The History of Jewel Cave

The History of Jewel Cave
Jewel Cave National Monument is nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota. A treasure of the national park system, the history of Jewel Caves is as deep and rich as the caves themselves.

The Michauds' Claim

Brothers Frank and Albert Michaud filed the "Jewel Tunnel Lode" claim in Custer, South Dakota, on Oct. 31, 1900, after using dynamite to enlarge a small hole not big enough for a human to fit in and discovering the cave.


Tourist Value

Knowing the calcite crystals in the cave--whose sparkly appearance led to its name--had little commercial worth, the Michaud brothers saw tourism value in their claim. Over the next few years, they developed trails, a lodge and even the "Jewel Cave's Dancing Club" to attract visitors to the region.

Monument Status

On Feb. 7, 1908, with the influence of a local group, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Jewel Caves a national monument. The Michaud brothers sold the federal government their claim for $750.

National Park Service

Starting in 1939, the National Park Service began running ranger-guided cave tours in Jewel Cave. Except for a brief hiatus during World War II, the national monument has been staffed by rangers ever since.

Today's Cave

In 1961, geologist Dwight Deal and climbers Herb and Jan Conn explored and mapped new passages in the cave, discovering 15 miles previously unexplored. The park service expanded the trails system in the cave and after 5 1/2 years of construction opened the present trails on May 28, 1972.


Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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