Friday, May 9, 2014

Oregon Caves makes tops list

National Park Service photo of Oregon Caves
The Oregon Caves has made CNN's list of top eight caves to visit in the United States. Having visited a number of caves around the United States. including Carlsbad Caverns (also on the list) and a few in the Black Hills, I would say the honor is deserved.

The Oregon Caves is the first place I experienced "total darkness." You may think a dark night is dark, but it's not. Guides take you deep into the bowels of the cave, then turn off all lights for a minute. For first-timers, this can be a frightening experience as you can't even see your hand even though you may be holding it a couple of inches from your face. You can't see a darned thing.

A national monument located in Southern Oregon's Siskiyou Mountains, the Oregon Caves is one of the few marble caves in the world, probably the reason they're referred to as the "marble halls of Oregon." The caves were discovered by a bear hunter in 1874; indeed the fossilized remains of a 50,000-year-old can be found inside.

The caves are only accessible via a guided tour, which takes about 90 minutes to two hours. Explorers should be reasonably fit with no breathing or walking problems since the tour is considered "moderately strenuous" by the National Park Service. The tour includes a change in altitude of 230 feet and climbing 500 stairs, so comfortable walking shoes are a must. Wearing warm clothing is recommended as the temperature inside the cave is 44 degrees year-round.

The Oregon Caves is located on US 199 that connects Grants Pass, Oregon, with the California border. Turn on US 46 at Cave Junction for a 20-mile drive to the monument.