Phillip Elden on Caves

Phillip Elden

Caves are one of the most interesting features of our natural world, says Phillip Elden. They are also the most overlooked. Because caves are underground, many people simply walk right over them without a second thought.

But what, exactly, are caves? According to Phillip Elden caves are simply a hole in the ground. These holes, however, are formed over millions of years, usually as water disturbs the soil. Aboveground water will seep into the dirt, and, after years – millions of years – this erosion carves out an air pocket underground.

Phillip Elden explains that as the hole gets bigger, a higher volume of water brings in sand, rocks, and other debris, which hastens the erosion process. Caves almost always have stalactites and stalagmites, which look like rock icicles protruding from the ceiling or floor of the cave, respectively.

Oregon, says Phillip Elden, has hundreds of caves, many of which are open from March through November. A few of these are:

  • Oregon Caves. Oregon Caves is a national monument. Also known as the Marble Halls of Oregon, this particular cave system is only available via National Park Service Ranger-led tours. Phillip Elden says the candlelight cave tour and the off trail tour are not to be missed.
  • Lava River cave. Lava River cave is short, only about a mile long. It’s essentially a lava tube, and it is a popular tourist site in the Central Oregon area. If you don’t have an NW Forest pass, it’s five dollars to spend the day in the cave and surrounding area.

Skylight cave. According to Phillip Elden, skylight cave is one of the most stunning natural features in the entire state. Walking into a large room, visitors are treated to a spectacle of light beaming in from above. Although the cave is closed from October through May, it is an astounding site throughout the summer and early fall.