Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wind Cave National park

A little more than an hour away from our campground was Wind Cave National Park.  Heard of it?  Probably not, but it was the first national park dedicated to caves.  There is of course lots of beautiful land above ground to explore with abundant wildlife, but the real treasure is below ground.
The Wind Cave name comes from the 18 inch hole in the ground that makes sounds as the air comes in and out depending on the weather above.  The wind can reach 70 mph if a strong pressure system comes through.  And that's how it was first discovered.  People in the area heard the wind and started to explore.  At that time, they were looking for gold.  There was none, but over the next 4 years one man mapped over 10 miles of cave.  Now they have mapped over 136 miles which makes it the fifth largest cave in the world.  And the latest study of the amount of air that goes in and out estimates that only 2-5% of the passageways have been discovered.  Amazing.
After riding the roads in the park, we paid to take a tour of the cave.  Val and I remember going to Luray Caverns when we were young, and that's what we imagined we would see.  Huge rooms with stalactites and stalagmites.  Beautiful rooms of lighted rock.  Uhh...nope. We knew things were going to be different when we first started to descend.  Small passageways where you ducked and turned became more small pathways.  It wouldn't help to be too claustrophobic.

Starting the descent.

 Minimal lighting allowed our eyes to adjust.  And we kept going down ending up 200 feet below the surface.

The rock formations were beautiful.  Because there is so little water, this cave doesn't have stalactites and stalagmites.  What it does have is 95% of the worlds boxwork, mineral deposites formed by erosion.  The early explorers thought that they were petrified cobwebs.

More of the amazing formations.

It was definitely a different experience from what I expected.  It was a fascinating tour and one that everyone who visits the area should experience.  There are four different tours including one that lasts four hours that takes you through tight areas where you need your headlamp and get to crawl and squeeze through passageways.  Nope.  I think I'll pass on that one when we go back.

No comments:

Post a Comment