Evidence of three major Quaternary glaciations is recognized in the Metolius River area on the east flank of. the High Cascades. The latest glaciation (Cabot Creek glaciation) is multiple, with evidence of a late readvance (Canyon Creek advance) well displayed in cirques. Post-Altithermal glacial activity is restricted to a twofold late Neoglacial advance on Mount Jefferson and Three-Fingered Jack. Stone-weathering characteristics and soil development are used to differentiate and correlate the drifts throughout the area. The degree of soil development on the drifts suggests that there was a longer period of time between the oldest and intermediate glaciations than between the intermediate and youngest glaciations.
Volcanic activity may have been restricted to times of little ice cover, since no evidence of intraglacial volcanism was observed. Tephra and lava flows were erupted during two Pleistocene interglaciations and during Holocene time at scattered locations. The High Cascade platform and probably the stratovolcanoes were largely constructed prior to the earliest recognized glaciation (Abbott Butte glaciation).
Information on extent of ice cover during the Cabot Creek glaciation and the Neoglacial advance is sufficiently detailed to reconstruct past glacier margins and estimate former equilibrium-line altitudes (ELA). An accumulation-area ratio of 0.6 ± 0.1 was employed to calculate past ELAs. During the Cabot Creek glaciation, ELAs ranged from about 950 m lower than present at the maximum to 700 to 750 m lower than present for the Canyon Creek advance. Neoglacial ELAs on Mount Jefferson glaciers were lower than present by 200 to 250 m. ELA gradients across the Western Cascades during the Cabot Creek glaciation averaged about 5 m/km, increased to 14 m/km across the High Cascades, and were greater than 38 m/km farther east. This reflects a pattern of precipitation similar to that of the present.