Oregon Caves
Cultural Landscape Report



The 480-acre monument is located on Mt. Elijah in the Siskiyou mountains and comprises the upper portion of the Cave Creek watershed, ranging in elevation from 3800 feet to 5450 feet. Cave Creek, the primary drainage, originates in the cave at 4000 feet, emerges near the Chateau, and flows westward through a steep canyon out of the monument. The caves contain a series of passageways and rooms dissolved out of marble. The tour covers 0.6 of a mile within the three-mile long cavern. Complex geology and steep topography created precipitous canyon walls near the cave leaving little space for development. The mixed broadleaf and conifer forest contain an understory of oaks, vine maple," chinkapin," laurel, and madrona occurring in clearings and along the streambanks. The diverse flora that includes several endemic species is characteristic of the monument and adjacent national forest.

Although weather at the monument is generally moderate, the canyon gorge contributes to special natural conditions. The average annual rainfall measures 50 inches and the average annual snowfall, 160 inches. Storms are intense and abrupt, fog prevails in winter and early spring. High moisture content snow creates difficult removal, although drifting is minimal. Roads are temporarily closed during heavy snow storms. High ridges and canyon walls generally protect the area from high winds, but prevailing southwest winds can gust to 70 miles per hour. Snow dams that have formed in the upper canyon can break to release a torrent of water. Brief but damaging floods, created by heavy rains after a snowfall of several feet, can descend the canyon where the Chateau is situated. In addition, soil creep, extending under fill areas along slopes becomes troublesome.

Sensitivity to canyon topography and the mixed conifer forest is evident in the evolution of naturalistic design for the developed area at Oregon Caves. Climatic conditions have weathered and aged the rustic architecture and landscape features to read more effectively as a cohesive unit with the surrounding environment.


Southwest view of the sidence showing the mixed broadleaf and conifer forest, and the access path to Lake Mt. Trail and Cliff Nature Trail (foreground).

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Last Updated: 05-Feb-2002