Arnold Cave was the source of Bend's ice supply in pioneer days
Pioneer settlers in Central Oregon managed to harvest ice from frozen rivers and ponds during the winter months for storing of perishables and to keep beverages cool. But during summer months, it was often difficult to procure ice.
The residents of Bend discovered ice in Joe Cave, later to become known as Arnold Cave, about 12 miles south of Bend.
Ice formed in the lava flow cave, and the insulating coolness of the interior of the cave allowed ice to be preserved most of the summer. Ice was quarried from the thick cavern ice floe in giant chunks and moved up a steep incline chute utilizing a block and tackle system.
Once the chunks of ice were brought to the surface, they were loaded on wagons and hauled to Bend for storage in sawdust insulated buildings. Hundreds of tons of ice were hauled from Arnold Cave in the first decade of the 20th century. Other ice caves, such as Dillman (Lava River) Cave and East Cave, were also utilized for ice but on a much smaller scale.
During years when the Deschutes River or ponds did not freeze, ice could only be obtained from Arnold Cave. A Bend saloon operator had monopolized the Arnold Cave ice supply, and when the warm days of summer approached, there was only one saloon in Bend that could offer ice-cold beer.
In the warm summer of 1910, ice sold in Bend for $40 per ton, and most of the ice was hauled from Arnold Cave. But a cold winter in 1911 created extensive ice on ponds and streams and expanded storage facilities for ice led to a drop in the ice market with ice selling for only $5 per ton.
As late as 1911-12, ice harvests were still a major season activity. The Bend Livery stable constructed an ice house late in 1910 on the west bank of the Deschutes River six miles south of Bend. In December of that year, crews harvested 500 tons of 12-inch thick ice for storage.
Small dams were built on the Deschutes to provide a source of ice during cold winters, and many businesses purchased ice for summer use. Ice would be delivered to homes and businesses that had wooden and metal "ice boxes."
Ice from Arnold Cave was heavily harvested until the development of refrigeration and the delivery of electricity to the Bend community just prior to 1920. The ice harvest days soon became just a memory, but old timers for many years could still recall with nostalgia the arrival of ice wagons to the community.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.