We visited two caves here in the Black Hills – Jewel Cave, a national monument and Wind Cave, a national park. These caves are both huge in terms of the total length of their passages. Jewel Cave has nearly 170 miles of passages and Wind Cave 140. These passages are very dense and not stretched out over much distance. As such, the caves are described as maze caves. As the caves have huge volumes of passages and very small natural openings, the caves “breathe” very strongly in or out with changes in atmospheric pressure.
The day we went to Jewel Cave the weather was threatening rain, so it seemed like a good day to go under ground. Unfortunately, many other people visiting the Black Hills had the same idea. The only tour we could join was one which only went down an elevator and into one large room. And worse yet, we got caught in a hail storm on the trip back. We have had hail three times in the two weeks we have been here.
We secured a longer tour of Wind Cave, but neither of these caves have formations of the types you would see in Carlsbad or the Caverns of Sonora. In caves that have a lot of formations as ground water slowly seeps down and into the cave it picks up minerals and deposits those minerals in the cave as stalactites and stalagmites and other beautiful formations. Evidently, there aren’t enough minerals the the ground above these caves. Wind Cave does have some very unique formations called boxwork consisting of thin calcite fins looking like a honeycomb divider in a cardboard box. And we also saw an impressive flow stone formation.
After four caves in four months, we are about caved out now. It may have to be something pretty spectacular to get us back under the ground again. But we did see more buffalo and another prairie dog town. This little guy definitely wasn’t happy with me taking the picture. He was barking to the the other dogs, “where are my royalties for these pictures”.