Home » 2000 Cross Country Road Trip

Wind Cave National Park, SD

Sunday, July 30, 2000 - 4:00am by Lolo
145 miles and 3.5 hours from our last stop


I had made our reservations for the Candlelight Cave Tour at Wind Cave on the National Park Service website three months prior to our trip. I admit that in our early RV days, I was not much of a free spirit. In my fear of missing out on something we wanted to do or somewhere we wanted to stay, I made reservations like crazy. While this does have the benefit of ensuring that we get to do what we had planned, the downside is that we had to stick very closely to our itinerary because we were required to be in certain places at certain times. It's a definite tradeoff that we're still trying to work out.

Boy's on Candlelight Cave TourBoy's on Candlelight Cave TourWe went to the Visitor Center at the required time to meet with the ranger and the 6 other people that were to join us on our tour. One of the reasons I picked this tour was that it was restricted to 10 people, which made it nice and intimate. The ranger then gave each of us a bucket with a candle in it and lectured us on the various do's and don't of candle lantern etiquette, so that we wouldn't get hot wax on us. Ready for our tour to begin, the ranger took us on an elevator down to an undeveloped and unlit part of the cave system, so that we could experience the cave the way the early visitors did in the late 1800s---another reason I chose this tour.

We spent the next 2 hours exploring the very unique Wind Cave, which because of its relative dryness, doesn't have the usual stalactites and stalagmites that you find in most other caves in the U.S. Instead, it has these very delicate looking formations called boxwork that look like honeycombs.

Our ranger was extremely enthusiastic and absolutely enamored with caves. He told us that he had first come to Wind Cave when he was about Tommy's age and had decided then that when he grew up he would be a ranger here. What a great thing to know what you want to do in life so early and actually have it realized. I wish I knew what I want to be when I grow up.


Wind Cave National Park is located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota within an hour's drive from Mount Rushmore. It is the 3rd largest cave system in the United States and contains more than 81 miles of mapped passageways. It is estimated that the mapped portion only accounts for 5% of the size of the total cave.

Wind Cave is very different than other cave systems in that it is very dry and therefore contains very few stalactites and stalagmites. Instead, it has the world's best collection of boxwork, which is an unusual mineral formation resembling irregular honeycombs. The park got its name from the incredibly strong winds that rush in and out of its entrance.

Although most people come to this park to see the caves, the more than 28,000 acres of ponderosa pine forests and rolling prairies above are worth a visit. Along the scenic drive, there is much wildlife to see, including bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and prairie dogs.

The park offers five different cave tours ranging from the relatively easy 1-hour Garden of Eden Tour to the 4-hour Cave Tour where you do some real caving off the established trails. The 2-hour Candlelight Tour is the most popular in that it lets you experience the cave as the first explorers of it did. Reservations for this tour should be made well in advance.

Wind Cave National Park location map in "high definition"

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