• Speleothems in Miller's Chapel.

    Oregon Caves

    National Monument Oregon

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  • Cave Tours Closed for Season

    Cave Tours are closed for the winter. Tours will resume April 26, 2014. All trails on the monument remain open.

Speleogenesis- Creation of Cave


Over several million years, the belt of marble within the Siskiyou Mountain cracked as the land uplifted and folded. At the same time, the top of the mountain weathered and exposed the marble to the surface of the earth. A forest grew over the marble and in the forest soil, fungi, bacteria, and mold decomposed dead plants and animals releasing carbon dioxide. Precipitation percolated through the soil and captured the carbon dioxide to create carbonic acid. This mild acid is the same stuff that gives soda pop its fizz.

The acidic water then chemically weathered the marble bedrock as it traveled downward through the cracks and holes in the rocks. Ground water moved downward until it reached the water table--an area where all available pore space in rocks are filled with water. The greatest amount of marble was dissolved just below the water table where the highest concentration of carbonic acid occurred. Water then spreads sideways along the cracks in the bedrock and the carbonic acid slowly dissolved the marble. Over hundreds of thousands of years, the carbonic acid enlarges small cracks into larger cavities as the marble was carried away (eroded) in solution. The process of dissolving marble and opening up spaces within it is called speleogenesis. Speleogensis is derived from the Greek words "spelaion" (cave) and "genesis" (beginning).

Did You Know?

A small cave located near the visitor center.

The marble rocks of Oregon Caves were once a tropical reef that was pushed under the continental edge to a depth of 12 miles and then uplifted to 4,000 feet above sea level.