I have a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of caves. Yeah, they’re fascinating, and I can appreciate the artful hand of Mother Nature, but they run counter to three things on which I thrive: open space, warmth, and sunlight!
Nevertheless, as I was plotting my course from the Redwoods parks to Crater Lake (spoiler alert!), I couldn’t help but notice the exquisitely twisty, windy road accessing Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserves highlighted on my Butler map. Hmm, that looks like a nice little stop along the way! Plus, the route took me on US-199 through the Six Rivers National Forest and along the Smith River. OK, looks like a good place to explore along the way!
I’ve really learned to slow down and enjoy Ranger talks and tours, and Oregon Caves was no exception. I picked up a ton of info from the Ranger who led us on a 1.5 hour tour through the 44 degree caves, which was actually bearable (with a sweatshirt) on a 90+ degree day! I learned that, like Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, Oregon Caves is a solution cave, meaning it was formed as acidic rainwater and groundwater seeped through cracks and pores to reach, and dissolve, the rock below, creating open gaps like caves and tunnels. In the case of Mammoth Caves, the type of rock dissolved was primarily limestone, whereas in Oregon Caves, the acidic rainwater crept through the forest floor, dissolving primarily marble rock below. You can learn more about the different types of caves, and where they are found, HERE.
At the end of the tour, we emerged from the cave and blinked at the bright sunlight and started stripping off sweatshirts and coats to accommodate the heat. It was the end of the cave tour, but the hike back to the Visitors Center and the ride back down were both awesome!
Even though caves are not my favorite sites to visit, I always learn something new every time I go in one. It’s amazing that all of this is under our feet!