the possible contributions of these disparate factors.