Oregon Caves National Monument, one of the smallest National Park units, has been expanded to include nearby hiking areas with old-growth forests, waterfalls and wildflower rich meadows.
The National Park Service formally proposed to expand the boundary of the southwest Oregon Monument to encompass nearby caves and the surrounding Cave Creek Watershed several times—first in 1939, then in 1949, and most recently in 2000. The legislation signed by President Obama in 2014 added approximately 4,000 acres to the Monument by transferring land from the Forest Service to the National Park Service.
Known primarily for its vast marble caves, the 480-acre Monument was originally established in 1909 by proclamation of President William Howard Taft.
To address some local concerns, the legislation created a National Preserve around the existing Monument where hunting and fishing would be permitted. But many in the area are hoping the new protected area will expand economic development, increase recreational opportunities, and protect the drinking water for some 80,000 visitors a year.
Oregon Caves is the longest tour cave west of the Continental Divide and it sits below some of the most botanically diverse conifer forests in the world. In addition to increasing the boundary to include a campground and hiking trails, the proposal would also designate just over seven miles of streams under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including the first underground river in the country: the River Styx. This sub-surface stream maintains many unique features of the marble caves.
The legislation proposes to protect the Monument’s drinking water from possible pollution and contamination caused by cattle grazing in the Cave Creek watershed—a longstanding concern of the Park Service. KS Wild has worked with the rancher and have come to an agreement that satisfies all parties. The legislation would also allow the donation of grazing permits within the expanded boundary, if the permit-holder were willing. Funds for the buyout would come from private sources, and KS Wild is currently working to secure additional funding to permanently retire the Big Grayback and Billy Mountain cattle allotments.