The Basic and Scenic Tours begin at the Visitor's Center. Visitors are transported via elevator to an initial depth of 306 feet beneath the surface. Yesterday's outside temperature was approximately 80 degrees at the surface. The cave is a constant 49.3 degrees and a jacket is strongly suggested before heading down.
Our Tour Leader was excellent. We learned something before even beginning the tour. Does anyone know the difference between a National Monument and a National Park? A National Monument is a protected area which can be quickly declared by the President of the United States without the approval or discussion by Congress. National Parks must be approved by Congress. Ok, on to the tour.
For those of you who have taken cave tours back East, you'll notice that the inside of the caves and their formations are quite different. The cave here is chiefly made of calcite, so you don't see the stalactites and stalagmites found in the eastern caves.
During the tour we learned that the discovery of the cave was made by two brothers Frank and Albert Michaud in 1900. They found a small opening too small for human entry, but used dynamite to enlarge the opening and found "jewels" glistening along the walls. The brothers thought they had found a very profitable area and filed a claim. The glistening walls turned out to be calcite crystals which were of little commercial value. Along with a partner, Charles Bush, the trio attempted to open the cave as a tourist attraction in 1902. This ultimately failed and the claim was sold to the Federal Government for $750 after President Theodore Roosevelt declared the area a national monument in 1908. The brothers moved away from the area. The National Park Service began administering the monument in 1933.
The original cave opening discovered by the Michaud brothers can still be visited, but is locked unless a tour group is being led in through this opening.
Along the walk to the original opening site is an area that has a few benches and what looks like an opening into the cave. Karen took a look inside, but decided our tour was much easier than climbing into this hole.
On our way back to the campground we decided to take another drive through the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park. Well, we finally got lucky and saw some of the buffalo "up close and personal". Here's a short video showing the buffalo blocking the roadway.
Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!