Ponderosa pine forests, mixed grass prairies and a complicated and fascinating system of caves await visitors to South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park. Located south of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, the park has 28,295 acres of land that support varied ecosystems.
The caves themselves were unknown to white men until brothers Jesse and Tom Bingham found the entrance by accident in the spring of 1881.
Trails and Camping
The park contains three nature trails and eight different back country trails, as well as the Elk Mountain Campground, an area with 75 camp sites.
The wildlife in this park ranges from American bison, pronghorn antelope and elk to prairie dogs, bats and the highly endangered black-footed ferret.
Flowering plants make up 80 percent of the prairie with the rest consisting of grasses and forbs.
New caverns and caves are common discoveries in the park, as cavers explore the far reaches of the underground worlds. There are 132 miles of known passages as of October 2009, making Wind Cave the third longest cave system in the United States.
There are various tours available for visitors to Wind Cave. Some tours are less strenuous than others. The Wild Cave tour, for example, requires participants to crawl through tight passages during the four-hour journey into the caves.