Oregon Caves Chateau - Virtual Tour & Review
aka Chateau at Oregon Caves
Cave Junction, Oregon
The Oregon Caves Chateau or The Chateau at Oregon Caves, (both names are used and there's a big debate about which is correct) is located adjacent to the cave entrance in the Oregon Caves National Monument. This has to rank as one of the best hotels I have every visited, not because of it's elegance, but because there is simply nothing else remotely like it in the world! The Chateau opened in 1934 and the building is considered a masterpiece of the rustic architectural style. The exterior has steep shake roofs with multiple dormers of varying styles. The exterior walls of the building are covered with cedar bark stripped from nearby trees. A rock waterfall drops into a trout pond outside the classic diner-style coffee shop. 30 inch diameter logs support the ceilings, and a large double-sided fireplace stands in the center of the lobby. The dining room is separated from the lounge area (now a gift shop) by a stream. Yes, a real stream flows through the 3rd floor of the building!
The Oregon Caves Chateau was built straddling a steep walled canyon, much as a dam would be built across a canyon. The creek flows through a huge pipe under the middle of the building. The sides of the Chateau are set into the steep sides of the canyon. This creates an interesting effect as you walk into the lobby at ground level, walk a short ways to the other side of the lobby, and find you are looking out 3rd floor picture windows into the tops of the trees outside! The majority of the creek's water flows through a large pipe under the building, while a small portion of it is diverted into an artificial stream bed that flows through the dining room on the 3rd floor. The Chateau is 6 floors high from the creek bed to the top floor. The slope is so steep that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors each have a ground level entrance!
The Oregon Caves Chateau as it stands today is almost completely original. The Chateau is far from the normal tourist routes and has suffered from low occupancy rates since it was built. As a result the original floors, stairs, wall coverings etc, have not worn out over the years like so many other grand hotels of the Rustic Design era. Entering the Chateau is like stepping back in time. Many walls have original finishes and very little remodeling has occurred over the years. Almost all the rooms have the original furniture. The Chateau houses the largest collection of famous Monterey Brand Furniture in the world, most of it museum quality pieces. There are only a few "please don't sit on the furniture" signs, only a few very rare items are labeled don't touch! The furniture in your room is likely to be primarily museum quality antiques. Radiators still provide heat for the rooms.
The Oregon Caves Chateau, as well as a nearby employee dormitory and the "new Chalet" (the Oregon Caves Visitor Center building), were designed and built by Mr. Gust Lium (1884-1965), a local contractor who had an enormous level of design talent. His work stands up well against the great rustic architects of the period. He may not have gone to any of the big name architectural schools, but the man had a genius gift for design.
The information above is just a brief overview. The Virtual Tour of Oregon Caves Chateau is the focal point of this website, at the least take a few minutes to look through the first few pictures. The photo tour features pictures of just about everything in the hotel, and it will tell you much more about the history, architecture, and even Elizabeth, the local ghost! The tour is divided into 4 sections, first is a look at the building exterior, then the interior public areas, the guest rooms, and finally the landscape around the buildings. There is also a review of our visit to the Chateau. As with all our tours, we actually stayed in the Chateau a couple of nights so we could become familiar with it. Thus we are able to present more than the typical brief travel brochure talking-points babble. This is a tour just like walking the hotel with a personal guide. We interviewed several employees, old timers, architectural historians, and reviewed historic literature to create this tour. It is our hope this tour will wet your appetite and you will want to visit the Chateau in person.
Rates and Reservations:
The official website for the non-profit Oregon Caves concessioner (lodging, gift shop, dining room, deli & the Caves Diner) is: Oregon Caves Chateau . Open May through October, check with them for the exact dates. Reservations on-line or phone: (877) 245-9022.
From October through May (when the Cafe is closed) snacks and beverages are sold at the Park Visitor Center bookstore.
Please stay at the Chateau!
The Oregon Caves and the Chateau are a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the detour and time. Lack of visitors makes operating the Chateau very financially challenging, and it just barely survives. If you are in Southern Oregon please try to stay at the Chateau or at least have lunch or dinner there! Unlike most National Park hotels, the Chateau is operated by a non-profit organization and it is expensive for them to keep it open. By visiting and spending some money you are helping preserve a little-known national treasure! See The Oregon Caves Chateau Homepage for hotel information and reservations.
