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As It Was: Lava Landscape Yields Pluto’s Cave

The Southeast Oregon and Northeast California lava landscape contains many caves, one of the most noted being Captain Jack’s Stronghold.  Another significant cave was discovered in the spring of 1863 north of Mount Shasta near Sheep Rock.

A rancher hunting for straying cattle, Nelson Cash, stumbled across the large cavern, christened Pluto’s Cave later that year by ranch hands George Tyler and Elijah Heard.  The main entrance is located 12 miles northeast of Weed and 14 miles southeast of Grenada.

Tyler and Hard had to hike three miles up a rugged slope to reach the entrance, an opening 10 feet high and 20 wide and some 500 feet above the valley floor.  From the entrance, they passed through several halls and chambers before reaching the innermost cavern. 

An enormous pile of fallen rocks and other debris blocked them from going any farther.  They estimated they were two miles from the entrance at that point.

They noted remnants of what they believed to be a fire pit, along with artifacts that suggested the cave had been occupied in the past.

Naturalist John Muir wrote extensively about Sheep Rock and the Lava Beds.

Source: Wells, Harry L. "Pluto's Cave." Siskiyou Pioneer, The, vol. 3, no. 4, 1961, pp. 41-42.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.