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Arnold Ice Cave Complex Walking Tour

  • 28 Sep 2022
  • 1:00 PM
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Field Trip Recap

ASCO members, 19 strong, were treated to a great walking tour of the Arnold Ice Cave Complex led by our own Susan Gray, who had been an early ASCO steward of the site. We were joined by a great team of former and new staff who shared and received past and present information on the site: Bob Jensen, long-time Deschutes National Forest geologist and author of the definitive work “Roadside Guide to the Geology Newberry Volcano”; Penni Borghi, Former DNF head archaeologist and now the Heritage Program Manager for US Forest Service Pacific Northwest, Region 6; Lisa Machnik, Recreation, Heritage, Lands, Partnership Staff Officer, Deschutes National Forest; Anastasia Lugo-Mendez, Asst. Heritage Program Manager, Deschutes National Forest.

Bob Jensen gave a great overview of the Newberry Volcano using a "work-in-progress" geologic map that he has been assisting in the preparation of with  Dr. Julie Donnelly-Nolan of the US Geological Society. The map (see photo above) of the various volcanic flows in the area was informative and inspiring in the detail.

The complex includes the three named Caves and 4 sinks; Arnold Ice Cave, Charcoal Cave (#1)and Hidden Forest Cave (HFC). We walked to the sink's edge that holds the Arnold Ice Cave and Charcoal Cave (#1). We were able to walk into the sink that holds the Hidden Forest Cave. Susan guided us among the sinks and cave plus provided great information on the recent and past historic significance of the area as well as the effect of recent visitors to the Complex. Arnold Ice Cave was used to provide ice to Bend in its early days and in 1975 suffered a deliberate disturbance of boulders that narrowed the Arnold Ice Cave entrance. In 2010, the unusual occurrence of all ice melting in Arnold Ice Cave which allowed exploration to the end for the first time in recorded history, where it was found to measure about a half mile long (exactly 2,638 ft).

Penni Borghi and Susan both discussed the recent issues with the Hidden Forrest Cave area related to the extensive cleanup effort after the 2012 Rave paint vandalism of HFC that ended in prosecution of the participants.  There was also an 'event' with misplaced student zeal to clean up the area for a ‘cultural reenactment of sorts at the behest of a COCC professor who also was prosecuted for attempting to ‘renovate’ the HFC.

The day was clear, the discussions lively with smoke holding off until we were finished.

Submitted by Susan Gray, Bob Timmer, and Tom Machala. Photos by Susan Gray (#1),  Bob Timmer (#2), and Scott McKenzie (#3)

Arnold Ice Cave Complex Walking Tour

Wednesday, September 28th

Susan Gray - Trip Leader

The Arnold Arnold Ice Cave Complex consists of numerous other caves  and collapsed sinks. On this trip, we will focus on the area immediately adjoining the Ice Cave itself. There are three caves and four unnamed sinks. Only one of the caves, Hidden Forest, is open to the public year-round.

We are meeting at 1:00 on Wednesday, Sept 28, at the Deschutes County Roads Dept/Surveyor building, 61150 SE 27th Street, Bend. It is the building next to and immediately south of the animal shelter and uses the same driveway off the main road. We have been given permission to queue up in their clearly marked ‘Overflow Parking’ lot on the north side of the building. There is plenty of parking out at the Caves, so carpooling is not necessary. But if anyone wants to carpool with someone, cars may be left there for the duration of the trip. 

We will proceed south on Knott Road and turn east on China Hat Road (Road 18). The gravel portion of the road is very washboardy, so be prepared for that. My RAV likes it better if I take it slow. We will continue out to FS Road 300, turn right (south) and drive to the parking circle. The plan is to arrive by 1:30. At that point, we will meet up with at least two very special Forest Service people with some seriously relevant experience with these caves. Former Deschutes National Forest head archaeologist and now the Heritage Program Manager for the ENTIRE Northwest Region Penni Borghi is going to be with us. And, Bob Jensen, long-time DNF geologist and author of the definitive work “Roadside Guide to the Geology Newberry Volcano” will also be there to tell us everything we need to know about those Caves! I want to say how stoked I am.

We will be walking the full length of the complex out there, from the parking area at the Ice Cave to the south end of Hidden Forest Cave. 

The pathways between the caves and sinks are mostly smooth and in some places a bit rocky. We will be cutting over through brush to the rims of the caves and sinks that we won’t be going down into for a look see. So wear long pants and shoes/boots with good tread. Head lamps aren't necessary as we are NOT going down into darkness. For anyone who would like to scramble deep into the very back of well-lighted Hidden Forest Cave to the opening into the unnamed sink between it and Charcoal Cave, and this is a fun thing to do, it may look dark for a minute, but the opening is close. I never needed to carry light. 

After returning to the parking area, we will have the option to walk out to the rock art site. I have taken recent photos of the images and have enhanced them, so if you decide more trekking is not for you, I am happy to show you the photos. 

Always bring water and certainly a camera. 

Dogs are not permitted in the sinks or the caves, so please leave them at home.

As for Covid precautions: All must be vaccinated, preferably also boosted, and should not participate if they are experiencing symptoms, have tested positive for Covid, or have had contact with someone with Covid or with symptoms within the preceding week.

At the bottom of this email are links to some very important references regarding the Caves. These have been developed over time and were necessary to try to keep these geologic wonders and cultural treasures safe. Also, to protect our bat population!

Questions, contact Tom Machala, Trip Coordinator, at ascoinfomail@gmail.com

Selected References 

White Nose Syndrome Decontamination Map - Deschutes National Forest

Cave Resource Protection Restrictions - Deschutes National Forest

The Rock Art of Oregon Territory - Bradshaw Foundation

Ice Cave Photos - Oregon High Desert Grotto

Arnold Lave Tube System - Wikipedia

Arnold Ice Cave Pilfered - Central Oregon Subterrain

Geology of Selected Lava Tubes in Bend - DOGAMI

Impact of White-Nose Syndrome - USGS

Public Cave Access Information - Deschutes National Forest

Mailing address: PO Box 8146 Bend, Oregon 97708-8146

Email: ascoinfomail@gmail.com

"Archaeological Society of Central Oregon" is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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