Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

After departing Badlands National Park in South Dakota on my trip to explore all of the National Parks, I made my way to Wind Cave National Park. The cave is considered a three-dimensional maze cave, recognized as the densest (greatest passage volume per cubic mile) cave system in the world. The cave is currently the sixth-longest in the world with 140.47 miles (226.06 km) of explored cave passageways.

This is the only known natural entrance to Wind Cave National Park, the small hole to the right of Ranger Lauren in the photo.

Wind Cave National Park was established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and was the seventh U.S. National Park and the first cave to be designated a national park anywhere in the world.

Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota
Boxwork in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

The cave is notable for its rare calcite formations known as boxwork. Approximately 95 percent of the world’s discovered boxwork formations are found in Wind Cave.

The largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in the United States exists at Wind Cave National Park.

Above ground, the park includes the largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in the United States. Sadly, just days after I departed Wind Cave, lightning struck the park and ignited a wildfire on September 11th 2017. As of today, the fire has burned 1,000 acres, or approximately 1.5 square miles. The fire tower in my photos (below) is literally engulfed in flames as I type this. The fire is at zero percent containment as of today, and the number of acres burned was expected to grow. 😔

The visitor center building was built in 1936. It was designed to blend in with a temporary stream valley to its rear and provide the feeling of natural approaches to the cave entrance. It is a wood framed building covered with yellow-tan stucco. Exterior walls on the back side of the original building are made of sandstone blocks cut from a quarry outside the park, near Hot Springs. Interior rafters are made of rough-hewn timbers. Some of the original features have been modified or covered as a result of a large-scale remodeling project completed in 1980. However, the front of the building bears a strong likeness to the 1935 original.

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