- The area included in Lava Beds National Monument has been preserved due to a rich geologic, cultural and natural history. Beginning nearly 30,000 years ago, Mammoth Crater, on the southern boundary of the monument, erupted forming many of the volcanic features present today. This eruption created many of the lava tubes open for exploration by visitors to the site. That was not the end of volcanic activity within the park as it continue through the ages producing the youngest formations only 1,000 years ago.
Copyright: - US National Park Service
Lava Beds National Monument
An incredibly rugged landscape was created by this volcanism. Eventually plants began to take over the landscape. Once established, the community of plants provide food and shelter for small animals. A large rodent population in the Klamath basin feeds on the many grasses and nuts, produced by conifers, of the region.
The monument is situated south of the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and within the Pacific Flyway, which sees the semiannual migration of millions of birds. These migratory birds, along with the large population of birds of prey within the monument keep the rodents in check and make this a birders paradise.
The rugged landscape formed by volcanism also made this region a natural fortress used by the Indians in the Modoc Indian War, 1872-73. This territory was occupied by the Modocs for several hundred years before European descendants entered the area in the 1850s. After several confrontations between settlers and the Modoc the Federal Government decided to take control. The Modocs were directed to abandon their homelands for a reservation. After a short period at the reservation they deemed conditions unsuitable and returned to the area of the monument.
In 1872 the U.S. Army invaded the rough terrain of the lava beds. The small band of Modocs were able to fend off the Calvary for nearly five months. At the end of this period most of the natives had been captured. The Modoc leaders were hanged as a result of their disloyalty to the U.S. Government.
Recreation - Recreation opportunities abound at this northern California site. Developed facilities include a visitor center, nature trails, roadside overlooks, picnic areas, trails and interpretive sites. Caves, both developed and undeveloped, comprise the majority of recreation facilities within the monument. Over 400 caves have been discovered within the monuments boundaries. Two dozen of the caves have been developed for public use, with ladders or steps for access and cleared paths through rubble fields.
You'll find a variety of sites that describe the natural, geologic and human history of the monument. Many sites interpret the Modoc spiritual world evident through petroglyphs and pictographs. Interpretive signs accompany many developed facilities. Begin your visit to Lava Beds National Monument at the visitor center in the southern portion of the park. Rangers and Visitor Services Staff will help you decide how best to spend your time in the monument depending on personal interests.
Climate - The elevation of this site ranges from 4,000 to 5,700 feet, generally rising from north to south. The terrain can be interpreted as high desert with grasslands in the northern portions, juniper in the central region and pine forest dominating the southern terrain of the park. The average annual precipitation at Lava Beds accumulates to 15.5 inches with 43 inches falling as snow each year. Average temperatures during the winter months range from 20 to 50 degrees F, with December being the wettest month of the year. Spring brings wildflowers and warmer temperatures with averages from 27 to 65 degrees F. Summer brings temperatures soaring to 85 in July, which is the hottest month, and thunderstorms from an unstable atmosphere. Summer nights dip to 43 degrees F. In the fall the atmosphere stabilizes bringing warm sunshine with cool breezes and clear skies. Highs reach 80 degrees F and dip to 32 degrees F. No matter what the season the temperatures in the lava tubes remain the same. A light jacket or sweater is recommended for a day of spelunking.
This monument is located approximately 65 miles south of the Oregon border in north central California. The main thoroughfare in the park is Hill Road, which leads from the northern to southwestern corner. Access to Hill Road can be gained via State Highway 139, in the east, and State Highway 161, in the north. The monument is surrounded by the Modoc National Forest, on the north and east, the Klamath National Forest, on the south and west, and the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the northern boundary.