Where: In the heart of the Black Hills, South Dakota, USA
Best season: Year round indoor attraction
Best sights: Amazing box work formation and glittering galcite jewels
Remember to bring: Candle, bucket and serious survival gear for potholing
In the Black Hills of the American Rockies, sixty million years of erosion have created a honeycomb of tunnels and caves.
The Wind Caves contains within its winding labyrinth some 82 miles of caves and tunnel, so called because winds can get up to about 70 miles per hour inside. Floaty chiffon dresses not recommended here, in the heart of geological creation. It was found by Tom Bingham around 1881. As he was walking past his hat blew off, and he found a hole which he decided to investigate. What he saw was a myriad of unexplored rock caves and structures, all made of limestone.
The caves are the sixth longest in the world. For a $10 entry fee you can get a guided tour of the main caverns but there are still miles of unexplored parts to be discovered by experienced cavers. There are various cave tours for explorers of all ages and experience at the Wind Cave National Park, like evening campfire talks at the Elk Mountain Ampitheatre, or Candlelight Tours (a two hour tour of the less developed parts of the cave. Candle bucket required!), or the scenic Garden of Eden tour which doesn’t involve any climbing.
The caves are famous for their box work formation, so called because the early tourists thought it looked like the old post office boxes they had in the 1800s. The Wind Caves have more boxwork than any other cave in the world, a huge variety of rare formations and some of the largest concentrations of passageways in the world. It is also one of the oldest cave structures you will ever find.
Above ground, the Wind Cave national park is a vast mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest and 30 miles of hiking trails.
Nearby in the black hills you can also explore the Jewel Cave, 13 miles west of Custer. It is the third-longest cave in the world, named after the glittering calcite crystals that illuminate the vast interior, lighting it up like an Aladdin’s Cave.
BLACK HILLS VACATIONS
Vacations and excusions in the Black hills.
Wind Cave National Park
Official Website of the National Park