After exiting SD’s Custer State Park, drove 20 minutes south to Wind Cave National Park.

Just enough time for a quick stop before bib pick-up in Nebraska.  Had never previously heard of this Park but researched online [that] park rangers provided guided cave tours almost year-round.  Bought my $12 ticket, then caught a historical film at the Visitors Center bringing me up-to-speed on everything Wind Cave.

Several mining claims were established at Wind Cave, but the most noteworthy one was by the South Dakota Mining Company in 1890. J.D. McDonald was hired to manage the claim. The mining was unsuccessful, but McDonald and his family realized they could make money by giving cave tours and selling formations from the cave. They filed a homestead claim over the opening and worked on improving a manmade entrance and enlarging passageways for tours.


One of J.D.’s sons, Alvin, spent much of his time exploring and mapping the cave, faithfully keeping a diary and making a map of his findings. On January 23, 1891, Alvin wrote that he had “given up finding the end of Wind Cave”.

The work of one young man – Alvin McDonald – was the inspiration for Wind Cave National Park.  From age 16 Alvin explored & mapped 142 miles (yeah, miles) of tunnels.  Sadly, Alvin died at age 20 from typhoid fever.

Sharing a lotta history – apologies.  Just super impressed that such a young individual could create interest that would result in forming a National Park – ultimately sharing his love of caving with generations of people 125 years later.

So easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day & forget how to dream out loud.  Go Alvin!


LOVED the tour – highly recommended.

In addition to cool 50 degree temps, saw 90% of the world’s boxwork or speleogen deposits.

Boxwork is made of thin blades of calcite that project from cave walls and ceilings, forming a honeycomb pattern. The fins intersect one another at various angles, forming “boxes” on all cave surfaces. Boxwork is largely confined to dolomite layers in the middle and lower levels of Wind Cave.

Crazy full day – no regrets.   2 hours 50 to Scottsbluff.



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