Image above: Grand Column at the Bottom of the Spiral Stair inside Oregon Caves. Courtesy National Park Service.
Spotlight on Lesser Known History
Oregon Caves National Monument
and Preserve, Oregon
America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Oregon Caves National Monument, Oregon
The shame of the Oregon Caves has nothing to do with its history, beauty, or activities; it's that only thirty-four thousand people visited the national monument in 2021, down from nearly sixty thousand prior to the world pandemic in 2020. Sure, it's not that close to anything, but no matter the distance, if you're plying up the Oregon coast, or live or are vacationing in the area, this cave is a must see. And there's hiking above ground, a great historic Visitor Center, i.e. the Chalet, an even more historic Chateau, plus winter activites. Warning. Cold here in winter, but pretty pleasant during the summer months. And it's been around awhile; a national monument since 1909, and prior to that, a venture by two failed entrepreneurs.
Situated inland off Route 199, the caverns are located between Redwood National Park and Crater Lake. There used to be a multitude of concession cabins, they are gone, but still a great 1923 built, 1946 rebuilt Visitor Center, the Chateau, being restored, if you've got to get inside before going beneath or above the landscape. Photo above: Miller's Chapel in the Oregon Caves. Courtesy National Park Service.
Sponsor this page for $100 per year. Your banner or text ad can fill the space above.
Click here to Sponsor the page and how to reserve your ad.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Oregon Caves National Monument, Oregon
In what is called the Marble Halls of Oregon, there are a variety of cave tours to take; the Discovery Tour, the Candlelight Tour, the Kids (must be 42" tall) and Family Tour, and the crawling through tight space Off-Trail Caving Tour. There are fees for the tour, but not the park. Outside, there is a Visitor Center full of cool exhibits, orientation, and park services. The Visitor Center is a unique looking building just begging you to go inside and take a cave tour.
Image above: Vintage stereoscope of a spelunker inside one of the main passages of the cave, 1899, Keystone View Company. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Oregon Caves Visitor Center, Christopher Willis. Courtesy National Park Service.
Where Is It
Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is located at 19000 Caves Highway, Cave Junction, Josephine County, OR. It takes about one hour to drive to the park from Cave Junction, Oregon, which is twenty miles away down Oregon Route 46.
What is There Now
The Visitor Center, the gem of a lodge with twenty-three rooms, called the Chateau (a National Historic Landmark), which is closed for renovations, a spectacular cave, walking trails, camping at Cave Creek Campground (fee charged) from Memorial Day until the rains, and Oregon nature. There is no food here with the Chateaa closed, except some snacks.
There is also a Visitor Center in Cave Junction, Illinois Valley Visitor Center, that is open various hours year round. In summer, it is suggested that you stop there first and buy your cave tour ticket so you don't get shut out forty-five minutes up the mountain and the National Monument itself.
When Open and How Much
The park is open daily, but the Visitor Center is only open, and thus cave tours, starting March 25 through Labor Day. Reservations can be made starting March 1. Some tours have a different charge: Discovery, Candlelight (6 p.m.), Kids and Family $10 adults, $7 youth (15 and under). The Off-Trail tour, not for beginners, and strenuous, 16 and over, three hours long, is $45.
Fees and hours are subject to change.
Oregon Caves National Monument
You're just over the Oregon/California border, but inland from the coast. So there's all those California park, some nearby like Redwoods and Lassen Volcanic and others a bit further away. If you're traveling Oregon, Crater Lake is a must as well.
Photos, History, and More Spotlights
Oregon Caves History
The area of Oregon Caves in the Siskiyou Mountains and the cavern itself were discovered in 1874 by Elijah Davidson, but they'd been around for a few million years. About fifteen hundred years prior to 1874, humans inhabited the Rogue River basin in permanent villages. When gold was found in the valley in 1851, miners came, but not necessarily in droves. Josephine County had just over a thousand settlers in 1852.
It soon became apparent there was resort potential, despite its rather out-of-the-way location, although two private efforts failed prior to 1900. In 1909, it became a National Monument through the Antiquities Act by President William Taft, but with little early plans about how to realize that potential. The Oregon Caves Company was formed in 1923 and a Visitor Center/dormitory was built, the Chalet. It is still there, although predominantly rebuilt by 1946. They also built a Chateau in 1933, six stories tall in Rustic architecture, tent houses, and Concession Cottages, see photo below. There were originally seven cottages and seven other buildings. All of the cottages were removed by 1988.
Photo above: Automobiles on their way to Oregon Caves, 1913, Weister Company. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Past Concession cabins at Oregon Caves, date unknown, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Once you acquire your tour ticket for the cave, you'll enter at four thousand feet above sea level into caves made of Marble. For the first half of the tour, for the most part, you'll be walking level to the entrance, but don't let that fool you. Whether you exit at the 110 meter mark or go all the way to the top, which is the Main Cave Exit, you will be climbing. The Main Cave Exit sits at 4,220 feet above. There are fifteen thousand feet of passages inside.
What you will be seeing, however, is a spectacular display of a limestone built marble cavern. At first, you pass Watson's Grotto and the Petrified Garden, then the Dry Room and Imagination Room. The first climb takes you to those two spots. Banana Grove, Niagara Falls, and the Spiral Stairs are on the next level, along with the Wind Tunnel to Miller's Chapel.
Now up you really go into the rooms of the upstairs level, the Ghost Room and Paradise Lost, then out and up past the Clay Pocket to the Main Exit Tunnel. Hope you'd done you're cardio. Please don't attempt to walk the cave if you are not capable of a steep climb.
Photo above: Winter scene of the snow, trees, and mountains above the caverns at Oregon Caves. Courtesy National Park Service.
Buy Second Edition
America's Best History Timeline
Great book to keep your youngsters up to date on their history.
Oregon Caves Activities
Besides just watching nature from any point in the 4,554 acre park, one of the best above ground activities is hiking one of the six trails that meander around the mountains.
They range from the Cliff Nature Trail, one mile long, with an elevation gain 371 feet from the Visitor Center; to the Big Tree Trail, 3.3 miles, elevation gain 1,125 feet (only for the hardiest and most experienced hikers). At a lower pace, try the Old Growth Trail, 200 feet elevation gain and about 1 mile long. The No Name Trail starts at the Chateau, is steep, with 268 feet elevation gain over 1.3 miles. Finally, you could try the difficult Cave Creek Trail that runs down from the Chateau to the Cave Creek Campground, 3.6 miles and 1,245 feet elevation gain.
For an all day hike, there's the Bigelow Lakes to Mt. Elijah Loop Trail, 9 miles, 2,390 feet elevation gain to the top of Mt. Elijah (6,390 feet high). Only experienced fit hikers here.
Photo above: Cliff Nature Trail along the mountain at Oregon Caves. Courtesy National Park Service.
T-Shirts and Gifts from the official souvenirs of Americasbesthistory.com.
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com and its licensors.
- Contact Us
- Â© 2023 Americasbesthistory.com.
Template by w3layouts.