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
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).