Sorry I got a bit behind on the summer trip posts. After leaving the Badlands we headed west to the Black Hills of South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave and Wind Cave.
The above ground portion of Jewel Cave National Monument isn’t very large but the below ground has the 3rd largest cave in the world. To date, over 162 miles of passages have been explored with an additional 3 miles being added to that total annually. Airflow studies show that only 2% of the cave has been explored and it will likely be elevated to the 2nd or 1st largest cave once its actual size has been determined. Currently 45% of it exists outside of the monument boundaries.
One of the ways visitors can experience part of the cave by taking a long elevator ride followed by a half mile loop tour which takes about an hour and a half. It involves climbing 723 steps.
The abundance of calcite crystals is why it is called Jewel cave. It is like being inside of giant geode.
Stalactites and flowstone are also prevalent in the cave which is a constant 49° year-round.
One of the last cave formations on the tour is a long ribbon drapery called cave bacon.
Some other sites to see in the Black Hills area are a couple large rock carvings.
As you can see most of the Crazy Horse monument still needs to be carved. The white markings indicate where the horse’s head will be carved.
Campgrounds are scattered throughout the Black Hills, we found a nice one on this lake which we later dropped the kayak on for some paddling. We decided to save Wind Cave for the next trip.