Tips for Planning a Visit:
The Chateau at Oregon Caves is a historic lodge. Staying here is like stepping back in time to 1937. This lodge is almost 100% original with few modern updates to the structure. You should be prepared for a historic (that means old!) lodge that does not meet the latest standards for hotel facilities and architecture. Rooms are comfortable but simple, some people would consider them primitive. The staff is very friendly and helpful, they treated us like old friends on our first visit! Consider that staying here is an adventure, something different, out of the ordinary, and unique. The facilities are old, I suggest you take the virtual tour and look closely at the rooms. If what you see doesn't look like something you could stand to stay in for even a night, then you might want to just make it a day visit. While a day visit isn't the same as staying the night, you can get a good feel for The Chateau by walking through it and enjoying a lunch and/or dinner here. Once again, I don't want to scare you off. The Chateau is a great place and I highly recommend you stay here!
There are no telephones or televisions in the rooms. Heat is by steam radiators, and like all steam systems the pipes moan, groan, bump and clunk. The walls are thin, I suggest ear plugs if you are a light sleeper. You can generally request a specific room when making reservations by phone, although they don't guarantee you will get the room you request. Quieter rooms are numbers 210 and 211, they do not have other rooms above or below them and are isolated by closets or bathrooms from the other rooms, there are no shared walls by the beds. Rooms 204 and 205 are equally isolated but do have rooms below them, but not above. All four rooms just mentioned are corner rooms with multiple windows and good views of the forest. The Chateau does has a fire sprinkler system, which is important in an old wood-frame hotel like this one. There is no air conditioning, but it is seldom needed as nights tend to be cool. Just open a window and cool the room the old fashioned way. In-room amenities consist of an ice bucket and drinking glasses, also the basic soap, shampoo and clean white towels. If you want a hair dryer bring one with you. There are no in-room appliances, no in-room coffee. Watch that you don't overload the electrical circuits if you bring your own personal care appliances.
Chateau Dining Room: The dining room at the Chateau features local Southern Oregon regional cuisine. To the extent possible, the food is obtained locally. The food is excellent, service is great, and there are few other places you can dine next to a stream, while inside a lodge! Yes, part of Cave Creek flows through an artificial stream bed in the indoor dining room! The dining room menu is posted on the Chateau's website.
Other Food Options:The Caves Cafe Coffee Shop in the Chateau serves standard coffee shop meals in a late 1930's era setting. Chrome counter chairs with red vinyl seats create the perfect "soda shop" atmosphere. If you do nothing else, have lunch, hot chocolate, or a milk-shake at the coffee shop! The Caves Cafe menu is posted on the Chateau's website. The Caves Cafe was formerly called the Caves Diner. Deli sandwiches, salads and ready-to-go food items are available in the gift shop.
Visitor facilities are also available in the community of Cave Junction.
There are several private campgrounds around the town of Cave Junction.
Allow an hour for the drive from Cave Junction to the Oregon Caves, allow more time if raining, foggy, or after dark. The road is narrow and has lots of curves but is not particularly difficult to drive, just slow. Trailers are not allowed on the final few miles of the road due to very sharp curves. A trailer parking area is provided at either the Illinois Valley Visitor Center in Cave Junction or the Grayback Campground near the monument. Unless you need your trailer (ie; you're camping) it is best to leave in at the Illinois Valley Visitor Center parking area, rather than to waste fuel and time towing it up the narrow road to the campground.
The nearest airport with regularly scheduled air service is the Jackson County Regional Airport in Medford, Oregon. Rental cars are available at the airport. The caves are a 2 hour drive from Medford.
The Oregon Caves Chateau is located in the Oregon Caves National Monument. The Chateau is owned by the National Park Service and operated by a non-profit organization under a special use permit.
