Lava Beds National Monument, CA (USA)

June 13, 2016

Lava Beds National Monument is located in northeastern California and has the largest total area covered by a volcano in the Cascade Range.

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Lava Flows

The Monument was established on November 21, 1925, and includes more than 46,000 acres (190 km2)

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Schonchin Butte Cinder Cone

Schonchin Butte is a cinder cone on the northern flank of Medicine Lake Volcano that was created more than 30,000 years ago.

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Cinder cones are formed when magma is under great pressure. It is released in a fountain of lava, blown into the air from a central vent. The lava cools as it falls, forming cinders that pile up around the vent.

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Collapsed lava tube cave - Skull Cave

This monument has the largest concentration of lava tube caves in North America, with twenty-five having marked entrances and developed trails for public access and exploration.

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Skull Cave Entrance

Skull Cave (580 ft / 177m) it is named for the bones of pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and two human skeletons discovered inside

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Skull Cave

Lava flows dated to about 10,500-65,000 years ago formed most of the lava tube caves in the monument.

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Skull Cave

As the lava flowed it began to cool and solidify on the top and sides.

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Skull Cave

Once the eruption ceased, the tube emptied and drained, and a new lava tube cave is left behind.

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Golden Dome Cave

As the rock cooled, the inner surface of the tube cracked and collapsed, producing openings to the surface.

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Golden Dome Cave

The ceiling of Golden Dome Cave (2,229 ft / 679 m) and many other caves here are the result of light reflecting off water droplets that bead up on a coating of hydrophobic bacteria.

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Golden Dome Cave

Catacombs Cave (6,903 ft / 2,104 m) is a very long cave that is easily entered but gradually increases in difficulty.

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Catacombs Cave

It is possible to walk upright for approximately 800 ft (244 m) to the stairway, after which the ceiling rarely exceeds 3 ft (0.9 m).

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Catacombs Cave

A few places exist where the ceiling height is less than 12 in (30 cm).

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Catacombs Cave

A cave map is highly recommended for any group planning to explore the entire cave, as multiple levels and numerous side passages can be confusing.

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In my case I keep it simple by turning always on the same direction

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Lavacicles

Lavacicles on the ceiling of a lava tube were produced as the level of lava in the tube retreated and the viscous lava on the ceiling dripped as it cooled.

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Catacombs Cave

Despite harsh, semi-arid conditions, native wildlife has adapted to the environmental constraints present in the region.

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Some animals obtain water from caves, while others fly about twenty km (12 miles) north to Tule Lake.

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The lava tube collapse systems and lava outcrops support a great diversity of plant life, from an impressive variety of lichens and mosses to plants such as desert sweet, the aromatic purple desert sage and yellow blazing star.

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Driving Distance from Vancouver: 1,050 km (12 hours)