Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

Come Explore the Wonder of Wind Cave National Park

October 12, 2011, 9:27 am

By: Heather Crowley

South Dakota’s Black Hills region draws in millions of tourists every single year. Desiring to experience the best the state has to offer, a common loop involves a few distinct parks. While planning their vacations, many map out a trek to the famed Mount Rushmore, stunning Badlands and bison abundant Custer State Park. But sitting just south lies the too often overlooked Wind Cave National Park.

On January 3, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill creating Wind Cave National Park. It was the eighth national park and the first cave to be designated a national park. Since then, the park has been expanded three additional times to protect the grasslands and wildlife of the surrounding area.

Wind Cave is one of the most intricate cave systems on earth and the fifth longest in the world. There over 136 miles of passages have been mapped and some contain unbelievable geologic formations, known as speleothems.

Come observe one of Wind Cave’s most stunning features: Boxwork. To date, the examples of boxwork in Wind Cave are some of the most extensive ever found. Boxwork is a calcite pattern made of thin lines that usually forms into a honeycomb pattern. It is commonly found on the walls of the cave and on the ceiling.

Visitors can experience the depths and wonders of the caves through a variety of educational and inspirational tours. Tickets to the tours are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and each tour departs from the visitor center. The park is open year-round, however certain tours operate during select seasons only. Starting on October 16, the Garden of Eden Cave Tour will be given three times a day at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Although the cave itself is the main attraction, the park also encompasses grasslands perfect for some wildlife watching. The park's mixed grass prairie is one of the few remaining in the state and is home to native wildlife such as bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes and prairie dogs.

On October 6, 2011 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced its fourth major expansions, adding 5,555 acres of former ranchland, including a thousand-year-old buffalo jump and a historic homestead. All of this will become part of the park. Even if you’ve visited the park before, be prepared for new additions because Wind Cave’s boundaries are growing to include even more wonders. Wind Cave will keep you and your family coming back year after year.

Photo by NPS