Wind Cave National Park

Useful Information

the "windy" entrance to Wind Cave.
Location: From Rapid City Hwy 79 south 80km, then west on 385 8km. 16km north of Hot Springs, SD, on U.S. Route 385.
Open: JAN to MAR daily 8-16:30.
APR daily 8-17.
MAY daily 8-18.
JUN to mid-AUG daily 8-19:30.
mid-AUG to mid-SEP daily 8-18.
mid-SEP to end-SEP daily 8-17.
OCT to DEC daily 8-16:30.
Closed on Thanksgiving, 25-DEC, 01-JAN. [2004]
Fee: Candlelight Tour (mid-JUN to mid-AUG): Adults USD 7, Children (8-16) USD 3.50, Seniors (61+) USD 2.50, Children under 8 not permited.
Fairgrounds Tour: Adults USD 6, Children (6-16) USD 3, Seniors (61+) USD 2.
Garden of Eden Tour: Adults USD 4, Children (6-16) USD 2, Seniors (61+) USD 1.
Natural Entrance Tour: Adults USD 6, Children (6-16) USD 3, Seniors (61+) USD 2.
Wild Cave Tour (mid-JUN to mid-AUG): Adults USD 20, Children not permited.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Pahasapa Limestone, 350Ma.
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=125,835m, VR=197m, 7th long of the world.
Guided tours: Candlelight Tour (mid-JUN to mid-AUG): L=1600m, D=120min.
Fairgrounds Tour: L=800m, D=90min, St=450.
Garden of Eden Tour: L=400m, D=45min, St=150.
Natural Entrance Tour: L=800m, D=90min, St=450.
Wild Cave Tour (mid-JUN to mid-AUG): L=1000m, D=240min.
All cave tours are ranger-guided and leave from the visitor center. [2004]
Bibliography: Rob Kolstad et al. (2001): Caves of Williams Cañon, History, Exploration, Science, and Conservation 1982-2000
248 pp illus. Good account of Cave of the Winds, Colorado. Nicely illustrated. SB
Jeanne K Hanson (2007): Caves, 142 pp, 16 colour and 30 B&W photos. Chelsea House, New York.
pp 96-105
Address: Wind Cave National Park, RR 1, Box 190-WCNP, Hot Springs, SD 57747-9430, Tel. +1-605-745-4600.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1881 discovered by settlers when two brothers, Jesse and Tom Bingham, heard a loud whistling noise.
03-JAN-1903 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill for Wind Cave to become the seventh national park.
1950 electric light installed.
14-AUG-2010 electric light renovated, LED installed.


the rock at the ceiling is called Elephants' Foot, guess why.

Although Native Americans may have known of the cave, it was not discovered by settlers until 1881 when two brothers, Jesse and Tom Bingham, heard a loud whistling noise. The sound led them to a small hole in the ground, the cave's only natural opening. A wind was said to be blowing with such force out of the hole that it knocked Jesse's hat off. That wind, which gave the cave its name, is created by differences between atmospheric pressures in the cave and outside. This wind can still be noticed at the cave entrance.

It was left to later adventurers like Alvin McDonald to follow that wind and discover the cave's extensive network of passageways containing Speleothemboxwork, popcorn, and frostwork formations, and other delicate irreplaceable features. Young Alvin and others who explored the cave before the turn of the century were fascinated by what they found - chocolate-colored crystals, formations resembling faces or animals, and chambers that inspired names such as the "Garden of Eden" and the "Dungeon."

The start of the formation of Wind Cave was 320 million years ago. At that time parts of the limestone that constitute the upper levels of Wind Cave were being dissolved and first cave passages formed. As ancient ocean levels fluctuated, these passages were filled with sediments. Beneath the ocean, a thick layer of sediments continued to be deposited above that limestone.

Speleothemboxwork is an extremely rare speleothem, but in Wind Cave it is common and really big.

About 60 million years ago, the forces that uplifted the Rocky Mountains also uplifted the modern Black Hills producing large fractures and cracks in the overlying limestone. Over millions of years, water moving slowly through those cracks dissolved the limestone to produce the complex maze of the cave's passages.

Later erosion changed surface drainage patterns that caused subsurface water levels to drop, draining the cave passages. As the modern Wind Cave formed, many of these newer passages intersected the original cave, revealing the red clay and sandstone sediments from 320 million years ago.

It was after the cave formed that most of the colorful cave formations began to decorate its walls. One of the most prominent features in Wind Cave is boxwork - thin, honeycomb-shaped structures of calcite that protrude from the walls and ceilings. Nowhere else in the world can such a large display be seen. Some of the better known cave formations, such as stalactites and stalagmites, are uncommon here.

You might wonder if after more than 100 years of exploration there is anything new to discover in Wind Cave. Barometric wind studies estimate that approximately 5 percent of the total cave has been discovered. In 1891 Alvin McDonald wrote in a diary of his cave trips: "Have given up the idea of finding the end of Wind Cave." But he better-equipped cavers of today have not given up. They are continuing to push farther and farther into the cave's cool, black recesses.

In 2010 the electric light system was renovated, the light bulbs were replaced by LED lights. This reduced the electricity consumption, and also the bill, by about 80%. The new lighting system was officially inaugurated on the 14th and 15th August 2010 with free tours to the cave.