Add Derrick Cave, a geologic wonder and cold war relic - to your Summer Bucket List.
Get off the beaten path and explore Devils Garden and Derrick Cave which was formed when hot lava flowed through the area approximately 13,000 years ago leaving the landscape dotted with splatter cones, odd looking buttes, calderas, and caves.
Designated as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the 1980’s, the Devils Garden basalt flow is a collection of thin, primarily pahoehoe lava flows that originated from two different vent areas.
The main vent for the Devils Garden Basalt Flows formed to the south and became Derrick Cave, named after H.E. Derrick, a pioneer rancher from the Devils Garden area. Recreation and ranching is the main use of land in the area but the site had another use; in the 1960s it was a nuclear fallout shelter.
During the Cuban missile crisis, a new threat burdened the minds of Lake County, Oregon residents. Where would they take shelter if the cold war turned hot? Lake County Search and Rescue helped answer that question and chose Derrick Cave as a fallout shelter. The North portion of Derrick Cave was used by installing a metal doorframe and door, in which was secured military C-Rations and water to supply 1,000 people who could seek shelter there.
Derrick Cave is 30 feet high, 50 feet wide and 1/4 mile long. The ceiling has collapsed in places; one providing foot access into the cave and the others forming “skylights” for the cave. While exploring the cave you will notice the further in you go the cooler it gets. The temperature can very 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the outside surface. It’s essential to carry either flashlights or headlamps into the cave unless you plan on going only as far as the sand-floored main entrance area.
Derrick Cave is sixty miles south-east from Bend, as the crow flies, but there are no facilities at this site and the road is rough and should be taken with caution. For information about routes and a map of the area, please visit http://on.doi.gov/VBj9ae.
Photos by Kevin Abel, BLM Oregon/Washington, Lakeview District