The Oregon Caves National Monument is located in the Siskiyou Mountains in the southwest of the state of Oregon. The highlight of the area is a dissolution cave formed in marble with over 4,600 m (15,000 feet) of passages. This is relatively unique because most dissolution caves are formed in limestone or dolomite. The Oregon Caves are a popular tourist destination with an average of about 80,000 visitors a year. Apart from cave tours there are many hiking trails, that provide perfect photograph and wildlife viewing opportunities. The area was made a National Monument in 1909, but the caves were discovered long before this.
Who discovered the Oregon Caves?
The Oregon Caves were discovered in 1874 by Elijah Jones Davidson. He came across the caves during a hunting trip in the area and although Native Americans had probably known of the caves at an earlier date, he is credited with the first official documented discovery of the caves. Davidson lived in the community of Williams, which is only 19 km (12mi.) northeast of the Oregon Caves.
Surprisingly only a handful of people made a visit to the cave in the decade after the discovery. However, after this time a number of private investors attempted to establish a tourist site in the area. These attempts were all unsuccessful and some actually led to the damage of the caves. In 1903 the area surrounding the caves was designated the Siskiyou National Forest and in 1909 President William Howard Taft established the Oregon Caves National Monument. However, this did little to improve visitor numbers and it wasn’t until the automobile became more popular that visitor numbers increased.