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We’d spent a few days with extended family on the California coast, just south of Oregon. After a lovely time spent exploring Redwoods National Park, we packed up the car, said goodbye to the cousins and headed North to Oregon Caves National Monument.
Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a protected area in the northern Siskiyou Mountains. The 4,554-acre park, including the marble cave, forests, hiking trails and a historic lodge is 20 miles east of Cave Junction.
That last 20 mile stretch after Cave Junction is a real nail-biter with hairpin turns, sheer drop-offs and little gps reception as it winds through the remote mountains to the park. Originally, we’d planned to stay at the Caves Chateau while visiting sites in Southern Oregon, but when I realized that was the only way in and out, I changed our base of operations to Grants Pass.
I’d reserved our cave tour reservations online. We arrived at the visitor center ahead of schedule. When we checked in, the ranger moved us up to an earlier tour.
We took the Discovery Cave Tour with Ranger Neil. He really made the tour with his corny jokes and fun cave facts. Even the teenagers were entertained.
The tour lasted 90 minutes and was pretty strenuous. We were basically climbing around inside a mountain, ascending and descending, squeezing through narrow passageways and stooping to avoid concussing ourselves on low ceilings. In many places the stairs had no railings and the marble floor was slippery. It was a chilly 44 degrees Fahrenheit and we were glad we’d worn our jackets.
After navigating the labyrinth for a while, the path opened up into a huge room with amazing formations, about 200 feet below the surface. Here, we climbed a steep metal staircase to view some awesome ‘drapery’ formations in the dome ceiling.
Out of close to 4000 caves managed by the National Park Service, only Oregon Cave and two others are made of marble. The rest are formed in limestone.
Once we were all back outside the cave, Ranger Neil took a group photo for us and then accompanied us back to the visitor center to help the girls complete their junior ranger badge.
Location: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523
Designation: National Monument
Date designation declared: 7/12/1909
Date of my visit: August 2016