Neighboring Parks

Wind Cave National Park

While you may never have heard of it, Wind Cave National Park was the seventh national park to be created.

President Theodore Roosevelt, who fell in love with the Dakotas, designated it in 1903. With slightly more than 140 miles of passageways, it’s the sixth longest cave on Earth. Four new miles of cave are discovered every year.

The caverns here feature an impressive collection of boxwork—a honeycomb-like pattern composed of thin calcite fins and other geologic formations.

Bison herd at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota
Bison herd at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota Photo: NPS

There’s also wildlife to be seen, including 400-500 bison roaming more than 20 acres of this national park. Their history is fascinating. After the massive slaughter of bison in the 1800s, bison had virtually been wiped out in the Black Hills area. In 1914, park reserve managers decided to reintroduce bison to the area and found their future bison in one of the most unlikely places. Home to some of the last genetically wild bison in the nation, the staff at the New York City Zoo boarded 14 bison, including one named “Sandy” on an express train to the Black Hills. When Sandy died of old age in 1936,  journalists across the country reported she was the first bison to be born in a zoo and die on the range.

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Wind Cave's rare stalactites
Wind Cave’s rare stalactites at Skyway LakeNPS Public Domain

Favorite Hike: Wind Cave Canyon Trail

This 1.8-miler cruises through a classic limestone canyon where birdwatching is excellent. Watch out for great horned owls and cliff swallows.

Wind Cave by the Numbers

140.47 miles of cave passageway, making it the sixth longest on earth.
4 new miles of cave discovered every year.
7th U.S. national park, designated by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.
654 feet maximum depth of the cave from its entrance.
300 stairs you’ll climb or descent on the cave’s natural entrance tour.
75 mph maximum recorded wind speed at the cave’s entrances.

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