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90 Years of Oregon Coast's Sea Lion Caves Celebrated at Florence's History Museum

Published 08/10/22 at 5:25 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

90 Years of Oregon Coast's Sea Lion Caves Celebrated at Florence's History Museum

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(Florence, Oregon) – Almost 100 years ago, way back in 1932, a still fledgling tourism industry on the the central Oregon coast was awakened by the raucous calls of giant sea lions and unprecedented access to them. Since that time, visitors to the region have been able to drop down some 200 feet into the secret abode of the great barking beasts, a cave that's been confirmed as the largest sea cave in the world (by the Guinness World Record organization). It's where Steller sea lions and California sea lions lounge around, now designated as a wildlife refuge inside and out. (Above: Sea Lion Caves in 2010, Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

The biz that started as a cramp-inducing stairway and turned into quite an elevator is being celebrated this month, marking the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Sea Lion Caves on August 26 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, 278 Maple Street in Florence.

The influential central Oregon coast attraction has regularly been referred to as “nothing short of wild” over the decades, and it continues to live up to that phrase, which it's used as a motto of sorts.

90 Years of Oregon Coast's Sea Lion Caves Celebrated at Florence's History Museum
Photo courtesy OSU

Steve Saubert, co-owner of Sea Lion Caves, is thankful for the nod to the family biz, with the museum honoring it by hosting historical exhibits and artifacts from its 90-year existence, along with the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum's regular roster of records from the first people nations here, early settlers' history, and keeping track of the area through modern times.

“They have a true community treasure that everyone should see,” said Saubert. “And, we hope the whole community will come out for the Sea Lion Caves’ anniversary party at the museum.”


Sea Lion Caves somewhere in the '50s, courtesy OSU

Festivities at the museum start 5 p.m., bringing in champagne and wine while juices are provided for others not of age. Cookies and other party snacks will be onhand as well.

“We’ll have a special historic exhibit dedicated to Sea Lion Caves and presentations by local dignitaries,” said museum board president Del Phelps. “It will be a grand occasion for all.”

Saubert and Phelps also said that attendees who contribute a financial gift to the museum’s operations will receive a family admission pass to Sea Lion Caves, good for one use during the next 12 months.

The Sea Lion Caves is part of a complex of lava flows from local – usually underwater – volcanoes from about 37 million years ago (See Inside Heceta Head / Cliffs Near Florence: All Come from Oregon Coast Volcano Florence Geology ). Some 25 million years ago the cave formed. Reportedly, although not confirmed, it was a William Cox who discovered the cave in 1880. What is for certain is that he bought the land not long after, and the giant, puzzling formation nearby called Cox Rock is named after him (See Florence Geology).

When the Sea Lion Caves started up in August of '32 (it's been owned by the same three families since), it took awhile to catch on. By the onset of World War II it was doing well but the war killed just about all foot traffic. In 1958 the first elevator was built there, replacing a stairway that must've been exhausting.

To learn more about the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, its exhibits, hours, membership, admission, and how to support it financially or through volunteer work, visit SiuslawPioneerMuseum.com or call 541-997-7884.

To learn more about Sea Lion Caves, its hours, admission, and more, visit SeaLionCaves.com or call 541-547-3111. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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