Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Wind Cave National Park
Today we visited Wind Cave National Park. This park in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota is one of the oldest national parks. It was created in 1903 as the 8th national park, and it was the first national park to protect a cave.
There are nearly 150 miles of explored passageways in the cave, making it one of the longest caves in the world. The National Park Service offers several guided tours. We went on the Natural Entrance Tour which is about 2/3 of a mile:
Wind Cave is a dry cave, so there aren't the stalagmites and stalactites that one sees in many other caves. The cave is known, however, for a calcite formation known as "boxwork" shown in the photo below. Approximately 95% of the known boxwork in the world is in Wind Cave.
Wind Cave National Park is advertised as two parks in one, because there are also interesting things to see above ground. The park encompasses ponderosa pine forests and one of the last mixed-grass prairies in the United States. The photo below is looking east from the Rankin Ridge Trail:
There is abundant wildlife in the park, including several prairie dog towns. We saw thousands of prairie dogs. They are quite entertaining. They are noisy, like a flock of raucous birds, and they hop when squeaking an alarm.
And there are several hundred American bison in the park: