Wind Cave National Park   1 comment

Wind Cave NP 00Where Is It: The Park is 6 miles north of Hot Springs, SD, or 60 miles southwest of Rapid City, SD. It’s 634 miles west of Minneapolis.

The Birth: From

On 03 Jan 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill creating Wind Cave National Park. It was the seventh national park and the first one created to protect a cave. The parklands at that time were small and there were no bison, elk, or pronghorn. They came later as the park boundaries expanded.

In 1912, the American Bison Society was looking for a place to reestablish a bison herd. Because of the excellent prairie habitat around the park, a national game preserve was established bordering Wind Cave. It was managed by the U.S. Biological Survey. In 1913 and 1914, the animals began to arrive. Fourteen bison came from the New York Zoological Society, twenty-one elk arrived from Wyoming and thirteen pronghorn came from Alberta, Canada.

In July of 1935, the game preserve became part of Wind Cave National Park. During the early years of the preserve, the animals were kept in small enclosures. Eventually, it was realized that they needed more space. The bison and elk needed additional forage and the pronghorn needed room to escape from predators. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), fences within the park were removed. And in 1946, 16,341 additional acres were added, enlarging the park to 28,059 acres.

It Happened Here: From Wikipedia:

Caves are said to “breathe,” that is, air continually moves into or out of a cave, equalizing the atmospheric pressure of the cave and the outside air. When the air pressure is higher outside the cave than in it, air flows into the cave, raising cave’s pressure to match the outside pressure. When the air pressure inside the cave is higher than outside it, air flows out of it, lowering the air pressure within the cave. A large cave (such as Wind Cave) with only a few small openings will “breathe” more obviously than a small cave with many large openings.

Size: 33,847 acres

# Visitors: 516,142 in 2013. Peak attendance was in June; January was the least-attended month.

Animals: From the Park’s website:

The mixed-grass prairie that visitors see in the the park today is one of the few remaining and is home to native wildlife such as bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes and prairie dogs. In 1911, the American Bison Society looked for places to establish free roaming bison herds. They selected Wind Cave National Park as one of the first areas where these animals would be returned to the wild.

Bison, pronghorn, and elk were reintroduced to the park in 1913 and 1914. Because of this, we can see many prairie animals such as: elk, bison, pronghorn, turkeys, prairie dogs, and maybe even a black-footed ferret. And, just as important, we can see the habitat that supports them.

Choices: From

A good plan of action for a single-day visit would be to spend the morning in Wind Cave on one of the shorter introductory tours and the afternoon exploring the park’s prairies and forests on the Scenic Drive. A second day would be the time for one of the longer Candlelight or Cave Tours.

Fees: There are no fees to visit the Park. Cave tours are $7 to $23; campsites are $12.

Staying There: There are 75 campsites in Elk Mountain campground. The campground is open April – October.

Contact Info:

26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747-6027
Visitor Information: 605-745-4600

Current Issues: From

It’s been a century since bison were returned to Wind Cave National Park via a recovery program for the shaggy animals, and while they’re thriving, overall, in the park, motorists are proving to be a great threat to them.

Since October motorists have killed at least six bison in the South Dakota park, and overall this year 14 bison have been killed in such collisions, Wind Cave officials report.

As a result of these accidents, the park is stepping up patrols, working on better signage, and hazing animals away from the roads.


National Park Service: Wind Cave National Park


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