Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, Cave Junction

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Must see · Cave · National Park
Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a protected area in the northern Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon in the United States. The 4,554-acre (1,843 ha) park, including the marble cave, is 20 miles (32 km) east of Cave Junction, on Oregon Route 46. The protected area, managed by the National Park Service (NPS), is in southwestern Josephine County, near the Oregon–California border.

Elijah Davidson, a resident of nearby Williams, discovered the cave in 1874. Over the next two decades, private investors failed in efforts to run successful tourist ventures at the publicly owned site. After passage of the Antiquities Act by the United States Congress, in 1909 President William Howard Taft established Oregon Caves National Monument, to be managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS). The growing popularity of the automobile, construction of paved highways, and promotion of tourism by boosters from Grants Pass led to large increases in cave visitation during the late 1920s and thereafter. Among the attractions at the remote monument is the Oregon Caves Chateau, a six-story hotel built in a rustic style in 1934. It is a National Historic Landmark and is part of the Oregon Caves Historic District within the monument. The NPS, which assumed control of the monument in 1933, offers tours of the cave from mid-April through early November. In 2014, the protected area was expanded by about 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) and re-designated a National Monument and Preserve. At the same time, the segment of the creek that flows through the cave was renamed for the mythological Styx and added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Oregon Caves is a solutional cave, with passages totaling about 15,000 feet (4,600 m), formed in marble. The parent rock was originally limestone that metamorphosed to marble during the geologic processes that created the Klamath Mountains, including the Siskiyous. Although the limestone formed about 190 million years ago, the cave itself is no older than a few million years. Valued as a tourist cave, the cavern also has scientific value; sections of the cave that are not on tour routes contain fossils of national importance.

Activities at the park include cave touring, hiking, photography, and wildlife viewing. One of the park trails leads through the forest to Big Tree, which at 13 feet (4.0 m) is the widest Douglas fir known in Oregon. Lodging and food are available at The Chateau and in Cave Junction. Camping is available in the preserve at the Cave Creek Campground, at a local USFS campground, and private sites in the area.

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  • I've been to caves before but the Oregon Caves version is totally different. Start with having a river running through some very tight spaces. Been to cases with a river in them, but they're more...  more »

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