Lava River Cave

I’ve been on sort of a cave kick lately, I blame smokey 90 degree days. Two thirds of Oregon seems to be a blaze, as it usually is in late August. The newspaper has declared ‘Fire’ a season. I’ve found that smoke really messes up majestic vistas (and lung proficiency, go figure). I’ve taken to just going underground. The timing couldn’t be better, I only have about one more month until most of the caves close for bat protection.


This hazy day send my daughter and I to Lava River Cave. It is Oregon’s longest (known) lava tube, it stretches almost a mile in length. It is also incredibly close to Sunriver and professionally managed by the Forest Service, a perfect ‘starter’ cave.


We meander down a path to a set of steep metal stairs before a cold, gaping hole. A piercing waling regurgitates from the bowels within and my daughter pauses. I am reminded of walking into a Dentists office when the drill is running. Do we really want to proceed? Of course! It is only a baby and we are 6 and 30 (two VERY brave ages to be) so we press on. The cave is tall, wide, and frigid. The further we travel into the tube the colder it gets. Darkness is tangible now, it feels almost heavy on my shoulders.DSC_0133My mind begins to wander. What if there is a cave-in? Could my eyes adapt to this eternal dark? Would the 5 teenagers who just passed us be able to tweet for help? They are using too much oxygen, we will all die.


Luckily, being a mom means seeming courageous even when I am not. I spew words of encouragement dispersed with just boring-enough cave facts. The combo, along with the air temperature, is a successful catalyst. We make it the end of the cave! My daughter then introduces me to the art of speed-dark-cave-walking. We are out in half the time it took to get to the end. Cold and mosquitos; they’ll get you moving every time.


The Cave was formed 80,000 years ago. It’s source is from nearby Mokst Butte. This same flow underlies a good portion of Bend and travels as far North as Redmond. There are ‘rumors’ that a similar lava tube runs from Bend to Redmond and is currently used by The Air Force. I’ve investigated this as far as I really can. No 17 mile Bootleggers Cave seems to exist. The idea could make for a pretty cool movie; Lava Pirates during prohibition or something like that. Let’s call Johnny Depp.

2 responses to “Lava River Cave”

  1. […] it features tree molds formed by molten lava! It also pairs nicely with Lava Butte and Lava River Cave and if you visit all three you’ll be an expert on ancient volcanic eruptions and their […]


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