Lava Beds National Monument is a land of turmoil, both geological and historical. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions on the Medicine Lake shield volcano created an incredibly rugged landscape punctuated by cinder cones, lava flows, spatter cones, lava tube caves and pit craters. These lava tube caves, of which there are more than 500 in the Monument, are a favorite underground destination for visitors to explore.
During the Modoc War of 1872-1873, the Modoc Indians used these lava flows to their advantage. Under the leadership of Captain Jack, the Modocs took refuge in "Captain Jack's Stronghold," a natural lava fortress. From this base a group of 53 fighting men and their families held off US Army forces numbering up to ten times their strength for five months.
The historic battlegrounds of the Modoc War and the surrounding volcanic landscape are the primary reasons the Lava Beds were designated as a National Monument in 1925.