The Best List of Caves in Oregon
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If caves are your thing, then you don’t want to miss this list of caves in Oregon. The caves on this list range from family-friendly caves with easy access and beautiful formations to the more difficult caves that require some serious spelunking skills. No matter what kind of cave experience you’re looking for, we’ve got it covered!
Oregon caves are abundant with fossils, including 12 new species of moths and butterflies that were discovered in the Oregon caves. The caves on this list span many different regions all over Oregon from Portland to southern border caves near California. Many caves have free entrances or day trips available for a small fee – while others require an experienced spelunker to go deep into caves that are off the beaten path.
Some caves in this list have been closed for safety reasons, so it is not recommended to explore these caves alone without guidance from a professional.
The Best List of Caves in Oregon
You can quickly learn about the volcanic past of Oregon by visiting places like Newberry Volcanic Monument and the Cascade Mountains. But if you want to dwell deep into the geology of the state, then you need to go underground.
A sprawling system of caves can be found dispersed around the state, although it is mainly concentrated in Central Oregon. Some of these caves are dark and run for miles beneath the desert floor, while others are a bit lighted due to skylights in the roofs.
The Top Caves to Visit in Oregon
The caves in Oregon are known to be home to bats, and bugs and they are more vibrant than you can ever imagine. Just pack in headlamps and a pair of good boots to venture into these places and know more about the geological significance of these places.
The significant caves that you can in Oregon are –
- Arnold Lava Tube System
- Boyd Cave
- Derrick Cave
- Fort Rock Cave
- Horse Lava Tube System
- Lava River Cave
- Oregon Caves National Monument
- Paisley Caves
- Redmond Caves
- Sandy Glacier Caves
- Sea Lion Caves
- Skeleton Caves
- Skylight Caves
The sheer number of caves can be overwhelming for some, and not all caves can be of equal interest to an individual. Keeping in mind these observations, let’s break this down a bit into specific categories.
Best Caves in Oregon
Now we will explore the best caves under each category so that you will understand which caves would be of your interest.
Ape Caves in Oregon
With a length of 2.5 miles, the Ape Caves are the 3rd most extended lava tube in the US. The cave was formed around 2000 years ago but was christened by a Boy Scout group who explored the cave way back in the 1950s.
The Ape Cave is famous as it offers a unique opportunity to explore an unmaintained cave without any tour guides as they are not needed here. Once inside the cave, you will never come across any bright lights, walkways, or artificial staircases. Visitors should bring suitable footwear and multiple sources of light.
Lava Caves in Oregon
When you look at the iconic mountains and the state’s rivers, it becomes easy to overlook the underground wonders of the state. Yes, Oregon is home to some of the best deep caves, and ancient lava beds formed many years ago. One of the lava beds was used by NASA as a training ground for its lunar landings.
Lava River Cave
It is a 1 mile long, self-guided lava tube. The temperature here remains 42 degrees F throughout the year, so make sure to carry a fleece jacket, standard flashlight, miner’s lamp, and a couple of light sources. It is cold inside, and the floor is uneven, and there will be some ice patches even in June. The cave is a continuous tube, and there are six sections in all wherein each one is different from another in texture and feel.
Located in Josephine County, the Oregon Caves is a National Monument and Preserve. You will be treated to a geological feast once you are here, and anybody would love the majestic underground formations. The guided tours run for 60 minutes, and the last tour is conducted with the help of candle lanterns.
Ice Caves in Oregon
Yes, you read it right. There are some good ice caves in Oregon. Read on….
Arnold Ice Cave
The ice in the Arnold Ice Caves is formed to impede exploration, but the ice does form some fantastic stalagmites. The ice cave is a series of 19 connected caves, and, at one time, it was home to multiple mining operations, and one can still find the evidence of that here. Of the 19 caves, the Wind Cave has been closed to the public permanently to protect the bat population.
Sandy Glacier Caves
Located in Mount Hood, the Sandy Glacier Caves are one of the largest glacier caves in the US. The Sandy Glacier Caves is an extensive network and mainly comprises of three different caves – Snow Dragon, Pure Imagination, and Frozen Minotaur. However, the sad news is that these glaciers have lost almost 50% of their ice mass in the last 100 years.
Sea Lion Caves in Oregon Coast
The Sea Lion Caves near Florence
The Sea Lion Caves is the largest sea cave in the country, formed on two acres of stone floors with a 325 ft headland. As the cave’s name suggests, the cave is home to the Stellar Sea Lions, where the mature males can weigh up to 2500 lbs. This is one of the largest natural habitats for the species who are free to head out to the sea whenever they wish. There is a glass shield that separates the audience from the seal colony.
As you can tell, the state of Oregon has a lot of caves to explore. Make certain to always be safe and prepared before entering any cave so you can make your cave experience a good one!
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