To be quite honest, the only thing that came to mind for me when thinking of South Dakota was Mount Rushmore. At the time I wasn't as eager to visit the historic site, and I was completely ignorant to the rich history and incredible wonders of this state. Did you know that some of the coolest things you'll find in South Dakota are actually beneath the earth's surface? It's absolutely true! Our family agrees that the best part of our time in the state was visiting the two caves that are part of the National Parks Service; Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park.
I honestly had no idea about them until we began to do more research about the National Parks Service sites in the state. As you may know from previous posts, we are on a mission to visit as many sites as possible and Halle's collecting Junior Ranger Badges. That meant heading underground in order for her to get two.
Going down, down, down at Wind Cave
Now, I'm quite claustrophobic, but thankfully these tours are pretty safe for those scared of small spaces. Both cave tours leave you plenty of space to move around, just remember to stay on the paths and keep your hands to your self (though your tour guide will remind you). For those feeling more adventurous, you can volunteer to do some exploring below, as they still have not yet discovered the entire network of caves. These positions can mean spending a few days in the cave and involve long crawls through some very tight spaces - definitely not something I could handle!
The most important thing you need to know though is arrive early, especially if you want to make it down into Jewel Cave. You'll need to arrive first thing in the morning when the ticket booth opens, so check online for times the day before you plan to go. They sell out quickly (especially in the summer months) and are on first come, first served basis. Our first attempt was a fail, as we arrived in the late afternoon. The next day we were there first thing in the morning, and managed to get ourselves onto the third tour of the day. It worked well for us, as we were able to help Halle complete most of her Jr Ranger Booklet before we made our way underground.
In the "landing room" at Jewel Cave
If there are sights that you need to take our word on, these caves are it. Despite the awesome uplighting, there is no easy way to photograph these caves and capture how truly impressive they are. You absolutely need to get down there and experience them for yourselves!
I wish we had, had more time to explore aboveground at Wind Cave, but we had arrived late and caught the last tour, so by the time it was over we were ready to head back to the trailer for dinner. We did have more time to walk around above ground at Jewel Cave and it definitely has some beautiful views.
After visiting these two caves, I'm excited to explore more as we continue our family adventures! Next on my list? I'd love to see Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Has anyone else gone cave exploring? Which family friendly caves would you recommend for us to check out in the future?