Paisley Caves

Useful Information

Location: 8 km north of Paisley, Lake County, Oregon, USA.
(42.761950, -120.553680)
Open: restricted.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours:  
Bibliography: M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Dennis L. Jenkins, Anders Götherstrom, Nuria Naveran, Juan J. Sanchez, Michael Hofreiter, Philip Francis Thomsen, Jonas Binladen, Thomas F. G. Higham, Robert M. Yohe II, Robert Parr, Linda Scott Cummings, Eske Willerslev (2008): DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America, Science 9 May 2008: Vol. 320 no. 5877 pp. 786-789 DOI: 10.1126/science.1154116
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1930s first archaeological exploration by Luther Cressman.
2002 beginning of excavations by the University of Oregon.
2007 oldest human DNA in the American continents discovered.


The Paisley Caves are eight caves and abris located in the Summer Lake Basin near Paisley. The series of rock shelters was inhabited very early. Actually the discussion is still going on, how early man settled on the American continent. This caves contained a number of coprolithes, petrified excrement, which contain remains of the food and the dna of early humans. The results of the examination are genetic ties to Siberia or Asia and an age between 12,750 and 14,290 years BP. This probably represents a pre-Clovis occupation.

The caves of Oregon are interesting for archaeologist because of various reasons. One is the dry, arid climate of the state which results in a very good preservation of remains, which would have been destroyed otherwise. And there is a geographic fact connected with the theory that Pre-Clovis immigrants traveled to North America down the Pacific Coast. 12,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, the climate was much different and the Summer Lake area was wetland and full of life. The Paisley Caves can be reached by following the Klamath River upriver from the Pacific Ocean. So actually they were an ideal hunting stop on a journey along the coast.

The caves are formed in a ridge of Miocene and Pliocene basalts by the waves of Pleistocene Summer Lake. Soft volcanic tuffs and breccias were removed and the result were west facing rock shelters.

The Paisly caves are archaeological excavations and access is restricted. However, there is the possibility to the the gated caves from outside without restrictions. Trips to the caves guided by archaeologists are organized by the Archaeological Society of Central Oregon.