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Oregon Caves National Monument
IUCN Category III (Natural Monument)
Location Josephine County, Oregon, USA
Nearest city Cave Junction, OR
Coordinates 42°05′53″N 123°24′26″W / 42.09806°N 123.40722°W / 42.09806; -123.40722Coordinates: 42°05′53″N 123°24′26″W / 42.09806°N 123.40722°W / 42.09806; -123.40722
Area 488 acres (197 ha)
Established July 12, 1909
Visitors 84,465 (in 2004)
Governing body National Park Service

Oregon Caves National Monument is a national monument in the northern Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon in the United States. Known primarily for its marble caves, the 488-acre (197 ha) park is located in southeastern Josephine County approximately 24 miles (39 km) as the crow flies south of Grants Pass or a 48-mile (77 km) drive from Grants Pass, including a 19-mile (31 km) drive east of Cave Junction on Oregon Caves Highway state route 46.



In 1874, while a local man named Elijah Davidson was hunting, his dog Bruno chased a bear into a cave. This discovery became an attraction, and in the 1890s developers opened the caves as a commercial enterprise. In 1909, at the urging of Joaquin Miller and other influential men, President William Howard Taft declared the caves a U.S. National Monument. The Monument was managed by the U.S. Forest Service until August 10, 1933, when jurisdiction was transferred to the National Park Service.

The 3.5-mile (5.6 km) marble cave in the Monument contains one of the largest assemblages of endemic cave dwelling insects in the United States. Recently they have gained notoriety for the Pleistocene jaguar and grizzly bear fossils found in some of the deeper chambers. The National Park Service provides cave tours for a fee (as of December 2008, it was $8.50, age 16 and under $6, groups of 12 or more $6 adults and $4 for 16s and under). Tours last up to 90 minutes, covering 526 stairs and temperatures inside the caves are 44 °F (7 °C) all year round, regardless of outdoor temperature. Open March 21 to November 29, closed Thanksgiving Day. Also, visitors must be taller than 42 inches (110 cm) to attend a cave tour.[2]

Above ground, the monument encompasses a remnant old-growth coniferous forest. It harbors a fantastic array of plants, including a Douglas fir tree with the widest known girth in Oregon at 13 feet (4.0 m) in diameter. Four hiking trails access this forest. The park also features a Civilian Conservation Corps-built landscape, as well as a historic lodge known as the Chateau, in which visitors can stay.

The region represents a unique geology composed primarily of bits and pieces of ocean crustal rocks (ophiolite). Some geologic sections are composed entirely of serpentinite rock and serpentine soils which support many unique plant species. It is this unique soil that makes the northern Siskiyou Mountains well known for their botanical diversity and assemblages of endemic plants.

The climate of the region is strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean which contributes to relatively mild summers and winters as well as 50 inches (1,300 mm) of rain per year. The elevation at the Visitor Center is 4,000 feet (1,200 m) and resulting in comfortable summer temperatures and snowy winters. The park is situated high in the watershed of the Illinois River, a tributary of the Rogue River that is a major salmon and steelhead spawning waterway.

Historic buildings

In addition to the caves, the Oregon Caves National Monument is home to several historic buildings. There are four primary historic buildings of interest at the Oregon Caves National Monument: The Oregon Caves Chateau (1934), The Ranger Residence (1936?), The (new) Chalet (1942), and the old employee Dormitory (1927, with major additions in 1940 and 1972).[1] The most noteworthy of these is Oregon Caves Chateau, a historic lodging facility that opened in 1934. It is the location of the guest services at the monument, including a coffee shop, dining, gift shop and overnight lodging. The Chateau is considered one of the best of the classic lodges found in the National Parks. It is in almost original condition, having seen few modifications over the years.

The Chateau was designed and built by Gust Lium (1884-1965), a local contractor. A National Historic Landmark, the Chateau building is architecturally significant due to the construction and design.[2] The Chateau is designed in the rustic style common to many National Parks.



  1. ^ [1] Cultural Landscape Report, By Cathy Gilbert and Marsha Tolon, National Park Service.
  2. ^ Historic American Buildings Survey, Oregon Caves Chateau. HABS No. OR-145, prepared by Stephen R. Mark, Historian, NPS, Aug. 25, 1989.

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