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The Fort Rock Basin has served as a vital part of the Native American lifestyle. Fort Rock Cave is near Fort Rock State Natural Area, and is the site of an archaeological discovery of several 9,000 to 11,000 year-old sagebrush sandals. This property serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage that has shaped so much of Oregon's history. The story of the Fort Rock Basin is told by the artifacts left behind and by the rich oral tradition of the tribes who claim the area as home. Fort Rock Cave is a National Heritage site and is open only by a state park guided tour and reservations are required.
Formerly known as Menkenmaier Cave, Cow Cave, and Reub Long Cave, Fort Rock Cave is an archaeological site located near Fort Rock. In 1938, archaeologist Luther Cressman of the University of Oregon explored the cave and discovered several sandals made of sagebrush dating back more than 9,000 years—at the time, the oldest human artifacts found in North America. They were covered in volcanic ash from the eruption of Mt. Mazama, which formed Crater Lake. Fort Rock Cave was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961; it is also a National Heritage site. Fort Rock Cave and the nearby land that is now Fort Rock State Natural Area were donated to the State Highway Commission in 1962 by ranchers Reuben and Norma Long, and subsequently transferred to OPRD from ODOT in 1996. In 2000, OPRD purchased an additional parcel of land around the cave from the Oregon Archaeological Conservancy for $12,000 with money donated by Cycle Oregon to the Oregon State Parks Trust, now the Oregon State Parks Foundation.