Offering some of the most unique physical landscapes anywhere in the United States, the state of Oregon is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. There’s so much to see and discover, both above and below ground. Deep beneath the surface of the Beaver State, twisting and turning tunnels spread out in every direction. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


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Formed by volcanic lava, the lava tubes of Oregon are thousands of years old and are among the state's most astonishing natural treasures. There are many different lava tubes to discover and explore all around Oregon, with each one offering unique features and instilling a sense of adventure in all who step inside.

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2.Best Lava Tubes to Visit in Oregon

Best Lava Tubes to Visit in Oregon
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There are many different lava tubes to check out around Oregon, with some offering easier access than others. Some of the tubes are not actually open to the public for safety or conservation reasons, while others are ready and waiting to welcome you in. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best lava tubes in Oregon.

- Lava River Cave

Located in Deschutes County, not far from the city of Bend, Lava River Cave is one of the best-known lava tubes in all of Oregon. Situated in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Lava River Cave runs for over 5,000 feet in length and was discovered way back in the late 19th century. It can be accessed via Highway 97 and is one of the most popular natural tourist spots in the area. A full staircase has been installed for convenient access into the cave and a forest trail leads to the entrance, making this one of the easier caves to explore. It's important to note that Lava River Cave is only open from May through to October each year.

- Boyd Cave

Situated southeast of Bend, Boyd Cave represents a bit more of a physical exploration challenge than locations like Lava River Cave. This lava tube has broken down over the years, with piles of rubbles and volcanic sand along the path. The ceiling also becomes progressively lower over time, eventually reaching a point where it simply turns into a tiny crawlspace. It's only a small lava tube, but it's fascinating to explore and has a very unique formation.

- Skeleton Cave

This lava tube was named due to the fact that a lot of old bones were found near its entrance when it was discovered, but don't worry: they were animal bones. Due to the sheer drop at the lava tube's entrance, many animals must have fallen down over the years. Most of the bones have since been cleared out, but a few remain. The passageways of this lava tube are very exciting to explore, and it's open from May through to the end of September each year.

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3.Guided Lava Tube Tours in Oregon

Guided Lava Tube Tours in Oregon
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It can be a lot of fun to visit Oregon’s lava tubes and cave systems by yourself or with a group of family or friends, but to get the full, educational experience, it can pay off to book a guided tour. Wanderlust Tours (61535 S. Hwy. 97 Suite 13. Bend, OR 97702 (541 389-8359)), based in the city of Bend, runs two tours per day all-year long into the underground lava tubes of central Oregon. All equipment, include safety helmets and flashlights, will be provided as small groups head out to the tubes and start exploring.

Trained guides lead the way, helping you discover each cave's secrets and telling the stories of how these incredible structures formed over time. Wanderlust is the only tour company that operates in the area and has the best lava tube experts in the state, so you know you're getting the best possible experience when you book a guided trip with this company. They also provide full transportation to the caves and visit the lesser-known spots, away from the crowds of tourists.

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4.Important Information for Lava Tubes in Oregon

Important Information for Lava Tubes in Oregon
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If you’re planning a trip to the Oregon lava tubes, be sure to be prepared. It’s important to note that even on warm and sunny days, the temperature in the caves will always be quite low (around 40 degrees), so it’s vital to dress warmly, with lots of layers. Strong shoes with good grip are also essential, as water can sometimes gather on the floor of the caves, leading to them being quite slippery. Don’t forget that some of the caves have their own strict opening dates too, so it’s important to check ahead of time, and be sure to bring flashlights or glowsticks to light the way.

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Best Lava Tubes in Oregon

More Ideas: Hatfield Marine Science Center

Located in Newport, Oregon, the Hatfield Marine Science Center is a marine research facility and museum showcasing an aquarium collection and a variety of exhibits related to aquatic life and marine science. The history of specialized marine research facilities at Oregon State University dates back to 1939, when Roland Dimick opened the Yaquina Bay Fisheries Laboratory within the school’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.


The facility operated from 1939 to 1965, when increased federal funding was approved for the university to be able to utilize the city’s former Yaquina Bay Ferry docks, abandoned since 1936. In 1965, the new Yaquina Bay Science Center opened to the public, drawing an attendance of more than 50,000 visitors. Public visitor demand soon led to the construction of a dedicated visitor center facility for housing permanent public exhibits. In 1983, the facility was renamed the Hatfield Marine Science Center in honor of Oregon Senator Mark O. Hatfield, a longtime friend and supporter of the university. Additional buildings were added to the facility throughout the later part of the 20th century, and in 1997, the visitor center underwent an extensive renovation and expansion.

