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Lava River Cave parking lot crunch prompts Forest Service to launch timed reservation system

Lava River Cave
Lava River Cave

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) —  Beginning August 1, the U.S. Forest Service will implement a timed reservation system for parking in the Lava River Cave parking lot, due to a rise in visits, limited spaces and resulting safety concerns.

The change to a timed reservation system is being made in response to increasing visits to Lava River Cave -- over 70,000 per year -- that cannot be accommodated with the parking at the cave, the agency said in Thursday's announcement.

In recent years, visitors have been parking along the roadways outside of the cave while waiting for a parking space to open, causing serious and increasing safety concerns for the public and the staff at the site, the Forest Service said.

“We understand that this is a change for our visitors to Lava River Cave; however, having seen the public safety concerns as people are parked along roadways for an hour or more to enter the site, as well as increasing conflicts between visitors waiting in line, I felt it was a step that needed to be taken,” said Kevin Larkin, Bend-Ft. Rock District ranger.

The goals of the timed reservation systems are to increase public safety, reduce public frustration from waiting in line for unknown periods of time before getting into the site, and to spread out visits to the site to make the experience more enjoyable to visitors.

Beginning next Thursday, 50% of the timed reservation tickets will be available on a rolling 30-day booking window. The remaining 50%  of timed reservation tickets will be available on a 24-hour booking window beginning July 31.

All reservations are made through and can be made at 7 a.m. each day. Timed reservation tickets are free; however, charges a $2 service fee per transaction for processing the reservation.

Reservations also can be made by calling at 1-877-444-6777. The call center is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST.  People can either print the timed reservation ticket or download it to their mobile device to show to the attendant at the site.

Timed reservations will be for a 90-minute entry block each day Lava River Cave is open. Every day, there will be 14 daily entry blocks with a new entry block opening every 30 minutes. If there are available tickets on any day, people at the site without a timed reservation will be able to make a reservation through that day.

A timed reservation covers everyone in a vehicle; there is no per person charge. In addition, if visitors bike or walk to the site, they do not need a timed reservation.

For more information, please contact the Bend-Ft. Rock Ranger District at 541-383-5300.

KTVZ news sources



    1. Or just give citations to those who park illegally, rather than making it a pain for everyone. But it seems the Forest Service would just rather continue their trend of commodifying our supposed public lands to deter usage of said lands.

      1. It has been in the media a lot lately; the Forest Service does not have enough staff to even enforce serious criminal behavior on its lands, much less parking enforcement. What they are trying to do with this new policy is ‘soft’ enforcement, hoping that enough people will reserve spots to cut down on the overcrowding. But, by allowing walk-ins, they kind of defeat their purpose, because it encourages people to park illegally down the road and walk in.

        1. I believe it was the Forest Services decision to post the no parking signs within a mile of the cave in either direction. The Forest Service caused the parking shortage, the simple solution would be to remove the no parking signs and let the road shoulders fill up with cars.

  1. A reservation system should have been put in place years ago. The entire monument is an overpopulated disaster run by some of the most incompetent people.

  2. “pay to play” at it’s finest -glad I wore out that cave years ago , this will not stop in our area ,gone are the days a family can “just pack n go” without a future reservation and $$.Bend being loved to death.

  3. It sure feels like now that permits have started they’re not going to stop coming to new places. People move to the next available location and the overcrowding just keeps happening. Its hard to believe that this location could be overwhelmed with parking. Cottonwood Rd can easily park hundreds of vehicles on the shoulder, people are going for a walk they can walk and extra mile to their vehicles.

  4. The organization “visit Bend” has been using the hotel tax proceeds to drive an ad campaign for years. They scream from every media outlet around the globe that “everyone should visit Bend and see all the natural beauty that Central Oregon has to offer”. It worked. Now the unforeseen consequences of turning Bend into a tourist mecca. The forest service has a meager budget and it can’t keep up with demand. Who would have seen this coming? Everyone but the people at Visit Bend. It has always been their stated goal to make sure that Bend never has a “off season” in the future. Until we defund them this will only get worse. However, the cat is out of the bag and this may only deteriorate further until the place becomes so crowded and overrun that tourists no longer want to come.

    1. State law requires such expenditures on tourism promotion – and the tourism industry takes to court any deviation, last time city of Bend was taken to court it lost big (and we all paid for it). So your argument is in Salem – good luck! Not saying if I agree or disagree with the expenditure, just presenting some facts in context. And I cannot recall meeting anyone who said they came here because of an ad. Word of mouth will always be legal, and our region’s beauty sells itself. Better get a dome or gates built!

  5. ah, looking for another revenue stream as well as a way to limit public access to the public forests and it attractions. Reminds me of the local preservationist who said at a public meeting “I want to be able to hike into an area and come back out without seeing any tracks but my own”

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