The Geology of Jewel Cave
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Jewel Cave was discovered in 1900 when two prospectors, Albert and Frank Michaud, discovered air whistling through a small hole in the side of a canyon. They enlarged the opening and mined the calcite crystals lining the cave walls. The brothers named their mining claim the "Jewel Lode" for the sparkling of the broken crystals. Of course, they could not resist exploring the cave in their spare time, but the Michauds' and others' efforts toward developing it as a tourist attraction. met with little success.

For a number of years after it became a national monument in 1908, the Cave was kept closed. When the National Park Service began operating the cave for the public in 1940, much of the early knowledge of the cave had been lost. The cave was thought to be quite small and significant only for the extensive coating of calcite crystals on the walls.

In 1958, spelunking seasonal park rangers rediscovered some of the "lost" passages beyond the "known" one-half mile of passages. Explorers since 1958 have extended the known portion of the cave far beyond the probings of the Michauds.

Approximately twenty-one miles of intricate passageways have been explored and mapped, making Jewel Cave one of the most extensive caves known to man. Many fascinating mineral forms are found at various locations in the cave—some not known to occur elsewhere in the world. Billions of calcite crystals line the passageways throughout.

The National Park Service is in the process of developing a remote portion of the cave for public use. In this area are passages up to a hundred feet high and more than a quarter of a mile long.

All of this is recent history—the history of man in the cave. The real aim of this booklet is to discuss the ancient history, the history of the formation of the cave and its mineral decorations.

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Last Updated: 02-Feb-2007