Did you know there are underground lava caves in Redmond?
Located between the Redmond Airport and the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, five caves created by the collapse of a single lava tube formed by molten lava from the Newberry Caldera — as is the case for many of the underground caverns throughout Central Oregon.
“They are made out of the lava tubes that we have throughout Central Oregon in the Deschutes National Forest, the Prineville Bureau of Land Management, all around this area from previous eruptions that happened 7 to 10,000 years ago,” said Lisa Clark of the Prineville BLM.
“What is really cool about the (Redmond Caves) is that they are located within Redmond city limits,” Clark said. “So it creates that unique recreation for folks who need that quick hour getaway or need something to do.”
The five caves offer different experiences at different experience levels. Located in the center of the site is the most extensive cave opening with the highest roof. The cave to the northwest is small with a shallow opening. To the southwest, is the second-longest cave, which has two entries. Two additional caves offer short, shallow explorations.
“You can tell how cool it is down there,” Clark said. “Even though it is not that far below the surface, you can feel that temperature difference.”
Clark pointed out that the Redmond Caves are an excellent starting point for those with kids, inexperienced spelunkers.
“You can see the openings, there is still fresh air, so they aren’t too scary,” Clark said, adding that a headlamp and flashlight are encouraged during the exploration of the caves. “They are open enough that you can walk in and see if it is something you want to explore. It isn’t something that you have to commit to.”
Per the Prineville Bureau of Land Management, archaeological excavation has shown that the cave was used for hunting and gathering through the remains of stone, bone, shell and textile artifacts.
The Federal Caves Resources Protection Act has the Redmond Caves listed as a “significant” cave due to the cultural, recreation, biological and educational values. In the 1940s, Robert Heizer of the University of Oregon during an excavation of the caves, found several artifacts such as dart point and arrow points, sandal fragments, and several animal bones.
Due to its location between the Crooked and Deschutes rivers, the caves provide a comfortable place to recharge during the travel between the two rivers in the High Desert.
“We did have a lot of Native Americans staying in the area back in the day because we did not have a lot of water, water was the guiding force for how people traveled,” Clark said. “The Redmond caves were mostly used for a cool place to rest.”