Cave Junction - What's Your Function?

The Chateau at the Oregon Caves may not be as sleazy as the Ocean Grove Lodge, but I can’t hold that against it. After all, while The Chateau may not provide a sanctuary for serial killers and heroin-addicted prostitutes, it does have caves. And a ghost.

A twenty mile drive uphill through hairpin turns, switchbacks, and terrifying drops takes you out to The Chateau, which was built and opened around 1934 as a job-creating endeavor for the local community of Cave Junction. Many of the employees have worked for The Chateau or The Oregon Caves for generations, and these establishments provide much-needed income for not only those in the service industry, but also for the local merchants, farmers, and winemakers who supply the cafe and shops on the site.

The fact that this place is so far off the beaten track means that it is in almost pristine original condition. It is a great example of the rustic style that was really big in the 20’s and 30’s, and all local materials were used in its construction. The gigantic beam and stair supports all came from the same tree, and everything from top to bottom is finished out in original local stone and wood - right down to the bark shingles outside.

The Chateau is constructed over the top of the stream that formed the adjacent caves. The creek bed now runs right through the dining room of the hotel and also supplies this pond right outside the cafe. Back in the day, they stocked the pond with trout and let guests fish out of it. Now, not so much. Still, pretty cool.

In fact, the place has character to spare.

You feel frozen in time when you’re here because everything has been left completely alone. Old phones and maid-service machines are still on the lobby counter and attached to the walls.

Pipes for water and fire safety are exposed because the solid wood beam and rock construction doesn’t allow for them to be concealed. Upstairs, the combination of exposed pipes and the extensive use of beaverboard molded to look like stones (all still original) gives the place a bizzaro-Disney vibe on the upper floors. This double-sided rock fireplace in the lobby was constructed from local stone excavated on the site during the building process.

The furnishings are incredible - original Mason Furniture Company furniture was used pretty much exclusively, and almost all of the original Monterey-style furniture - including room furnishings - has remained untouched and is in pristine original condition.

And did I mention the ghost? Ah, Elizabeth. I miss you already. This is a photo of a photo, so apologies for the quality. The original shot was taken downstairs in the basement, in one of the kitchen pantries. In this photo you see a storage rack with stainless steel sides, and there, in the lower left, you see the ghost of sweet Elizabeth staring back at you, reflected in the side of the storage rack. Hello, dear. Supposedly, this photo was taken as part of some scientific survey and Elizabeth’s image appeared randomly and was discovered accidentally long after the photos were developed. Supposedly.

As the story goes, Elizabeth was at The Chateau for her honeymoon in 1934, and came back to her room to find her new husband boinking one of the chambermaids. Distraught, she hurled herself out of the window and onto the rocks below. This happened in room 309. Ever since then, Elizabeth has haunted the hotel, and has shown a preference for rattling around in the closets on the third floor, scaring the bejeesus out of guests.

As luck would have it, I was in room 301, directly across the hall from Elizabeth’s room. The night I stayed, I’d had the better part of a bottle of wine with dinner, so naturally it seemed like a good idea to be proactive concerning the ghost situation. Right before I went to bed, I opened the door into the hall and told Elizabeth that I had heard her dramatic tale from the kitchen staff, and that I was very sorry for the sad way in which she had ended her existence in this realm. I reassured her that I was NOT a chambermaid, and I told her that I hoped she had a peaceful night. Then, giggling, I moved to close the door. As I turned to go back inside, the mirror in my room rattled hard against the wall. Then it stopped. Then it shook again. Then it stopped. Then a third time. A long time this time. And hard. Then silence.

Talk about sobering up in an instant. Man. I love a good ghost story as much as the next girl, but this was a little much. I tried to be logical about it. I did, really. My first thought was that there must be pipes in the wall, or perhaps the wall was next to the stairs and someone was rumbling up and down in a hurry and shaking things up on my side. But no. There were no pipes in the wall. The pipes are all exposed due to the construction style, remember? Nor were there stairs on the other side, either. Or lovers having a swing at romance. Or three swings, as the case may be. I’ll tell you what WAS on the other side of that wall, though. A closet. A third-floor closet. Elizabeth’s favorite hangout. So good night to you, too, you sad, sad ghost.

One of the great things about The Chateau is that the entrance to the Oregon Caves National Monument is right next door.

This is the cave entrance. The sign reads, “Enter at your own risk. Death and dismemberment due to C.H.U.D. encounters is not the responsibility of The Chateau or the Oregon Caves. Enjoy your visit.”

After such a surreal night, I was ready for some surreal caving, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“Otherworldly.” Yep. That about covers it.

“Otherworldly” about covers the whole experience at The Chateau at the Oregon Caves, in fact. Which is fine with me.

Escaping into other worlds is what I’m all about. The guy who discovered this cave went in to explore it with five matches in his pocket. The idea of that might freak some people out, but I get it.

I’m glad this cave was in a Morlock-free zone, though. Not like those caves in Calaveras County, which as we all know are crawling with Morlocks. They really should do something about that over there. Maybe some community outreach...

Touring this cave was like walking through a giant geode. And you know how I feel about geodes...

Photography in the cave was challenging. It was very dark, and I couldn’t see the LED screen on the camera, so it was pretty much point and hope for the best. Still, some of these shots came out pretty good.

And did I mention the dripping? The caves are formed by millions of years of the constant drip, drip, drip of water. Good for the caves. Bad for my camera.

Low ceilings, too. I still have a knot on my head from whacking it against a stalactite. Or is it stalagmite? Either way it hurt, and I got scolded by the tweenage docent because the contact of my skull against the precious formations of the cave could hinder their growth and development for centuries to come. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what the cave gets for knocking me in the head. Stupid cave.

Look at him. Thinks he’s so cool with his cool hat. Well, you’re not cool, Matt. You’re just a guy with a cool hat. And a cool sweater. With cool patches. Otherwise, you’re not cool. At all.

Matt rocks it more. I tip my far-inferior hat to the champion.


  1. Wonderful photos and narrative! I really enjoyed your mix of history and personal observations. They make for a fun read.

    I've been there before but never thought about blogging on it. Now, there's no chance I'll blog on it because you set the bar too high for me! Good job!

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lord. I am not going there, or blogging about it, because ghosts scare me to...I can't say it. Ghosts scare the crap outta me. There.


    When are you going to be safe and sound back in Mendo, anyways?

  3. Thank you Florene and Dave! I had a lot of fun with this blog, in case you couldn't tell. And Swallowtail, I have to admit that I was shaking pretty good after my visit with Elizabeth, so your fear is probably not misplaced!