The Underworld of Oregon Caves
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What next? Like lakes and waterfalls, caves are temporary features of the drainage pattern of an area. The same processes which produce them will eventually destroy them. At Paradise Lost we see that an appreciable part of the original room has already been filled with cave deposits. Many side passages in the caves have similarly been blocked off by the accumulation of flowstone.

On the outside, surface erosion will wear away the roof rock until the caverns collapse. The rooms will be filled with sunlight and exposed to rapid weathering. The calcium carbonate that was laid down in the Triassic sea, then lifted into mountains, then changed to calcite cave deposits, will again be dissolved by water and carried back to the sea. We know this because remnants of other caves reveal the pattern of creation and destruction common to all caves. The end will not come at Oregon Caves for thousands or millions of years. But it will come. The work of water and other erosive forces never ceases.


Oregon Caves have been set aside as a national monument because of their outstanding natural features. The National Park Service is charged by Congress to provide for the public use and enjoyment of the area "in such manner and by such means as will leave it unimpaired for . . . future generations."

Natural things and natural processes are paramount. Manmade facilities such as trails, lights and steps are necessary to allow visitors to enjoy the cave. But they are kept at a minimum. Your guide will ask you not to touch any of the cave formations. This is to keep them from being stained or broken. Prior to the establishment of the National Monument in 1909, fragile formations were the object of severe vandalism and thoughtless destruction by souvenir hunters (see illustration page 31). It is doubly important to preserve the remaining features for the benefit of those who will come here tomorrow and in later years.

Outside the cave, the Monument is a place where flowers are enjoyed in their natural state and not picked, where birds and wild animals are unmolested by hunters or trappers. The forest is undisturbed. On the trails away from the cave area, the hiker may see animals and plants fulfilling their existence as they did centuries ago. It is to this philosophy that the national parks and monuments are dedicated.

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Last Updated: 10-May-2006