Oregon is a state ideal for hiking enthusiasts.
The landscape offers something for every outdoor enthusiast, including mountains, secluded hiking trails, beachside cliffs, and, of course, several caves.
Oregon is home to one set of caves that is on The National Parks Service’s nation’s most important archaeological and historic sites.
Paisley Caves: Digging Deep into History
The Paisley Five Mile Caves are located just north of the town of Paisley on rock ridge-Five Mile Point.
The cave is a series of four caves that are carved into volcanic rock. Like most caves, from the outside, they can be deceiving.
Paisley Caves are no different.
Archaeologists have found that Paisley Caves may be one of the most important sites for archaeology in North America.
The Paisly Caves were first studied by the American archaeologist Luther Sheeleigh Cressman in the 1930s.
It is believed that the site has the oldest definitively-dated archaeological remains of humans, dating back to around 14,300 BP or roughly 12,000 BCE.
Some of the evidence found by early humans was human waste.
It appears that at some point one of the caves was used as an area for ancient humans to relieve themselves.
In 2014, The National Parks Service added Paisley Caves to the nation’s most important archaeological and historic sites.
Archeologists have been discovering traces of ancient animals and some of the first humans in North America.
While you can’t explore the labyrinth of caves due to the archeological artifacts, you can hike up the hill and walk along the side of the mountainside and look into the caves.
Exploring the area can bring you closer to a significant historical connection.
1. The Location Can be Hard to Find
When looking for Paisley Caves, you shouldn’t rely on Google Maps.
The pinpointed location on Google Maps takes you to a different area.
If you stop and ask the National Park Rangers or some of the locals, they can give you better directions.
The road to Paisley Caves is located about four miles off of Highway 31.
You’ll pass the fairgrounds and discover the road between a couple of telephone poles.
You’ll know that you’re on the right road when you see the volcanic mountains in the distance. Once you see the volcanic rocks, keep driving straight.
2. Prepare for Your Drive
To get to Paisley Caves you need to take a dirt road.
Depending on the time of year, you may only want to take the road if you have four-wheel drive. It can get pretty bumpy in some areas.
While the caves are located in a drier part of Oregon, it does rain during certain times of the year.
If you visit during the rainy season, or just after, you may find that parts of the dirt road are a little washed out, making having four-wheel drive all the more useful.
If your car does not have four-wheel drive, you can still make the trip. Just make sure to take it slow.
3. Plan for the Environment
While you can see the landscape from your car, getting out to explore is an experience that you won’t regret.
The landscape is rocky and to reach the caves you will have to do some mild mountain hiking.
Wear sturdy shoes and a dress for the season that you are visiting.
Due to the rocky landscape, wearing pants can help protect your legs as you climb the mountain.
There is plenty to see besides just the caves. You can hike around the area and take in the rest of the landscape.
Because the Paisley Caves are remote, you’ll want to pack plenty of water to prevent yourself from getting dehydrated while you hike in the area.
You should plan to spend quite a while in the area. Due to the lack of shade, bringing sunscreen and wearing hats can help protect you from the sun.
4. Observe the Wildlife
The area has many different species of wildlife in the area.
You will predominantly find reptiles and birds in the area.
Some of the most common reptiles that you will see are different types of lizards.
You can usually find them sunning themselves on rocks.
There are some reptiles that you should watch out for.
There are rattlesnakes in the area.
Keep a watchful eye when approaching rocky areas with lots of crevices, as you may not be able to see rattlesnakes in holes or crevices.
Rattlesnakes are named for the warning noise that they make.
The bite from a rattlesnake, especially a young one, can be deadly if you don’t get urgent medical attention.
There are also many types of birds, such as pigeons, hawks, and swallows.
As you move away from the caves and get closer to Summer Lake, you will find birds that live around water environments.
5. Summer Lake Hot Springs
The Paisley Caves are located in the Summer Lake basin, partially formed from the waves of Summer Lake in the Pleistocene era.
Nearby you can find the Summer Lake Hot Springs.
The hot springs get their heat from the geothermal energy beneath the surface.
The hot springs are said to have healing properties and allow you to take in the scenic views of the area surrounding you.
If you want to spend a little more time in the area, you can either rent cabins, camp, or bring your RV for a few nights.
If you’re planning on camping, be sure to pack plenty of camping supplies.
The Summer Lake Hot Springs even has an indoor hot spring pool. Soaking in it has been said to provide relief for the body.
Making the Most of Your Visit to Paisley Caves
Paisley Caves is a monumental archeological site to visit.
The caves are located in the scenic arid Oregon landscape.
Make sure that you prepare for hiking and some mountain climbing.
Once you reach the caves, you’ll be able to experience the caves that were inhabited by some of the oldest-dated humans in North America.
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