BEND, Ore.—A prehistoric site in Oregon is now open for families to explore.
The Lava River Cave a few miles south of Bend reopened for the season earlier this month. The cave sits right off highway 97, and it’s a popular underground attraction for families.
“It’s the longest lava tube you can walk through in Oregon,” lead ranger Cristina Mastrangelo said.
The cave is a mile-long underground tube formed by lava flows thousands of years ago.
“There are probably more out there that we just don't know about,” Mastrangelo said. “Those massive eruptions formed lots of lava tubes, this is the most easily accessible one that we invite visitors to come explore.”
Mastrangelo says it takes about an hour and a half to see the entire cave. But she recommends coming prepared with good footwear and something to light the way.
“We rented a lantern and he has a pretty impressive flashlight, so I think we'll be OK,” Meg Dorick from Portland said. Dorick was touring the cave for the first time with her husband.
“If you do make a misstep in your sandals, you're going to have a good scratch,” Paula Preston said. Preston, who’s from Vancouver, BC; was visiting the cave with family from Finland.
“If you are careful. It's very slippery in some places,” Raimo Fagerstrom said. Fagerstrom is traveling from Helsinki, Finland.
Even though visibility remains touch and go once you're inside the Lava River Cave, the temperature almost never changes. That means this underground adventure is accessible, rain or shine.
“So if it's a really hot day, sometimes it's nice to go down into a cool cave,” Mastrangelo said.
Mastrangelo says people checking out the cool cave should have no trouble getting out in one piece, but in this pitch black cavern, it's easy to get separated.
“My husband's still in there, so we're happy to wait,” Preston said with a laugh.
There are bats living in the cave, but Mastrangelo says actually spotting one is rare.
“They're hiding up in the rocks, roosting during the day, asleep in those crevices, so you won't see the bats very often,” Mastrangelo said.
What you will see is a preserved natural wonder in central Oregon. The cave is open Thursdays through Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Starting June 12, the cave will be open all week-long until September. The cave closes for the season on September 30.