Skeleton Cave – the name immediately brings questions to your mind. The designation refers to the discovery of several animal skeletons found inside of the cave. This lava tube cave is located south of Bend off of the China Hat Road (also known as Road 18). Incidentally, 690 caves have been discovered in Deschutes County and 577 of them are lava tubes.
Inside Skeleton Cave
There is currently a metal staircase leading down into the cave. In the past it was just like a large pit trap that animals sometimes fell into and then could not escape. Because of this, skeletons and fossilized remains of several species of animals have been found within the cave. These included horse, deer, elk, bear, fox, a large hyena-type canid, lynx, a small carnivore, and various rodents. The horse skeleton found in the cave was determined to be that of Equus niobrarensis. It lived during the Pleistocene era that ended 10,000 years ago.
The cave was discovered in 1924, although writing on the cave wall indicates it may have been visited in 1894. An old still was found in the cave. It was surveyed by Walter T. Perry and Phil Brogan. They measured the main cave at 3,036 feet long with a side passage of 1,734 feet. Later, in 1971 Jim Neiland measured the cave more accurately at a length of 3,560 feet.
Lava tube cave
Lava tubes are tunnels that form when slow moving lava develops a hard exterior crust that thickens as the interior, faster flowing, lava continues to flow through until it drains away.
On the ceiling of Skeleton Cave you can see “lavacicles” which are a variety of stalactites. They form as the lava drips from the roof of a cave and cools and hardens.
This cave is especially popular with visitors and many have enjoyed exploring it. The temperature inside the cave averages 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors can walk into the first part of the cave and explore deeper sections by climbing and crawling.Continue reading