Oregon Caves Road Guide
The tour begins at the Illinois Valley Visitor Center located on Highway 46 about half a block from Highway 199.
0.0 Illinois Valley Visitor Center driveway: ZERO THE ODOMETER and turn right on the Oregon Caves Highway to begin the tour.
0.1 Jubilee Park
If you want a nice place to picnic after the tour, Jubilee Park, about one block to the left on Junction Avenue is a good option. Another is the Illinois River Forks State Park about half a mile south of the intersection with Highway 199.
0.2 Old Stage Road:
Old Stage Road is a section of what used to be the first stagecoach and freight wagon road to be constructed into this valley. The road was constructed in 1857 by the Crescent City Plank Road and Turnpike Company (2) and was used to bring supplies to mining camps from the port town of Crescent City. A section of this road near O’Brien is a popular tour route for high clearance vehicles and is known locally as the McGrew Trail. In 1882, a second road, called the Wimer Road was constructed over the mountains to Crescent City but used the same route through the valley as the 1857 road. Old Stage Road was the primary supply and travel route between southwest Oregon and the coast for about 70 years before it was replaced by Highway 199 in 1926.
1.2 Laurel Road:
Laurel Road was the old road between Holland and Kerby (see 1918 topo map). The terraces above the road on the left were ponds for a small lumber mill. In the 1950s, archery became a popular past time but probably more in this community than most places because this was the home of the Southern Oregon Arrow Factory that made arrow shafts and sold them around the world. The club had a large archery range on the hill a little past the ponds where large archery tournaments including the Oregon State Archery Meet with a 130 contestants were held (10, 11).
1.6 Holland Loop Road – Continue straight ahead.
2.1 Legion Hall and Chapman Creek Bridge:
The large cinder block building on the left was originally an ice house and meat locker built around 1945. Most households in the valley at that time didn’t have power, and hence no refrigeration, until the early 1950s (14) and the ice house went out of business shortly after. The building had lockers much the same as seen in a gymnasium that residents rented to store meat. When they went to town to buy groceries at the store, they would stop at the ice house and get the meat they might need for the next 2-3 days and drive home. The ice house also produced and delivered ice to residences and businesses. Blocks of ice were 300-500 pounds and pieces were cut or chipped off to fit the size of the ice box at each residence (14).
3.1 Historic Barn:
The old barn on the right side of the road was constructed around 1886 and is one of the oldest barns in Josephine County (1). The frame of the structure was constructed using beams that were held together using mortise and tenon fittings.
3.6 White School:
The small white house on the corner to the right with the multiple framed windows is the White School House. It is the first of three one-room school houses that will be seen on the tour route. All of the schools had one room where one teacher taught grades one through eight. The school house was constructed around 1910 and was closed in the 1940’s when many schools in the area were consolidated with the Kerbyville Union School (4, 5).
3.8 Sportman Ranch
In the 1950s there was a golf course, driving range, and airport with a 2,500 foot-long runway located in the flats on the left (12, 13).
4.4 Wigwam burner:
The sharp curve at this feature makes this a dangerous place to try to look and drive. Find a place to pull over if you want to see the old wigwam burner located in the trees about 200 feet from the road on the left. This was the location of the Oregon Caves Lumber Mill that began operation in 1931 when it was known as the Villair Mill (18). Sawdust and scrap wood from the mill was moved by conveyor belt to the wigwam burner where it was reduced to ash. This structure was built in 1945 and is the last remaining wigwam burner in the valley (1).
4.9 Turnout and mile marker 5
Kelly Hill is seen about a half mile away to the right and was the site of the Aircraft Warning Station during World War Two. The Aircraft Warning Service (AWS) started after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and there
were concerns that the Japanese would try a similar attack on American soil. There was no radar coverage on the west coast so community volunteers who signed up with the Ground Observer Corps (GOC) kept a 24 hour watch on the sky for enemy aircraft. This hill was probably selected because it is high enough to be above the fog that usually sits in the valley during the winter and was easily accessed by volunteers who didn’t have to worry about traveling on rough roads and through snow to get to mountain tops where fire lookouts were located. In the first year of the war, the newspaper was secretive about where the Kelly Hill AWS station was located (7) but as the threat of an attack on American soil diminished in the later years of the war, the location was publicized (8). The AWS was disbanded after WWII but started up again in 1949 because of increased concerns that Russia might attack the United States. The program was eventually known as “Operation Sky Watch” and was disbanded when radar coverage was completed in 1959 (20).
6.1 Holland Loop Road
End Section 1
Continue to Oregon Caves National Monument: ZERO YOUR ODOMETER as you pass Holland Loop.
Return to Cave Junction via Holland Loop Road. TURN RIGHT on Holland Loop and ZERO YOUR ODOMETER
1) Atwood, Kay, 1984. Josephine County Historical Resources Inventory, 1983-1984. Josephine County Planning Office (1984), Grants Pass, Oregon
2) Bearss, Edwin C., 1969. Redwood National Park history basic data Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, California. National Park Service, Department of Interior, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/redw/history9b.htm
3) Heald, Jack, 2006. Personal communication
4) Illinois Valley News, May 26, 1938. White School House Destroyed Wednesday
5) Illinois Valley News, August 5, 1938. White School Construction Starts Today
6) Illinois Valley News, May 8 1941. Phil Sawyer Now Has One of the Most Modern Ice Plants.
7) Illinois Valley News August 27, 1942. Airplane Spotters Needed for Post
8) Illinois Valley News August 5, 1943. Kelly Hill Aircraft Warning Service (AWS) Post
9) Illinois Valley News, January 30 1949. New Lockers at Ice Plant.
10) Illinois Valley News, July 9, 1954. Oregon Bowman Will Meet Here
11) Illinois Valley News, July 16, 1954. One Hundred and Thirty Archers Shoot in State Meet.
12) Illinois Valley News, June 28, 1956.Recreation Notes (golf lessons at Sportsman Ranch)
13) Illinois Valley News, July 9, 1959. Fly-In, Ghost Town Opening, Museum All Attract Crowds Here on Holiday. (Sportsman Ranch Fly-in)
14) Owen, Marcheta, 2009. Don Fulk interview, May 2000. Recollections; Stories of School Days in the Illinois Valley. Page 32. Self published. Ice Plant, Don Fulk interview, 2000, p18
15) Phillips, Kendall, 2006. Sucker Creek Ranch. Interview November 2006.
16) Raymond “Rocky” Jones, 2013. Bowman Archery Range, Interview, December 2013
17) Beard, Don, 2013. Personal communication (Oregon Caves Lumber Mill)
18) Illinois Valley News, May 9, 1940. Villair Mill Is Illinois Valley’s Outstanding Industrial Venture. Special insert.
19) Fulk, Don, 2014. Personal communication. Local lumber mills.
20) Anonymous, 2013. The Ground Observer Corps. Air Defense Radar Veterans Association. http://www.radomes.org/museum/documents/GOC/GOC.html
21) Brandt, Roger, 2013. Arrow Factory. Highway199.org
Oregon Caves Highway Contacts
EMERGENCIES: Dial 911
Visitor Center..............541 592-4076
Cave Tours..................541 592-2100 x2262
Oregon Caves Lodge..877 245-9022
Forest Service............ 541 592-4000