We had enjoyed a very special five day visit in the Grand Tetons but on Wednesday, August 16th it was time to move on. We weren’t sure exactly how far we would go but the next destination was in South Dakota by way of Cody, Wyoming. We figured we’d make a decision once we arrived in Cody as to whether to continue on our way or do a night of Walmart camping. Turns out we covered the entire 500 miles that day and camped out in Hot Springs, South Dakota for a couple of nights.
We were here to visit Wind Cave National Park which was established as the eighth national park on January 9, 1903 to protect 33,851 acres in the Black Hills of South Dakota where one of the world’s longest caves exists. Here you will find a complex, multi-level cave system with 143 miles of underground passages lying beneath only 1.2 miles of surface area. But not all to see here is underground as the park also protects a globally significant expanse of mixed-grass prairie, an ecosystem that has largely disappeared elsewhere across North America.
The only way to explore the caves is to take a Ranger-guided tour and there are many to choose from varying in length and difficulty. We opted for the Fairgrounds Tour which lasted almost two hours, included 450 stairs, explored the upper and middle levels of the cave. In the middle level of this cave, we got to see the rare and delicate formations referred to as boxwork. Wind Cave actually houses about 95% of the world’s known boxwood which resembles honeycomb fins. In the upper levels of the cave, we saw the larger rooms with popcorn and frostwork formations. Another very interesting tour underground.
While we took many pictures, its tough to convey what it felt like to be underground through those pics. So, we will only include a few, trying to share a sense of it. This much we can tell you, some of our friends that don’t like small, confined spaces would not have been comfortable on this tour!
Back in the sunlight, we drove through the park and saw some of the members of the parks 400-head bison (aka, buffalo) herd roaming the grasslands while we headed north to our next destination but that will be our next post.