Caving in Oregon: Exploring An Underground World

| November 15, 2011 | 1 Reply
Picture of Oregon Cave

Picture of Oregon Cave

There are spectacular Oregon Caves than range from beginners level to experienced spelunkers (that is the technical word for cave explorers) that have within them an entirely different yet fascinating eco-system and wondrous geological formulations.

When folks first see the rugged beauty of Oregon, they are awed by Mt. Hood, the Cascade Mountain Range, the Columbia River or the primeval forests and the wildlife that inhabits them. But, for those who wonder deeper, there is a whole other part of Oregon that is just waiting to be explored.

Central Oregon

Central Oregon has about 400 lava tubes. These are caves that were formed by hot flowing lava when Oregon had many active volcanoes. These deep caves are naturally temperature controlled and remain at 45 degrees no matter what the outside weather. If you have spent some time enjoying outdoor winter recreation activities they are a great place to get rid of the chill, in summer, if you have been hiking or biking, the caves are a great place to cool off. They are open year-round, and as there are many on public lands for you to visit.

An interesting fact about the lava tubes in central Oregon is that they all run north. The reason is that they were formed by the Newberry Volcano, thousands of years ago. The lava flow from the eruption was heading north. As the lava cooled, crusts formed on the top and sides of the lava, but the searing hot magma in the center continued flowing north forming the lava tubes.

Visitors need to know that there is only one guide group that is allowed to take you into the National Forest for cave exploring. They are Wanderlust Tours and have permission to take folks into caves that are closed to the general public. They operate year-round and provide both helmets and a miners light.

Also near Bend are the Lava River Caves. These caves are lit and have boardwalks. They are more crowded that a Wanderlust Tour but still you will see the unbelievable strength of nature when these caves were created. The Lava River Caves are run by the National Forest Service, and is the longest single, unconnected lava tube in Oregon running about 7,200 feet. The tour is self-guided. Maps and lanterns can be obtained at visitor’s center.

Oregon Caves National Monument is also found in Central Oregon. This is an amazing guided trip throuan astonishing cave. It is near Cave, Oregon. Even though caving enthusiast may be disappointed that the trip is guided and has walkways and lights, once they visit, it is a lasting memory. Unlike the lava tubes, these caves were created by groundwater that dissolved marble bedrock. Over the millenniums, this process made the cave passages and complicated flowstone formations. Every cave lover will enjoy a visit here during season. Check Park website for hours and fees.

Coastal Oregon

Florence Oregon is the home of Oregon’s famous Sea Lion Caves. This is an underground attraction, though it is an adventure, it is not an adventure such as an unguided cave exploration. It is the world’s largest sea cave and is home to uncountable numbers of sea lions as well as all sort of other wildlife that is found in this natural habitat.

Caves available for unguided spelunking along the Oregon coast include:

  • Cave at Bob Creek
  • Hug Point
  • Heceta Head
  • Sisters Rocks State Park

Oregon has many other caves for exploration. Many are unnamed and not found on maps. Oregon Culture suggest you contact one of the three spelunker organizations in Oregon for more information of the wonders and locations of Oregon’s underground geological formations.

Links follow:

Oregon Grotto

Oregon High Desert Grotto

Willamette Valley Grotto

Oregon, on the surface is gorgeous, underground it is amazing!

Topics on this page: Oregon Caves, Lava River Caves, Oregon Caves National Monument, Sea Lion Caves

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Category: Explore Central Oregon, Landscapes/Outdoor Adventures, Natural Wonders

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  1. I love your site. My girl and I went to Ape Caves and just up the road was Lava Loop. We took a pretty good hike and came across a wooded rope bridge and the clearest water Ive ever seen in my life.

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