Wind Cave, South Dakota
We thought we were experts on caves, because you see, we have explored the Ohio Caverns for years via grade school field trips:) Most recently, well a few months back, we travelled to Carlsbad Caverns and spent a good deal of time within those bat homes. Now it was Wind Caves turn. Upon entry we devoured our National Geographic edition of National Parks, specifically Wind Cave - The first cave to be designated a national park. Wind Cave National Park features the world’s largest concentration of rare boxwork formations along with a 28,295-acres of South Dakota wildlife sanctuary on the surface.
Via a Park Ranger's guidance, we descended into the cave and immediately felt the strength, breath of one of the world’s longest caves. 147 miles long and counting....
We were looking for stalactites and stalagmites, but instead learned quickly we were surrounded by Boxwork formations - A structure of honeycomb-patterned calcite from cave walls. Basically, the texture and fragility of a potato chip. (So don't touch!)
Since we've been in caves this year, with these shoes, we needed to wear booties. The booties keep any infection or mold that we may have picked up in other caves from spreading in this cave. We were very fashionable and the talk of the tour!
First off, it was important to know that the Wind Cave area is a sacred place for the Lakota, their oral tradition tells the story that this is where humans first emerged from within the earth to live on the surface. While they never explored the caves, they discovered the entrance to Wind Cave. They consider the area sacred. There is no evidence that any of them actually entered the cave.
For all practical purposes the exploration and mapping of Wind Cave has been accomplished by volunteer help. Our Park Ranger was one of them. She told us of those who explored before her. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills brought an onslaught of white settlers during 1876 and it was perhaps inevitable that someone would happen upon the entrance to Wind Cave.
By most accounts, that is credited to Tom and Jesse Bingham during the spring of 1881. They noticed an 12 x 10 inch [30 x 25 cm] hole. Air rushing out of the holeknocked the hat right off of Jesse's head! The Binghams saw the windy entrance as a curiosity and had no other association with the cave.
By September 23, 1887 the Wind Cave had been explored for three miles and "no bottom found", and so the legend, the history and the Wind Cave exploration began and now continues.