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Oregon Caves National Monument

Updated on February 03, 2017
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Liz has always enjoyed visiting the State and National Parks with her family, and continued to do so with her own children.

Entry to the Oregon Caves National Monument along the road
Entry to the Oregon Caves National Monument along the road | Source
100 Year Anniversary Badge
100 Year Anniversary Badge

A Brief History

Local Indians, the Takelma, lived in the area for thousands of years, where the park now is it wasn't until 1874 that it was discovered by the first white man to be in the area. There has been no evidence found of native use of the cave, although they undoubtedly knew of its existence.

It was in 1903 that President Roosevelt put millions of acres of land aside, among them, the Oregon Caves area in the Siskiyou Mountain Range of Southern Oregon. It was in 1909 that President Taft proclaimed the 480 acres containing the cave system as a National Monument.

An engraved stone marker credits the man who first discovered this cave
An engraved stone marker credits the man who first discovered this cave | Source

Arriving at Oregon Caves

It was a road trip up the Redwood Highway with my two daughters, then ages 8 and 10, that inspired a side-trip to the Oregon Caves National Monument. I wanted to show them the wonders of the great trees as I had seen them in my own childhood. Many fond memories of camping trips with my family fueled my enthusiasm for this budget-friendly and eco-friendly means of travel. My father loved the trees, mountains and streams; he was an ecologist before the term was invented. But, this is about the cave. I've always been fascinated by caves and caving.

The AAA Guidebook described this destination as an interesting feature worth exploring. Since this was back in 1979, I cannot recall exactly where we spent the night, as there is no camping allowed within the boundaries of the national monument itself. I do know that we would not have stayed at "The Chateau at Oregon Caves" in nearby Cave Junction, OR. That would have been over-budget.

It was probably about 11:a.m. when we pulled in to the parking lot. Being mid-summer, it was quite warm outside. The parking lot was at the bottom of the hill from the cave and gift shop...probably about a city block long. We walked up the hill, and purchased our tickets for the cave tour, and then walked around outside, browsed the gift shop, and so forth, waiting for our group's number to be called.

Cave tours begin at the visitor center. The gift shop is to the left, the cave entrance area to the right.
Cave tours begin at the visitor center. The gift shop is to the left, the cave entrance area to the right. | Source

Ready, Set, Tour!

As I said, it was quite warm outside, and my youngest was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. Walking up the hill had almost made me wish for shorts instead of jeans and a sweatshirt. My eldest had a sweater and long pants, or maybe shorts--I don't really recall.

I had asked the little one on leaving the car, "Do you want to bring your sweatshirt?" "Nah, I'll be fine." was her answer. Always one to travel light, and to 'run hot,' I acceded to her wishes. There was no need for flashlights, as the Ranger tour guides carry them, and the cave is wired for lighting as well, So, I had with me only my "fanny pack" with essentials.

Our number was called: "Group # so-and-so, your tour begins in 10 minutes." At this point, we moved to the gathering point at the entrance. Now, you must realize, that as you descend below the surface of the earth, the temperature drops, and keeps dropping the deeper you go. (Up to a point--when it starts getting warmer--but you have to be very much deeper than a cave tour to get that warmth.)

On an average, temperatures inside caves range from about 44 degrees Fahrenheit to about 55 degrees on the same scale. As we stood at the entrance, we could feel a chill breeze exiting the cave.

This difference in temperatures is exactly the same phenomenon that causes wind on a global scale. Since hot air rises, and cold air falls, the rising hot air will be replaced by the lower-lying cool air mass rushing in to replace the rising hot air. This is wind, and was the breeze we felt.

A Last-Minute "Emergency" Purchase

With barely 5 minutes left to our tour group's departure, the young one decided that yes, indeed, she was feeling chilly. Great! Too late to hike back to the car to fetch her sweatshirt. Nothing to do but rush into the gift shop and purchase a new sweatshirt for her. It was a very nice, heavy sweatshirt with hood, printed with the Oregon Caves logo.

It cost $24.00. That was a fairly inflated price for a sweatshirt back in 1979, but what could I do? I paid with travelers cheques, as I did not have enough cash. She put it on, and we hurried back out just in time to re-join our group just as the ranger was unlocking the entrance gate to the cave. Whew!

