Monday, July 21, 2014

Historic Lantern Tour of Jewel Cave

Posted from Hermosa, SD   (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

On Saturday we drove to Jewel Cave National Monument to take a Lantern Tour led by the NPS interpreter. We visited this same cave on our visit to the area last year, but took the Scenic Tour during that visit.  While that tour was certainly very interesting, this one was certainly more adventurous.

The tour begins near the Jewel NM original visitor center.  (A short distance away from today's visitor's center).  The original cabin was home to the first ranger and served as a visitor's center at the same time in the late 1930's.

This Lantern Tour is designed to give visitors a feel for what it was like in earlier times when tours were given by lanterns prior to the installation of electric lights which are used today in the other tours. The brochure states The tour route is approximately 1/2 mile long, and includes ~600 steep wooden steps (ladder-like stairs), and requires bending and stooping.  I must say that it certainly lends a different feeling to the tour.  Our ranger was dressed in the uniform of the period, with the exception of the hat.  (The original hats were felt, but the NPS couldn't find one in his size today).  He indicated that he had been caving for 35 years and was quite knowledgeable about this cave, and caving in general.

Every other person in the group needed to carry a kerosene lantern for illumination.  The younger folks in the group were given identical lanterns, but they used battery-powered lights instead of real flames.  (A very good idea, by the way, with all of the vertical climbs and narrow stairs.)

The cave maintains a constant temperature of approximately 49 degrees. A jacket is a good idea here. Once everyone was inside the first "room" of the cave, our guide gave us the basic safety rules and asked if anyone was claustrophobic or wished to leave at this point.   We had about 10 younger folks on the tour, but no one wanted to leave.

There are many "tight areas" encountered during the tour and certainly many low ceilings.  I always manage to find these low ceilings with the top of my head.  Did it again today!


We really enjoyed this cave tour.  It was certainly different from the prior tours we had taken both here and in Wind Cave.  This one really gives you a truer feeling of what it must be like to "explore" a cave rather than just be a "tourist" in a cave.  I would highly recommend this one if you get the chance. The cost this year was $12 per person, or $6 per person with a senior pass.

This was the last day that we had a pass to visit Custer State Park, so on the way back to the campground we drove the Wildlife Loop Road for the final time. We saw many of the frequently viewed animals, but no bison today.  Prairie dogs, pronghorn antelopes, and burros are common sights every time we took this route.





























Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

14 comments:

  1. Interesting tour but I wouldn't be able to be bent over long because of my bad back, I'd have to be carried out by the other tourists. :c(

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    1. The bending over was only for short stretches, but the tour did involve climbing some very steep and narrow wooden steps at times.

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  2. Didn't realize there were so many caves in that part of the country.

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    1. Not really that many Randy, Wind and Jewel Caves (admin. by the NPS) and a couple of privately run ones, but there are many different tours associated with each.

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  3. I could never let my hubby go in that cave. He likes to hit his head too much. LOL

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    1. Karen I'm not a big fan of hitting my head, but I guess I just can't remember where the top is. :0

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  4. Gotta love so many things to do in SD.

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    1. True Phyllis. There are still many things we want to do on our next trip back to SD.

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  5. Are you all now in North Dakota? I can't seem to keep up with you any more.

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  6. Sounds like you had a great time in SD, hope to take a lantern tour one of these days.

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  7. Really great to see this since I was there but didn't get to take a tour. I had broken my ankle in Glacier and we stopped in this area for Custer State Park etc but only David got to go. So thanks for showing it to me.

    If you are coming to TRNP - stop by site 38 and see if we are there or email me and we'll try to connect. I couldn't find an email for you on your site. RVdreamlife@gmail.com

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    1. Darn Sherry. We drove thru the Cottonwood CG today while doing the scenic loop in the park. I wasn't paying attention to the site numbers, but I bet we passed by your rig with the toad present. We might try and get over for one of the evening programs at the CG amphitheater.

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    2. Sherry, on my site, right under "Home Page" it says "Email Me". :)

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  8. Sounds like a fascinating tour ... need to definitely consider it for future plans.

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