A Destination In a World of Its Own

Bob Ganey American Tourist visits Lava Beds National Monument.

A Note from The Lava Beds National Monument Superintendent – 2014
Lava Beds National Monument is a little known treasure tucked in the shadow of the Cascades. The high desert habitat is home to a variety of creatures and the lava tube caves and other volcanic features are a treat to explore. Why is Lava Beds worth a visit? I believe it is the tranquility and peacefulness that surrounds you as you wander along our wilderness trails; the emotion that fills you as you walk in the footsteps of those lost to the Modoc War; the wonderment that energizes you as you embark into the natural darkness of a lava tube cave. The park rangers at Lava Beds are passionate about this place and are excited to help you have a safe and enjoyable adventure! I am not sure when the video above was filmed but we now have 780 documented caves at Lava Beds… Mike Reynolds, Superintendent.
The video above was filmed April, 2004 – Anders

smell the sage and juniper, listen to birds and hike miles of lava flows.  Explore the greatest concentration of lava tube caves in North America and the historic stronghold.  Then catch your breath because from here you can see Mt. Shasta and Crater lake National Park.  A special day awaits at the Lava Beds National Monument, ten miles southwest of Tulelake, California.  Photos by anders tomlinson.

The Whole World Was Watching
     The Modocs defended their land and way of life, fighting five  battles and several skirmishes against  the army. A small band of 57 warriors  led by Captain Jack held off a force  20 times its size, using the natural  fortification “The Stronghold.”  News accounts traveled worldwide. This was California’s only Indian  war and General Canby became  the lone general killed by Indians.  “The Modoc could pass along the long ridge of  rock under perfect cover, with embrasures or holes  from which they could fire with safety.” William Simpson, artist Illustrated London News, 1873.  lava beds national monument

Notes complied by Lava Beds park ranger Kenneth Doutt
Lava Beds lies on the northern flank of the  Medicine Lake Volcano and covers only about ten percent of  the volcano’s surface area. At approximately 150 miles  around the base, 7,913 feet in height, and covering more  than 770 square miles, Medicine Lake is one of the largest  composite volcanoes by volume in the Cascades volcanic area.
Eruptions from nearly 200 surface vents created a volcano  with a gently sloping profile – like a shield. Here in Lava  Beds, you will find more than 700 lava tube caves, cinder  cones, spatter cones, craters, and fault scarps. Twenty-two  caves have been developed to ease public use. A dark, quiet,  isolated world apart awaits visitors who venture into these  caves.

As a high desert climate area, Lava Beds is home to a  remarkably diverse combination of wildlife and vegetation.
There are fourteen species of bats present in the monument,  including western myotis and Townsend big-eared bats. In the  lower elevations, mule deer are often visible in herds up to  fifty among western juniper groves, and at high elevation  the trees change to ponderosa pines and become home to the  rare climate-influenced American pika, found at some cave  entrances. In spring, wildflowers abound, and year-round, a  host of unique bird species visit from the nearby Lower  Klamath Wildlife Refuge.

On October 13, 1972, two wilderness units totaling over 28,000 acres were designated by the U.S. Congress at Lava  Beds National Monument.  These wilderness areas equal  61% of the monument’s total land area.  For the  past forty years, these wilderness areas have been  successfully managed to wilderness standards and their  natural condition has improved since designation.  Areas previously heavily impacted by grazing, power lines,  and roadways have been actively restored (see Sarah Bone  and Nancy Nordensten, Vast Wilderness in a Small Package for  more about this restoration effort).

In this rugged, seemingly impassable land, Native Americans  made their home for thousands of years. Petroglyph Point has  one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the  United States.
In addition to its geologic features, the monument  encompasses the main battlefield of the Modoc War. Captain  Jack’s Stronghold, a fortress of lava rock, became the  place where the Modoc Indians made a stand for their  homeland, refusing to be relocated to a reservation. The  ancient lava flows among the shores of Tule Lake are cut  with deep lava trenches and dotted with small habitable  caves, creating a natural fortification with a seemingly  endless number of places to hide. The Modoc War was the only  major Indian War fought in California, running from November
1872 until June 1873, and the only one in which a general of  the regular Army was killed. At the end, fatalities included
53 soldiers, 17 civilians and 15 Modoc warriors (only five  of whom were killed in battle). The Modoc leader Kientpoos,  known to the settlers as Captain Jack, and three other Modoc  fighters were tried and hung on October 3, 1873 at Fort  Klamath. Captain Jack’s Stronghold Trail takes you  through the heart of the Modoc War.

Before venturing into a cave, stop by the visitor center to  keep yourself and the cave safe. There are 12 hiking trails  in the monument, and numerous interpretive wayside panels  along the scenic roads. Highlighted “must-see”
hikes at the park include the 0.7mi Schonchin Butte Lookout  trail, Mammoth Crater, and Hidden Valley.


juniper - sagebrush icon small.  photo by anders tomlinson
Juniper/Sagebrush habitat is found most extensively in the southern and eastern portions of the Upper Klamath Basin watershed. Both the Clear Lake area and Lava Beds National Monument have large expanse of this habitat. Plants found here include Western Juniper and several plants collectively known as sagebrush and rabbit brush.


For more information contact the Lava Beds National Monument at (530) 667-8113
or visit Lava Beds website

©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.