Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, just a stones throw east of the Wyoming border, Jewel Cave National Monument is one of the best caves in the National Park system, and a fascinating attraction to see. One of Jewel Cave's most remarkable facts is that it was only discovered in 1900. Frank Michaud, Albert Michaud, Felix Michaud and Charles Busche filed the Jewel Tunnel Claim, located on U.S. Forest Service land, "for the purpose of discovering and working veins, lodes, ledges, and deposits on the line thereof."
They never did extract any ore from the cave, but instead decided to do public tours. It was declared a National Monument in 1908 and In 1933 the cave was transferred to the National Park Service. Jewel Cave gets it's name from the calcite crystals that are found quite literally everywhere though out the cave. These formations resemble popcorn or cauliflower, and are in a variety of natural hues ranging from a soft lilac to green. Jewel Cave also has some of the best examples of, "box work," in the United States. Box work is formed when sediments are trapped in the cracks of soft limestone rock. As acid dissolves away the softer limestone, the sediment in the cracks is left behind, forming strange and extremely delicate patterns. There is also numerous opportunities to see flowstone, stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, columns, needles, and popcorn.
As of August of 2000, 121 miles of cave had been explored. Jewel Cave is considered the fourth longest cave system in the world, and air flow studies indicate that a vast section of the cave has yet to be discovered. There is some speculation that Wind Cave, about 30 miles to the east, may be connected. Exploration is still on going at an almost continuous pace.
What makes Jewel Cave so special compared to almost all other caves is it was only recently discovered, almost always used for commercial tours, and is practically unspoiled (when compared to other public caves). The formations are relatively unaffected by human contact and the National Park Service recently put in a new low light system on timers to further reduce impact on the cave.
Cave Tours At Jewel Cave National Monument...