Ranger’s Pick–Fort Rock Cave guided tours (2011)
Reserve your spot starting May 12
This summer you can tour a cave that people lived in before the end of the ice age.
Park Ranger Paul Patton recommends that you book early for your Fort Rock Cave adventure. Spots are open:
- June 16 & 18
- July 14 & 16
- Aug. 18 & 20.
The tours begin at 11 a.m. from nearby Fort Rock State Natural Area and wrap up at 1 p.m. Each tour is limited to 10 people. Call Reservations Northwest, 1-800-551-6949, beginning May 12 to make your reservation. There is an $8 reservation fee.
Archaeologists believe people lived in Fort Rock Cave at least 11,500 years ago, or 1,500 years before the end of the ice age. They base their estimates on the discovery of tools and other items, including dozens of sagebrush bark sandals.
Unearthed by a University of Oregon archaeologist in 1938, the sandals are the oldest ever found … anywhere. They were discovered in the cave under layers of ash left by the eruption of Mt. Mazama in 5677 B.C. (estimated). Based on radiocarbon dating, they are 9,000-11,000 years old.
“The sandals are the oldest footwear found on the planet,” says Patton, eastern Oregon interpretive coordinator. “That fact alone makes the cave one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites. What many people don’t know, though, is that it is one of the earliest documented sites of human habitation in the western hemisphere.”
Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1963, and as a National Natural Landmark in 1976, Fort Rock Cave is only open during Oregon State Park guided tours.
The cave is part of the Fort Rock State Natural Area. The centerpiece, Fort Rock, is the remnant of a volcanic crater known as a tuff ring. It was once surrounded by the shallow waters of an ice age lake.
“That’s when you can use your imagination,” Paul adds. “It’s fascinating to look over that flat sagebrush knowing that it was once covered by a vast lake with Fort Rock sticking out as an island.”