References for Additional Information:
Caves and Chateau Controversy: There is a lot of controversy surrounding the history and especially the management of the Oregon Caves National Monument. There's even disagreement on the official name of the Chateau; Oregon Caves Chateau vs. The Chateau at Oregon Caves! My tour commentary and the references listed here generate more comments and complaints than any other hotel I have written on. It seems that someone, somewhere, disagrees with something in every article, website, and book written on the Caves! I'm interested in hearing from anyone with something to offer, and I will add any authoritative works to the reference lists below on request. I'm not an expert on the Chateau or the Caves, but I have tried to note in my tour text the items that are controversial. I will continue to update the website as I learn more, while trying to stay as neutral as possible! I've probably invested over 100 hours of my time into this set of articles on the Chateau. The Chateau is one of my favorite lodges and I want to get the facts right, but I can't make everyone happy. Thanks for your patience.
Oregon Caves Chateau Tour Index:
- Oregon Caves Chateau, Part 1, the Exterior. Virtual Tour of The Chateau at Oregon Caves- the Exterior.
- Oregon Caves Chateau, Part 2, the Interior Public Areas. Virtual Tour of The Chateau at Oregon Caves- the Interior Public Areas.
- Oregon Caves Chateau, Part 3, the Guest Rooms & Ghosts. Virtual Tour of The Chateau at Oregon Caves- the Guest Rooms & Ghosts.
- Oregon Caves Chateau, Part 4, the Landscape. Virtual Tour of The Chateau at Oregon Caves- the Landscape.
- Oregon Caves Chateau Review. The Chateau at Oregon Caves- Review.
- Oregon Caves Chalet Visitor Center. Photos and information on the historic Chalet Visitor's Center building.
- The Oregon Caves. Photos from the park service tour of Oregon Caves.
- Oregon Caves Chateau- Planning Your Visit Brief history, extensive list of facilities and amenities, insider tips for visitors, maps and directions, reservations phone number.
Websites with information on Oregon Caves National Monument:
- Oregon Caves National Monument. The Official National Park Service website.
- The Oregon Caves Chateau Homepage Hotel information and reservations. The official website of Oregon Caves Chateau, the Chateau operator.
- Architecture in the Parks- Oregon Caves Chateau An excellent historical piece on the Chateau by the Park Service.
- Cultural Landscape Report This is an excellent, in-depth report on the historical buildings and landscape of Oregon Caves. Lots of historic photos. By Landscape Architects Cathy Gilbert and Marsha Tolon of the National Park Service.
- Floor Plans of the Chateau & Chalet Click on the link at left, then enter "Oregon Caves" into the search box. This will give you links to copies of the floor plans for the historic buildings at the Oregon Caves, as well as photos of the old guest cabins take prior to their removal. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record.
- Chateau Accessibility and Safety Study Prepared by Architectural Resources Group, 2006. Primarily recommendations for repairs to the building, this document also contains a brief history with time line and a good description of current conditions of the Chateau. Note: large file size- 8.9 mb.
- Oregon Caves Chateau Historic Structures Report. By Alex McMurry, the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, University of Oregon, June 1999.
Books on Oregon Caves and the Oregon Caves Chateau:
- Domain of the Caveman: A Historic Resource Study of Oregon Caves National Monument: A Historic Resource Study of Oregon Caves National Monument. Written by Stephen R. Mark, a National Park Service Historian. If you're interested in the history of the Chateau and the surrounding landscape I highly recommend this book. It is one of the books in my collection.
- Oregon Caves Discovery and Exploration A history of the caves by William R. Halliday and Frank K. Walsh. Presents a different perspective on the cave history from that of the park service book above. Out of print but available used.
- Oregon Caves - The Pioneer Exploration and the New Discoveries by Steve Knutson. A history of the Oregon Caves.
This article and the virtual tour were written by Jess Stryker. Opinions are those of the author. Oregon Caves Chateau did not pay a fee for preparation of this article or tour, and does not pay for maintaining them on-line. We paid standard published rates for our room when we visited, and paid full price for our meals. This website is not connected in any way with the National Park Service or the Oregon Caves Chateau, although we admire and appreciate both organizations and are grateful for their assistance and input.
Special thanks for assistance in preparing the article and tour go to:
Oregon Caves Chateau,
Stephen R. Mark, National Park Service,
Dr. William R. Halliday,
and of course my wife Julie, who puts up with my love of old hotels, and the enormous amount of time it takes to photograph them and write these articles and tours.
Historic Hotels & Lodges