Permanent Exhibits and Collections

Today, the Hatfield Marine Science Center is operated as a marine research and educational facility for Oregon State University, known internationally for its research initiatives and marine crisis responses, including its in-depth investigation of a piece of a Japanese dock broken off during a 2011 tsunami that washed ashore in the Newport area the following year. A portion of the dock now stands outside the facility’s visitor center as a memorial to the project and to the power and energy of the Pacific Ocean. The Center is the home of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station and regularly works with staff from regional and national organizations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The facility’.Visitor Center serves as its public museum facility, offering a variety of exhibits related to aquatic life and marine science. Live aquatic animals are showcased in several tidepool touch tanks, allowing visitors to have up-close experiences with animals such as abalone, sea stars, sea urchins, and a number of fish species. Center volunteers are on hand at all times at the touch pool to answer questions about the facility’s animals and other questions about marine wildlife. The facility’s mascot octopus greeter is visible from a large tank at the entrance to the exhibit area, with periodic feeding times showcased daily. A.Ornamental Fish Health exhibit also displays three tanks of exotic colorful ornamental fish species, offering information about fish management, health, and environmental sustainability.

A number of exhibits allow visitors to interactive with hands-on activities, including the Tsunami Wave Tank, which encourages participants to create their own miniature tsunami waves using a computerized system and see if LEGO structures will withstand their forces. The Erosion Tank allows visitors to observe beach erosion patterns and think critically about preventive sustainability measures. A video documentary is also showcased within the Science for Sustainable Fisheries exhibit, which details the recent commercial fishing industry efforts to recover lost crabbing gear on the Oregon coast. Details scale models created by local artisan Duke Rider represent boats used within the expedition, and exhibit information details sustainability practices and proposed initiatives.

Ongoing Programs and Education

For visitors wishing to observe the Center’s octopus mascot from home, the Center’s website hosts an OctoNews cam offering live glimpses into the tank’s north and south sides. Cameras are hosted 24/7, though feeds may be darkened during off hours for the Center to allow the octopus to rest. As octopus mascots are rotated regularly due to age and reintegration into ecosystems, the Center continually accepts octopus donations from fishers and crabbers who accidentally catch animals during excursions.

In addition to standard visitor admission, the Hatfield Marine Science Center offers a variety of curriculum-incorporated guided tours and educational programming for elementary and secondary school groups. All educational programming is focused on increasing marine science literacy and developing STEM skills for participants of all ages. A variety of themed lab and field experiences are offered for school field trip groups, with topics focusing on different aspects of marine biology, ecosystems, animal biology, and other science topics. Homeschool day programming is offered periodically, allowing K-12 homeschool students to explore topics related to engineering, physics, and conservation. Sleeping With The Sharks overnight experiences, day and summer camps, and career day events are also offered for families and student groups. Annual public special events include an Oceanus and Shark Day event which allows visitors to explore the museum with pay-what-you-can donation admission.

2030 SE Marine Science Dr, Newport, OR 97365, Phone: 541-867-0100

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More Ideas: Oregon Observatory at Sunriver

The Oregon Observatory at Sunriver is a large-scale public astronomical observatory run by the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory. It s a not-for-profit organization and relies on donations, volunteers, and fundraising to maintain the programs offered at its Sunriver location. The observatory first opened its doors in 1990 and is the largest astronomical viewing facility in the US. A NASA-affiliated organization, the observatory works in tandem with the adjacent Sunriver Nature Center. An SNCO membership scheme is available, offering further discounts on the other 300 Association of Science and Technology Centers located in the US.

Permanent exhibits and attractions

The Oregon Observatory houses the largest public use collection of telescopes in the country. The 11 telescopes have been donated by astronomy enthusiasts and collectors or are on loan to the observatory. With a collection spanning such manufacturers as Astro Tech, Explore Scientific, Celestron, and Lunt, amongst others, the telescopes are not only available to use with guidance from the volunteer experts during day and night viewings, but can also be used for private parties, educational programs, and courses. Before visitors head out to view the day or night sky, a 30-minute presentation is given as an introduction to the observatory, their resources, and their findings. The presentations are hosted either in the open-air amphitheater or the Pozzi education building. After this, visitors can head over to the telescopes with the volunteer experts to try them out. The telescopes are split between the ground level, roof top, and dome. The majority of telescopes are mounted in the rooftop area, where day and night viewings for the public take place. The large telescopes are found in the dome and are used to view detailed monthly changes in the night sky as the Earth orbits the sun.

The Daytime Solar Viewing Program sees visitors study the sun through filtered telescopes. Those operating the white light filtered telescopes may see sun spots, while those with the hydrogen-alpha filtered telescopes may see gas loops known as prominences. The day viewing dates are during summer and on select days of fall and spring. Falling within winter and fall, the Night Time Viewing Program provides visitors with a lesson from staff members and the opportunity to operate the Dobsonian telescopes located behind the observatory. Visitors are also guided through the star constellations, including their mythology, by staff as they use a green laser to highlight areas of interest in the sky.

The roof top area of the observatory also has a detailed interpretive exhibit describing features of deep space, the sun, and the stars. Complete with informative posters and photographs, visitors can peruse the topics with the goal of viewing some of these natural astronomical occurrences themselves through the telescopes.

The Oregon Nature Center, which is the second arm of the not-for-profit organization, boasts a selection of permanent exhibits, such as a local animal exhibit, live animal creature cave, reptile area, nature trail, botanical gardens, and a sizable collection of meteorites, the largest selection in the Northwest.

