Wind Cave National Park


The Wind Cave area has been protected since 1903 when it became our seventh national park. 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 "boxwork," "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."

Reports of these discoveries drew a stream of curious tourists to the cave. Local entrepreneurs, including the McDonald family, blasted open passages and guided tourists through for a fee. Cave specimens were removed and sold. Today the cave's fragile features are protected.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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