Friday, September 4, 2009

South Dakota’s Hidden Treasures – Part 2 Jewel Cave National Monument


Jewel Cave formations

Jewel Cave was designated a National Monument in 1908 to protect what was then thought to be a small but beautiful cave. Today cavers have mapped over 140 miles of passages making Jewel Cave the second biggest cave in the world. Using the volume of air that comes out of the cave scientist estimate that Jewel Cave has over 3,000 miles of undiscovered and so far uncharted passages. Yes, over 3,000 miles! Today it takes the survey team 10 hours to travel from the elevator that takes them into cave to the last position mapped.

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The above three pictures show some of the Calcite Crystals which the cave was named after.

Jewel Cave is a much wetter cave than Wind Cave; it has miles of twisting passages and some of the formations that one would expect to  see in a “wet” cave.


Cave bacon

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Examples of flowstone


In the center of this pictures is a long hollow “soda straw” formation. It took millions of years to get that long.


Beginning the long walk back to the elevators. This tour had over 760 stair steps!


Again frustratingly, of the over 140 mapped miles of the cave only about 1 mile is opened to the public.

Many more pictures of Jewel Cave on the slideshow:


  1. Absolutley amazing...I wish David had been with y'all...he saw the pictures and he is thinking about working this into our return trip, weather permitting...I hate caves!
    But at least I'd get to meet our ND friend!!!
    We'll be joining you on the road this Tuesday-BEEP BEEP!
    Hugs and rubs to Raider!

  2. I was a ranger at Jewel Cave for nine summers ('83-'87 and '96-'99). Later this month (January '10) I am giving a presentation on the cave to the Maine Mineralogical & Geological Society in Portland and hope to use some of your images in my PowerPoint. I spent many hours shooting slides in the cave, but as you surely found out, getting good photos in a cave isn't easy. Yours are very good. Thanks!

  3. This blog is definitely interesting and also informative. I have picked a lot of interesting things out of it. I’d love to come back again and again. Cheers!