Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve, OR (USA)

June 15, 2016

If you buy your tickets online, make sure you arrive 30 minutes prior to reservation or they will sell your tickets.

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The Chateau

The Oregon Caves Chateau is an historic American hotel that opened in 1934. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the Chateau building is architecturally significant because of its construction and design.

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Pool on Cave Creek

The Chateau is six stories high and is built across a steep ravine. All floor levels except the top two have ground level entrances because of the steep slope.

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Trail leading to the cave entrance

The rooms remain almost exactly as they were in 1934. There are no phones or televisions, and steam radiator heating. The Chateau is open to guests spring through fall

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Cave river (left)

Oregon Caves is unusual in that it was formed in marble. Most caves created by dissolving of rocks are formed in limestone or dolomite.

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Of the more than 3,900 caves managed by the National Park Service, only those in Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, Kings Canyon National Park, and Great Basin National Park have marble caves.

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Calcite formation

The marble block containing the cave is at least 1,080 feet (330 m) long, 490 feet (150 m) wide, and about 390 feet (120 m) high

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Mushroom

The cave's creation took place long after the marble formed.

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Cave worm

As groundwater seeped into cracks in the marble, it eventually dissolved enough rock to expand some of the cracks to the size of tunnels.

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Cave Popcorn

Marble has a more coarse-grained texture than limestone, but both are made of calcite (CaCO3).

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Cave Cricket (Tropidischia xanthostoma)

Caves often develop when slightly acidic groundwater dissolves calcite along natural fractures in the rock.

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Green algae near to one of the cave entrances

A reversal of the dissolving process can create flowstone and dripstone such as stalactites, that hang from cave ceilings like icicles, and stalagmites, cone-shaped masses that form on cave floors, usually directly below stalactites.

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Oregon Caves includes a variety of cave formations created through precipitation of calcite.

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Draperies

Although many of the speleothems in the public sections of the cave have been broken, discolored by human skin oils, or otherwise damaged, the narrow twisting passages of the "show cave" provide enduring tourist value.

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Vandalism (early twentieth century)

The cave is not pure marble. Dikes of diorite, an igneous (formed from cooling and solidification of magma or lava) rock, cut through the marble in places.

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Stalactites, stalagmites, and column in Miller's Chapel

Shales and sandstones, which are sedimentary rocks, are in places interbedded with the marble.

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Draperies

In addition, streams have carried silts and gravels from the surface into the cave.

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The monument has more than 50 paleontological sites ranging in age from Late Pleistocene (126,000 years ago) to Holocene (the current geological epoch that began 11,700 years ago).

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Draperies at Paradise Lost

A fossil of a grizzly bear more than 50,000 years old and a jaguar fossil between 40,000 and 20,000 years old have been found in the cave.

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Draperies at Paradise Lost

Other fossils include amphibians, and rare finds of the mountain beaver, and the blue grouse. The monument's mammalian fossils, found in non-public sections of the cave, are of national significance.

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Elijah Davidson, a resident of nearby Williams, discovered the cave in 1874. Over the next two decades, private investors failed in efforts to run successful tourist ventures at the publicly owned site. President William Howard Taft established Oregon Caves National Monument, to be managed by the United States Forest Service, in 1909.

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Driving Distance from Vancouver: 1,000 km (11 hours)