LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT – It’s the season for change at Lava Beds National Monument.
Some lava tube caves that have closed to the public are now open while others that were open are now closed. Park staff said the reason for changing access of the caves is done seasonally to “protect vital habitat for our bat colonies.”
For the past several years, from about mid-October through mid-April the lava tubes that were closed to protect maternity colonies reopen while certain caves that are used by bats to hibernate through the winter will close.
Winter closures include: Jupiter-Hercules Leg, Labyrinth-Lave Brook and the northern portion of Thunderbrook that connects Labyrinth-Lava Brook, Sentinel, and Sunshine.
Caves that have reopened for the winter are: Blue Grotto, Ovis Cave /Paradise Alleys, Natural Bridge, and Thunderbolt Cave (to the gated area). Balcony Cave, which was closed earlier this year because of the Caldwell fire, will reopen at a later time.
To help protect the park’s bat populations, visitors planning to any cave are required to obtain a permit as the visitor center and to display permits on vehicle windshields. People who have gear that has been used in caves or mines in the U.S., Canada or Europe are asked to leave those items at home or in their vehicle.
The seasonal cave openings and closures are being done because since 2006 bats have dying in unprecedented numbers in the eastern U.S. and Canada from white-nose syndrome, a fatal condition associated with exposures to fungus. According to park officials, humans can spread the fungus between caves, mines and other bat roost sites.
Lava Beds has more than 700 lava tube caves. Only a small portion, more than two dozen, have developed entrances and trails. The caves vary in difficulty, length and complexity. For more information contact rangers at the park’s visitor center.