I was doing a bit of grumbling at my daughter, chiding her for refusing to take her sweatshirt from the car, etc, etc. I was overheard by another lady in the tour group, who had obviously been on the tour before. She spoke up and said, "You know, at the ranger's office, they rent jackets for 25 cents."

WHAT???!!! Well, why did no one say anything before?? Why did that lady not say something before? Naturally, the gift shop was happy to make a sale, and was not going to volunteer such information! But, why did the rangers not post a sign? I was very annoyed.

Caving

Well, the tour started, we followed the ranger through the approximately hour-and-a-half long hike, declining to escape at the proffered "chicken exit" about 15 minutes in...and we fully enjoyed the experience.

I've got an affinity for caves and caving, and wonder if some spelunker was not in my ancestry somewhere.

We successfully completed the tour, finished our camping trip heading back down the Redwood Highway (a.k.a. U.S. Hwy 101) toward home.

One of the Many Features Inside the Caves

The "soda straw" formation inside Oregon Caves, one of many features
The "soda straw" formation inside Oregon Caves, one of many features | Source

You'll Never Live It Down...

As for my dear, dear daughter, who now has children of her own, she'll never live this down, (as with her grandmother's 'forever' story of the pink paint). The Oregon Caves trip has come to be known as "The 25-cent rent-a-coat incident."

Oregon Caves and Cave Junction

show route and directions
A markerOregon Caves National Monument -
Oregon Caves National Monument, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
get directions

Oregon Caves

B markerCave Junction, Oregon -
Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
get directions

The nearby town of Cave Junction

C markerGrayback Campground -
8241 Oregon 46, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
get directions

Grayback Campground is about a 45 minute drive from Oregon Caves (due to low-speed-limit winding mountain roads)

D markerThe Chateau at Oregon Caves -
20000 Caves Highway, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
get directions

The Chateau at the Oregon Caves is a rustic lodge near the caves.

© 2010 Liz Elias

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  • profile image

    gwennies pen 6 years ago

    It is always funnier when one looks back at an incident than when going through the frustrations of it. I just like your reference to the grandmother's 'forever' story about the 'incident'? :) Thanks for the idea of the caves, as I live in southern WA...a place to check out, and a great tip of where to rent a coat.;)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image
    Author

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, gwennie--

    Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Did you check out the "pink paint" link? I looked at it, and realized I must've written this hub while tired, and so I've fixed it so it is more clear that the reference is to another hub.

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 6 years ago

    Nice adventure and report! Thank you Ma'am!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image
    Author

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks, Micky Dee--glad you enjoyed!

  • stephhicks68 profile image

    Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

    Great review and funny story!! We have lava caves about 15 miles south of our home in Central Oregon (along Highway 97). My son did the same thing - no, I'm fine - but he froze inside the caves. No gift shop there, so we saved what in today's dollars probably would have been $50! ;-)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image
    Author

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, steph--

    Thanks for stopping by! Kids! You gotta love 'em.

  • Sa`ge profile image

    Sa`ge 6 years ago from Barefoot Island

    This was a great tour and you made it so personal. that personal touch is so what made so great. :D aloha :D

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image
    Author

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thank you, Sa'ge. I'm glad you enjoyed this tale. It was a fun and interesting cave tour, in spite of the rent-a-coat snafu. ;-)

  • LindaJM profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    Glad to hear you had a memorable visit to the caves! I live just south of there, in Happy Camp, California... and I used to live near you in East County (I was in Pittsburg, CA 1995-1999). I couldn't help looking at your article because I wrote one about Oregon Caves (and the Bigfoot sighting) at Squidoo. Oregon Caves is a lovely place, above ground and under. I'm following you now; I like your hubs!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image
    Author

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks, LindaJM

    Thanks for stopping by and the follow. Glad you liked this hub. I see you moved away from East County 4 years before we moved out here. We 'escaped' from SF and its cold summers. LOL ... small world, eh?

  • PhoenixV profile image

    PhoenixV 6 years ago from USA

    I really like Oregon. I had the chance to drive up the coast and it was beautiful. Great Hub!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image
    Author

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks, PhoenixV! Glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, Oregon is very beautiful and green.

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