One of the many decisions I made when planning our family’s western US trip this past summer was whether to visit Wind Cave National Park or Jewel Cave National Monument. In the end, convenience and size won out and we visited Wind Cave National Park located a few miles from Custer State Park and the first cave to be designated a national park.
With Wind Cave only accessible via a ranger-led tour, we took the popular Natural Entrance Cave Tour, a 1 1/4-hour tour with moderate walking (and only a few instances of being completely in the dark) Tip: We used a flashlight app on our our iPhones to help light the way through some of the darker parts!
We saw the only natural entrance to one of the world’s longest caves (5th in the world)
and the park ranger demonstrated why it was called Wind Cave.
According to reports by its discoverers, Jesse and Tom Bingham, they were first attracted to the cave because of a whistling noise. They found the cave entrance and the wind blew so hard out, it knocked off Tom’s hat. Days later when they returned, the wind had switched directions and the hat was sucked into the cave. (It’s now known that the “wind” is related to a difference in atmospheric pressure – how boring).
Once we entered, we were treated to a lack of typical cave formations . . . no stalagmites or stalactites because Wind Cave is considered a “dry” cave. Instead, we saw numerous examples of a cave formation that makes Wind Cave so special – boxwork.
Made of calcite ridges that stick out of the ceiling and walls, the ridges form a box-like pattern, hence the name. And while boxwork is not unique to Wind Cave, the cave does have the most and best-formed boxwork examples in the world.
Anne’s special note: A brief apology for my lack of posting – I tore my ACL while skiing on vacation and am recovering from surgery. I’m also following Mara’s example on The Mother of All Trips and trying to blog “like no one is reading” – focusing on content and my personal “voice” rather than site hits.