Now we're getting deeper into the Josephine County Historical Society's "Passport To History" program at the Oregon Caves National Monument.
Elijah Davidson is credited with having first discovered the cave when his dog Bruno chased a bear inside the cave in 1874.
It did not officially become the Oregon Caves National Monument until 1909.
The visitors center has two upper floors which serve as dormitories for the seasonal guides. The lower floor of this building houses the ticket office and extensive gift shop run by the National Park Service, which has souvenirs and a large book selection. There is also a large theater which continuously runs a feature on the caves and the area surrounding the monument.
The Chateau has guest rooms on three of its' six floors, a large dining room, a retro coffee shop (built in 1937, and hardly changed since), and large gift shop. Enjoy lounging in the massive lobby with its' huge native marble double fireplace. And of course, no attraction such as this would be complete without its' ghost stories. This one seems to have more than its' share.
The tours are enjoyable and informative. They will take about 90 minutes, and are rated as strenuous. The tour guide will take you at a brisk pace, as a fresh tour leaves every 15 minutes, and averages 12 to 15 people.
The "River Styx" exits the cave near where we began our tour. It was this river that carved the massive caverns we were about to enjoy. The entrance discovered by Elijah Davidson and "Bruno" was higher up on the wall.
Photos are allowed in the cave, but no personal flashlights. Average temperature is 44 degrees, so dress accordingly.
Heather was our guide, and she did a great job! She was able to answer our many questions. It took from 1909 to 1968 before the caves allowed women guides. I guess only men had "tunnel vision" back then.
As we travel through the tunnels, I take pictures randomly, and periodic shots of the "River Styx" as it runs beneath the man-made walkways.
These are called "soda straws" because they are hollow. When blockage occurs, they fill up and become stalactites.
In many cases, we walk through tunnels that were created by the Civilian Conservation Corps. of the depression era. These C.C.C. boys did wondrous work, which enabled us to travel throughout the cave network without having to double back. Several of these short passages were cut by hand.
The next photo shows the results of souvenir hunters which have ruined thousands of years of formations by breaking off the stalactites, as you see in the center of the picture.
In the lower left corner you can barely see some signatures of early visitors to the cave. Many names were written in pencil, and are now permanently inside a layer of calcium carbonate, and the park service cannot risk further destroying the cave by trying to erase them since they were in there before careful monitoring began.
The oldest signature that was recorded was in 1905, and it is still visible to this day! A coach of a major university and his team came through on a tour not too many years ago, and signed their names, to the shame of all Oregonians!
The latest vandalism occurred a couple of months ago when someone etched his name in the wall. They may be able to remove it with acid, but it is a very difficult process, and it was done over the top of an earlier signature which is now categorized as "historical graffiti!"
The caves staff is very careful in instructing everyone to please not touch or lean against anything in the cave, except the steel handrails. Volunteers and employees run an annual "lint patrol" where they have to remove lint left behind by humans from the cave walls.
When a stalactite (from the top) and a stalagmite (from the bottom) meet it is known as a column. This column shows evidence of a fracture, which likely ocurred from a major earth movement in the past. The caves are about 6 1/2 million years old, so little is known of major earthquakes that may have caused this type of damage.
This is referred to as "drapery."
This is the "Grand Column" at a little over halfway through our journey.
The "River Styx" is visible in the lower left hand corner, and the orange on the water's surface is reflected from the floodlight. The dark gray in the upper part of the photo was not visible, but I have to assume it was steam, there is no other explanation, unless it's a ghost.
Which brings up a question I wanted to ask our guide, but since there were two small children present, I chose not to; but when you visit the cave, ask about the murder that was committed inside.
In some rooms, stalactites were abundunt, while in others they were non-existant, which indicates that the roof structure varies as we travel upward, and in some places does not allow any seepage. Stalagmites in this cave are a lot more rare also.
This is known as "the Heart" of the cave.
The jagged, dark fracture on the top of this cave is evidence of a lava flow that at one time made its' way through a fissure, and reached the top of the cave. Possibly at that time, the cave may have been full of cold, running water that solidified the lava and plugged the crack in the marble ceiling.
This, the largest room discovered so far in the cave system, is called the "Ghost Room," and it has a variety of formations.
The cave itself is mostly marble, and sometimes referred to as the "Marble Halls" of Oregon. Our guide reminded us that the substance creating the formations in the cave is calcium carbonate and other minerals. She said it's like being inside of a giant "Tums."
This is called the "Nightlight." It is actually the guides' flashlight on the other side of this rock, which was several inches thick. It is translucent, and it would be interesting to see what it would be like if polished. Of course this will never happen, because no one can afford that much time in prison.
We exit the cave about 230 feet higher than where we entered.
As we exited, there were several deer standing outside wondering about these strange creatures that came out of the mountain.
The cave is climate controlled by two steel doors in the tunnel system, which maintains the temperature and the humidity so that all of the visitors don't upset the fragile ecosystem. Bats winter in the cave, but in the summer months they are down in the valleys. The temperature in the cave is said to up go up 2 degrees on the average when the bats are in residence.
Grated doors are closed in the off-season so that only the bats and the occasional small animals can have access to the shelter. There is a bear skeleton protected inside the cave, and we have heard that there is evidence of jaguars and grizzly bears having sheltered in the caves in the past.
A new cave has been discovered, and is being explored, very near the Oregon Caves National Monument. The monument presently occupies about 480 acres, and once the new cave is added to the Caves National Monument the area will be increased to 5000 acres.
Check out THE CAVE NEXT DOOR, and as soon as it opens, we'll be writing a blog for the Josephine County Historical Society.
Please visit the Josephine County Historical Society's website for more information on the Passport To History program.
Below are the links to my earlier Josephine County Historical Society's Passport To History blogs.