by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved
Oregon Caves National Monument Oregon National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior need need park ranger with visitors Caption to come View from the Cliff Nature Trail Intimate Adventure Outside Time Tall trees reach skyward, framing the curves as you climb a road built specifically to reach these high-elevation caverns. At the end of the climb, breathe in the medley of fragrances exhaled by the ancient forest that blankets the Siskiyou Mountains. Take a short stroll. Listen. Follow the sound of a creek. Discover where it tumbles out of the rock. Feel the wet, cold breath of the cave on a hot summer day—both foreboding and beckoning you. Nearby, notice how the Chateau curls gracefully around the creek and cave entrance, embracing it. The rustic exterior of Port Orford cedar bark blends with the surrounding forest. Explore inside the Chateau. Discover the creek that babbles through the dining room. Relax in the lobby’s pleasing mix of forest and cave ambience. Look over its wall map showing all the nearby hiking opportunities. Discover Oregon Caves National Monument! To Protect and Connect a Free-flowing Watershed Runoff from high elevations provides most of the West’s fresh water. A proposed new monument boundary would encompass the watershed of Oregon Caves and Cave Creek (map), which helped carve the cave—and whose waters run through the Chateau dining room! This watershed is a tributary of the Illinois River, one of the last free-flowing, undammed Pacific Northwest rivers—and therefore important to spawning salmon and sea-run trout. Water supports most life as we know it, including salamanders, snails, and orchids. Chalet Visitor Center, near the cave entrance Big Tree Trail Waiting for Your Cave Tour? Chateau Built from 1932 to 1934 of local materials in the rustic tradition, the Chateau features marble rock work—including for its grand fireplace—and massive pillars and beams of Douglas fir. Cave Creek water runs through the Chateau dining room. Historic, colorful Monterey-style furniture from the 1930s graces some rooms and also common areas. “Improve the day” was the cry of intrepid 1800s travelers. It still makes sense: Don’t just wait for your cave tour when so many other intimate adventures await you at historic Oregon Caves National Monument. Rather than merely waiting while you wait, take one of several short hikes or tour the Chateau, a National Historic Landmark set in a National Historic District. Or tickle your taste buds with a real, old-fashioned milkshake in the 1930s-era soda fountain. If you have a longer wait, you might hike the Big Tree Trail described at right. And be sure to check on today’s ranger-led activities for kids. Kids can learn more about fossils or how to tie the knots cavers need to know—and earn a Junior Ranger Trail Button or Junior Ranger Badge. Explore the Chalet Visitor Center The original chalet, the first permanent structure here, was built in 1924. The third floor and archway were added in 1942. The chalet houses the Visitor Center and a book and gift shop, where you buy cave tour tickets. Cave guides now live in the upper two floors in summer. Hike a Trail Take the path at the back of the Chalet Visitor Center’s archway (photo above). This Big Tree Trail leads 1.3 miles one-way to Oregon’s widest-girth Douglas fir. A loop trail option is 3.3 miles long. Allow two to three hours. Elevation gain: 1,100 feet. Also ask about the No Name and Cliff nature trails. Know how long your hike is and let someone know what trail you take. Be prepared. Take and drink plenty of water. Wear good walking shoes. Wear a hat or use sun block. Ask a ranger about trail conditions. Cougars/mountain lions Cougars are rarely seen and risk of attack is low. Give them an escape route. Try to look big. Pick small children up. Back away slowly. If the cougar acts aggressive, wave your arms, yell, and throw things at it. If attacked, fight back. Calypso orchid l a c e h o l d e r Pacific i m asalamander ge Jaguar and grizzly bear fossils Crews mapping the cave in 1995 found the most complete jaguar fossil in the United States (jaw, right). In the Chalet Visitor Center you can see and touch models of it and a grizzly bear skull fossil. Grizzly bear bones found here may be the oldest ever found in North America. Roth’s forest snail Teeming with Life Areas with many species and lots of members of species are biodiverse, rich with life. The park’s varied earth materials and land forms, its geodiversity, makes it even more biodiverse. Species have migrated here from the coast, the north, and deserts, adding even more richness: 40 times more fungi and bacteria live here than in nearby areas. Pileated woodpeckers (above) live here in the mature, old-growth forest.