The Blue Lake Rhino Cave is a popular tourist destination in Grant County, Central Washington, which lies just south of the world-famous Dry Falls.
However, there’s a good reason the cave is named after a rhino, and that’s because the cave is a real fossilized rhino!
How did the Blue Lake Rhino Cave Come to Exist?
This rhino cave came to be when massive amounts of basaltic lava flooded the surface of eastern Washington millions of years ago.
This was during the late Miocene and early Pliocene, between 6 and 17 million years ago.
These ‘Columbia River Basalts’ also blanketed sections of Oregon and Idaho.
This massive lava flow burst forth periodically over a ten to fifteen million-year span.
Over 60,000 square miles of the Pacific Northwest were eventually buried under lava, some of which were deep.
One day, a rhinoceros was discovered buried in one of these lava flows.
One Small Rhino
According to paleontologists, the Blue Lake Rhino Cave is thought to have developed around the body of a Rhinoceros as it lay in a body of water.
Cave’s specifications show the Rhino, which the cave formed around, was around 8 feet (2.4 meters) long from snout to tail and stood a little less than 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall at the shoulder.
The animal weighed around 1 tons (0.9 metric tons) when it was alive.
Dead or Alive
Nobody knows if the creature had perished before the lava encased it.
Scientists determined the Rhino must have been floating in a body of water during the volcanic explosion, dead or alive.
Based on the molded cave left behind, the body seemed to have already swelled, showing that decomposition had started before the lava swept through the area.
How Did The Rhino Fossilize?
The temperature of lava may reach over 1:600 degrees Fahrenheit (900 degrees Celsius).
Typically, this boiling substance would have charred the beast’s skin, flesh, and bones.
Instead, the cold water turned the molten rock into a dense layer of hardened pillow basalt.
Over time, the body of the Rhino gradually rotted away, and most bones vanished.
Despite this, the mold that engulfed the corpse remained primarily intact.
How Was The Blue Lake Rhino Cave Discovered?
Lake Missoula Floods
When the Lake Missoula Floods hit the area of Washington, the flowing water softened and eroded the basalt, creating a hole in the mold, which became the cave’s opening.
This opening is now large enough for an adult to enter.
The Blue Lake Rhino Cave Discovered
In the Columbia Basin Plateau lava area above Blue Lake, rockhounds looking for petrified wood uncovered the fifteen to fourteen-million-year-old fossil mold known as the “Blue Lake Rhino” in 1935.
The fossil mold is preserved in pillow basalt above a thin sand substrate, forming a tiny hollow.
Fun Fact About The Blue Lake Rhino Cave
In 1948, a crew from the University of California at Berkley scaled the cliff. They plastered the interior of the cave, constructing a three-dimensional replica.
In addition, the Burke Museum in Seattle has a hollow duplicate of the cave on exhibit.
Beneath the cave, some bone fragments were discovered.
The biggest, with shattered teeth, is the left mandible, suggesting a mature animal similar to Diceratherium Annectens.
Where is the Blue Lake Rhino Cave?
The Blue Lake Rhino Cave is located at 313-317 West Main Street. Coulee City, Washington, 99115 United States.
What Are The Directions To The Blue Lake Rhino Cave?
To get to the Blue Lake Rhino Cave, the walk to the caverns is on a clear path that begins near Lake Lenore’s north end.
Then, start your journey at Laurent’s Sun Village resort.
You can also rent a rowboat from Laurent’s Resort, which costs very little, and row to the destination.
What Clothing Should You Wear To The Blue Lake Rhino Cave?
It is best to wear pants or athletic clothing, as sliding down the rocks on your bottom is typically the safest way of progressing over unstable stones.
Also, keep in mind that the terrain is constantly changing because of the severe heat and cold.
Finally, when choosing handholds, keep in mind that rocks split and readily break off.
Who Is The Blue Lake Rhino Walk Best Suited To?
The Blue Lake Rhino experience is challenging, if not downright hazardous.
It is not a hike if you are faint of heart, slow of foot, frail, or afraid of heights.
This may not be the ideal experience for you if you have little children or are old.
Obstacles To Overcome At The Blue Lake Rhino Cave Hike
- The trail has a few obstacles to overcome. A fork in the road is the first. Take the upper left-hand path rather than the one that leads to the edge.
- The next difficulty is a ten-foot-high climb-down cliff. If you can’t find a route down here, your only option is to charter a boat to cross the lake.
- While strolling along the lake, hug the cliff’s wall. The talus hillside that leads to the far coast of the lake is the third difficulty. Before you descend, make sure you reach the lake’s end.
- To enter the Blue Lake Rhino Cave, you must climb an eight-foot ladder. It is helpful if someone can provide encouragement and help to the climber if needed.
- It is perilous to get access. There is no safety net, and the ascent is steep and on unstable talus. You may view inside the basalt chamber from a rock ledge that is approximately three to four feet wide, roughly 300 feet above the basalt stones below. Bring a lantern and steely nerves. This is a risky climb that should be avoided unless you are an experienced climber.
About The Cave
Some visitors may find it challenging to gain access to the cave. The Blue Lake Rhino Cave, for example, is on the edge of a cliff, some 300 feet (91 meters) above the Blue Lake Rhino Lake.
The Rhino cave is approximately halfway up the far side of the coulee, past the lake.
Go along the beach and straight up the talus slope on the other side. If you look carefully, the words “Rhino Cave Here” may be found next to a small, dark hole in the coulee’s rock wall.
You’ll see a ledge beneath the cave, where you’ll need to go.
A crawl through the cave will not be for everyone because of its small size, yet it can accommodate a human of average height.
You’ll have to inch inside the cave carefully. Take a flashlight as it will be dark inside the cave, as you can see the hole in the cave’s floor where the Rhino’s horn dug into the earth.
You will have a great time on your visit to the Blue Lake Rhino Cave.
It is a place rich in history, along with being an energetic and challenging hike.
It will be an adventure you will be sure to remember for years to come.
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