The long, winding, subterranean passages beneath the prairies and grasslands of Wind Cave National Park comprise the fourth longest cave system in the world. Native Americans held great reverence for the cave, but it did not enter the national consciousness until two men found the fissure connecting the surface to the cavernous depths below.
As with many North American features, the credit of discovery rests with the Native Americans dwelling on the continent long before the arrival of European settlers. Lakota Indian stories tell of the cave entrance and tipi rings remain on the landscape surrounding the cave.
Re-discovery of the Cave Entrance
In 1881, Jesse and Tom Bingham reportedly heard a whistling noise leading to the discovery of a cave entrance with a wind blowing from the depths of the Earth onto the surface. Subsequent visits found that the wind periodically reverses course forcing its way into the dark cave.
Early Cave Exploration
The same year Tom and Jesse found the location of the entrance, Charlie Cray made the first recorded tentative exploration into the darkness beyond the cave entrance. Others followed later that year and six years later, the cave was known to be at least three miles long.
Cave Exploration Today
More than 132 miles (212 km) of the cave system have been charted with more passageways still awaiting intrepid cave explorers.
Wind Cave is located within Wind Cave National Park adjacent to Black Hills National Forest south of Rapid City and Mount Rushmore National Monument in western South Dakota. The address of the park is:
26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, South Dakota
The phone number for visitor information is (605) 745-4600.
Article Written By David Chandler
David Chandler has been a freelance writer since 2006 whose work has appeared in various print and online publications. A former reconnaissance Marine, he is an active hiker, diver, kayaker, sailor and angler. He has traveled extensively and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida where he was educated in international studies and microbiology.