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Friday, September 7, 2012

Wind Cave

Wind Cave National Park is the seventh national park to be add to the National Park System and is the only park that protects a cave. It was a happy accident that I decided to camp there. The camp sites were nice, especially the ones for tent camping only, which I didn't find until I set up my camp on a slight slope. (The tent sites had pads. )  But I did have trees in which to hang my hammock so I was fine.And I only had to pay six dollars a night.

Wind cave itself is unique in both Indian lore and geology.  The Black Hills are sacred to the Indians and the government once gave them to the Indians.  But after gold was discovered in them, they were taken back. Wind Cave is especially sacred to the Indians because their creation story is that the first people came out of Wind Cave. The creator made people to live under ground.  There there was no evil and everyone had enough of everything. But the trickster came and told some of them that if they came to the top of the earth, they would find lots of buffalo, and other good things. So several families came out of the cave and then found that they had been tricked but survived bad weather and poor hunting to become the first people.

And Wind Cave is unique in geology.  It has ninety-five percent of all the structures called boxwork in the world.  There is a little more of it found in caves in South Dakota and a little in Czechoslovakia. And there was never water flowing through the cave and it is and has always been very dry with just a little water seeping through it. About 400 - 500 feet below the cave are three lakes which hold the water that has seeped down through the cave. So there are no stalactites or  stalagmites and very little popcorn. And there are no cave creatures.  It is just too dry for them to get food and water.

Wind Cave is made from materials formed from a shallow sea.  It is made of limestone with masses of gypsum ( also precipitated from sea water) scattered throughout the limestone. Pressure caused cracks to occur in the limestone and the gypsum was forced into the cracks. Later the gypsum was changed to calcite when waters rich in calcium dioxide came in contact with it. Then the seas receded and fresh water came in reacted with the gypsum to form sulfuric acid.  This dissolved the limestone away, leaving only the calcite in the form of boxwork.

There are several different cave tours each day.  On the weekends, there is also a candlelight tour and a wild cave tour. Some tours are designed for people with limited mobility and use the elevators to go down and back up.  Others go through the natural entrance - actually the new one that replaced the tiny natural one - and then come back via the elevator. This is what I did on my tour.

My tour started in the little shade structure ahead
The ranger standing in the cavity by the original entrance - a hole only a couple of feet in diameter.  ( I meant to go back and get a picture of the hole but forgot to.
The ranger opening the cave - this is the new entrance

Thirty-nine people were on this trip

A view of the boxwork.

The group learning how the cave was formed

The only area which had water dripping - popcorn was forming above her hand.
A picture that shows boxwork - this was almost in every room throughout the tour.

This was a very worthwhile tour. I wished I had had time to do more tours, especially the wild cave one. But you need to make reservations to do that tour. And the cost - I think it was only $4.00 for people with the Golden Age Pass or Senior Pass. 

This camping spot was also great in that it abutted Custer State Park and was within driving range of  Hot Springs,  Crazy Horse Monument , Mt. Rushmor, Jewel Cave National Monument, The Wild Horse Sanctuary, and other interesting places. I needed maybe ten days and a couple of hundred dollars to see everything that would have interested me.