The Kalapuya and Molalla people have lived in the Willamette Valley since long before the arrival of settlers in the early 19th century, and their rock art is still visible at Cascadia Cave. Located on the South Fork of the Santiam River, this area is both culturally and geologically significant.
The cave, which is actually a shallow rock shelter, is the perfect refuge from the rainy weather, and it is a spiritual site where indigenous people would gather. Some of the rock art includes what looks like bear claw marks. Starting in the 1930s, archaeologists have excavated the site and found artifacts dating back to almost 8,000 years ago.
In 1990 Cascadia Cave was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located on private land, and the land owners allow the Sweet Home Ranger District to lead guided tours of the site. Over the years people have carved their initials into the wall and even painted the petroglyphs to make them stand out more. Help protect the site by only visiting with a guide, taking only pictures, and refrain from touching the cave walls. Touching or taking rubbings of the petroglyphs can cause damage.
The hike is about 2 miles round trip from the day use area at Cascadia State Park. The site is on private land and is only accessible through guided tours with an archaeologist and guide. The guides provide a wealth of information, describe the history of the area as you hike, and interpret the rock art at the cave. Even if you had the option to explore on your own, you wouldn’t want to. Be sure to bring a camera!
Tours are offered through the Sweet Home Ranger District.