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About Niter Ice Cave

Niter Ice Cave is a lava tube cave in Gem Valley. It formed as the outside of a lava flow hardened while lava continued to flow inside. When the lava all flowed out, the cave was left. It is about 3/8 of a mile in length and about 25 feet wide and 15 feet tall. The ceiling is an arch and the floor is very flat where boulders have not fallen on it. Above the cave are the fields of farmland, along with a rural road which passes right over the cave.

It is called an ice cave because of ice that persists well into summer, and it was used for refrigeration by the pioneers who discovered it.

The source of the lava was a cinder cone which lies a few blocks to the west, in the center of the valley. The lava flowed eastwards towards the mountains. All of Gem Valley is covered with lava flows and numerous cinder cones and lava flows can be observed in the area. Most of the lava has been covered with dirt and is under irrigation.

The inside of the cave maintains an average temperature around 40 degrees. The floor of the cave is muddy, and towards the east end many boulders have fallen from the ceiling. The boulders are mostly covered with a layer of slippery mud which can make exploration tricky. The cave walls are native lava rock in a variety of colors, especially red. Unfortunately, most of the cave walls are covered with graffiti, much of it in poor taste. When viewed by flashlight, the graffiti is not very prominent, but shows up brightly in the bright light of a camera's flash.

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Niter Ice Cave Trail
Niter Ice Cave
Niter Ice Cave Turnout

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