The observatory is also home to the Oregon Science Store, which sells a diverse selection of nature, rocketry, and astronomy-related products and gifts. Amateur astronomers who wish to purchase telescopes, telescope parts, and accessories can visit the store to try out the line of operable telescopes. Nearby on Spring River road is the Second Tern Thrift Store, whose proceeds go towards the observatory and other sources. Selling jewelry, tools, furniture, and many other goods, the store provides electronics and scrap metal recycling facilities.

Education and programs

On specific dates of the year, the observatory holds seasonal kids’ and family classes, such as the Family Rocketry Wednesdays for beginners, Rover Thursdays, and Advanced Rocketry Fridays. Benchmark classes for children cover a variety of grade school curriculum topics and can be attended both on and off site. Frequent classes are Rocket Science 101, Earth’s Place in the Solar System, and Solar Observation. Staff from the observatory offer an outreach program with a range of services and are able to attend local colleges, schools, or fairs. For those already familiar with the night sky, further programs offered are the After Hours Deep Field Exploration Program for late night to early morning viewings.

57245 River Rd, Sunriver, OR 97707, Phone: 541-598-4406

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More Ideas: Oregon Coast Aquarium

Located in Newport, Oregon, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a 23-acre facility on Yaquina Bay, ranked as one of the top aquariums in North America. The vision for the Oregon Coast Aquarium dates back to the early 1980s, when Newport area civic leaders proposed the construction of a new $7 million public aquarium facility to stimulate the city’s economy.


The Oregon Coast Aquarium was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1984, and over the course of the late 1980s and early 1990s, more than $11 million in fundraising efforts was collected. A 23-acre lot along Yaquina Bay was secured for the aquarium’s location in 1990, and the architectural firms of SRG Architects, Portland: BIOS, Inc., and Walker/Macy Landscape Architects were chosen to create a design for the new aquarium building. Construction on the facility’s first phase began in August of 1990, with the aquarium opening to the public two years later. Throughout the 1990s, the aquarium was best known as the home of Keiko the killer whale, the star of the feature film Free Willy.

Permanent Exhibits and Attractions

Today, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is operated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, striving to engage visitors with the aquatic world and the marine sciences and inspire ocean ecosystem conservation. More than 450,000 annual visitors attend the aquarium’s exhibits, wildlife collections, and educational programming. As an American Zoos and Aquariums Association accredited facility, the aquarium has been ranked as one of the top aquariums in North America by publications such as USA Today and Coastal Living magazine.

Three permanent exhibit areas are showcased at the aquarium, along with a gallery for rotating temporary exhibits. In the Sandy Shores exhibit, fish and invertebrates living in shore and bay environments are explored, including species native to the Yaquina Bay area. A freestanding pier piling habitat is showcased within a 4,730-gallon tank, while other exhibit areas display species within tide pool environments, including anemones, oysters, and sculpins. An Ocean Today kiosk within the exhibit, operated in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also provides real-time weather and conservation information from around the world.

The Rocky Shores gallery focuses on the unique cliff coastline of the Oregon Coast, centered around a touch tide pool filled with anemones, sea stars, and gumboot chitons. A tidepool cutaway exhibit allows visitors to explore the environmental adaptations and features of coastal and intertidal animals, and a deep pool camera feed allows for close-up investigation of deep water ecosystems. Within the Coastal Waters gallery, a 35,000-gallon tank extends into the aquarium’s courtyard area, replicating the environment of the Yaquina Bay’s jetty ecosystems. Salmon, white sturgeon, and moon jellyfish are showcased, along with a 5,000-gallon kelp forest and a coastal reef exhibit area. Past temporary exhibits on display within the rotating gallery area have included the Oddwater exhibit, focusing on unusual sea species, and Secrets of Shipwrecks, taking visitors on an underwater journey to explore the artifacts and developing ecosystems of wrecked ships.

A Passages of the Deep acrylic tunnel exhibit, housed within Keiko’s former tank area, also allows visitors to walk through orford reef, halibut flats, and open sea areas. A number of outdoor exhibits are also featured, including a Seabird Aviary, the largest of its kind in North America, showcasing pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers, and horned and tufted puffins. Seat otter, harbor seal, and sea lion exhibits are also featured, along with a tank containing a giant Pacific octopus and a nature trail overlooking the Yaquina Bay estuary. The aquarium’s grounds are housed on a renovated and reimagined former lumber mill site and serve as an exhibit within themselves, showcasing over 100 plant species denoted with placards and growing information.

Ongoing Programs and Education

In addition to standard admission, guided tours of the aquarium are offered for small groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school groups. A variety of on-site and outreach educational programming is offered for students, including on-site workshops as part of field trips, in-classroom outreach presentations and web-based distance learning opportunities, and professional development workshop opportunities for instructors. An Oceanscape Network web-based educational program for preteens and teenagers is also designed to help youth connect with science through the merger of nature and technology, allowing participants to virtually explore the ecosystems of the Oregon Coast, receive suggestions for in-person exploration experiences, and complete guided scientific inquiry projects of their own. Depending on individual school regulations, participants may receive high school course credit for completion of the program. A Sleep in the Deep overnight program is also offered for school groups and families, allowing participants to explore the aquarium after hours.

2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR 97365, Phone: 541-867-3474

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