The Lava River Cave is probably the most well-known and visited cave in Central Oregon. I almost never go to the Lava River Cave because it’s a commercial tour cave there are a lot of people in it and it’s tougher to take pictures.
However, the staff is really awesome and very photographer friendly. I was told that if I come early when they first open at 9AM on a weekday that my tripod would be most welcome and I would have a lot of access.
I'm going to do that really soon. I see huge potential for fun here.
This cave is part of the Newberry National Monument and is a commercial touring cave. That means on any given days (this happened to be a free day....) there can be a lot of people going in and out.
At 5,211 feet long, the northwest section of the cave is the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon and goes under highway 97.
(Really, it's huge).
You first come to the Forest Service booth with the really friendly staff. You can rent a lantern there. We brought our own flashlights but I kind of like that look of the lantern in some photos so we might rent one when we come back.
Fair warning. There are a LOT of stairs.
This is a vast cave system with many openings.
When you first get down on the path, off to the left there is an entrance that is closed off. You can feel the cold reach up standing and looking at it.
There is actually a lot of cool stuff in this cave if you can get there when there are minimal hordes.
Just inside the entrance until mid June there are ice crystals.
Very quickly on the walk you reach Echo Hall. The ceiling reaches a height of 58ft, here the width of the cave is 50 feet.
At Low Bridge Lane the ceiling drops to less than six feet and one of the most unusual features of the Lava River Cave is the Sand Garden.
Approx 3,000 in from the entrance, in the Sand Garden the floor of the cave is covered with …..yep….sand. (It’s possible they stole it from my back “yard”?)
The sand was carried into the cave by dripping water. The sand is actually fine volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama 6,600 years ago. Rain and melting snow has carried the ash from the surface through cracks in the rock and deposited it on the floor of the cave one grain at a time.
Sometimes, enough water leaks into the cave to create a pool. Spreads the sand out across the floor. The constant dripping of water in the Sand Garden carves out spires and pinnacles in the sand. Because it takes hundreds of years to build these delicate sand forms, and there are morons who insist on destroying cool things in the cave systems, the Forest Service has fenced off the garden area to protect it. You can look but not touch.
Be sure and say Hi to Chris. He is most helpful and kind to photographers.
Summer Schedule (June 13- September 3): Open Daily, Sunday-Saturday, 9am-5pm
Fall Schedule (September 6 - September 30): Open Thursday-Monday, 9am-5pm
You can rent a lantern for $5 and there is a $5 fee to park but all the federal forest passes are accepted..
USFS Info for the Lava River Cave