Another beautiful day in SW South Dakota, another beautiful day spent in a cave!
We never tire of the rides through the mountains and valleys of this area!
In the previous blog, I mentioned that I found no wild flowers in SD. Lo and behold, I found huge patches of these wild phlox.
Wind Cave National Park, National Park #8, is one of the oldest national park is actually two parks. One is below ground in the 145-mile maze that has not been fully explored. The other is the prairie that stretches over the caverns.
The park offers 6 tours ranging from one for people with limited mobility to and one for the adventurous that requires hard hats, lights, and kneepads. We opted for the Fairgrounds Tour--1 1/2 hours, 2/3 mile over two levels of the caves.
In the visitors' center we learned a few things.
Wind Cave is unique from many other caves in that it has less active water flow. Less water means fewer dripstone formations such as stalactites and stalagmites common in other caves.
Boxwork, one of the most common sights in Wind Cave, is extraordinarily rare elsewhere. Over 95% of the known boxwork worldwide is found within Wind Cave. These formations were formed here before the cave came into existence
Boxwork with frostwork. Frostwork forms as airflow interacts with droplets of mineral-rich water..
Popcorn is petrified cave sweat. It forms as water rich calcite beads up on the surface of cave walls. Calcite crystallizes and over time resemble popcorn.
Boxwork without frostwork.
Our tour over, we wanted to take one of the many hikes through the above cave prairies, but need food first. The Park does provide vending machines with snacks and sandwiches and a microwave, but Duane decided to backtrack to this little village.
The town, except for a few outlying houses.
The one business in town. We were well fed.
The town artwork. Everyone contributed.
From our rv park we accessed US 385 for our ride to the park. On the ride home we took CR 87 through the prairies of the park and into Custer State Park, then 16A back to Custer.
When Wind Cave was first established in 1903, its main purpose was to protect the cave and help visitors enjoy it. By 1912 the protection and reestablishment of native wildlife within the park was recognized as an equally important goal. Among the park's foremost missions as a wildlife sanctuary was the restoration of populations of bison, elk, and pronghorn to the Black Hills. By the late 1880's these animals had been eliminated from this part of their range. Starting with 14 bison donated by the Bronx Zoo in 1913, the heard numbers about 350 today.
Love the prairie dogs.
Just before we exited the park, we took a hike up the Rankin Ridge Nature Trail to the highest point in the park.
We had hoped to be able to take in some views from up there, but it was chained off. The view from the ground was pretty good, though.
The ridge in the background marks the Badlands, 40 miles away.
Another herd of bison, quite a bit closer.
Back on the road, we were surprised by this herd, quite a bit closer. Duane was thrilled to see them up close, but anxious to be past them!
Then we came up behind this one!
Safely past the danger, we enjoyed the rest of our ride home.
More adventures tomorrow.
Louise and Duane