We live in an age when satellites have mapped the topography of the earth’s surface, from the summits of our tallest mountain peaks to the watery depths of our massive oceans.But, far below the ponderosa pine forests and alpine meadows of the Black Hills lies an underground wilderness so vast that contemporary explorers are only now beginning to understand its scope and complexity.Everyone has a different reaction to caves, according to my friend Tom Farrell. “They're all a little different and each has their own story to tell.Geologically, Wind Cave is famous for its length, complexity (it's probably the most complex maze cave in the world), and its boxwork cave formation.
On that four-hour journey, we slid on our bellies like rattlesnakes to traverse a narrow 30-yard slit in the rock, and stood in awe (and complete darkness) in the Club Room, some eight stories high and 200 yards long, and listened to only our breath and the tinkling of water dripping from some high, unseen precipice.
Dozens of exceedingly rare hydromagnesite balloons – “fragile, silvery little bubbles” – that would pop from the mere touch of a finger, are found within Jewel and Wind caves.
Exploration of Jewel Cave began around 1900 when prospectors Frank and Albert Michaud, joined by friend Charles Bush, heard wind gushing through the rocks in Hell Canyon.
Below the park’s surface lies an incredible maze of passageways.
“We have two world-class caves right in our backyard.
When it’s raining or snowing in the Black Hills, or even in the middle of a summer heat wave, caves present a constant climate and an exceptional adventure into a region that is still relatively unknown.