• Explore and Discover One of the Last Frontiers in the World ...

    Jewel Cave

    National Monument South Dakota

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  • Caution - Roadwork on Highway 16 - Expect Delays

    Construction projects both along highway 16 and the Jewel Cave parking lot are planned during the summer. The visitor center is open daily with tours scheduled throughout the day. Come early, pm tours are usually full. No reservations for cave tours.

  • Highway 16 construction near Jewel Cave entrance

    Construction of Highway 16 through Jewel Cave National Monument is progressing on schedule. Motorists should use caution while traveling through the construction zone. Visitors to Jewel Cave should plan extra travel time and come early in the day. More »

  • The parking lot at Jewel Cave takes shape

    Jewel Cave's parking lot project is on schedule for completion by September 30. The patio area outside the visitor center is planned for work in August. Signage along a service road and staff assistance will help guide visitors to the visitor center. More »

Environmental Factors

It might seem that the cave is isolated from the surface world, and that our activities above the cave would have little or no effect on the cave below. However, that is not entirely true. Wherever moisture from rainfall or snow melt is able to seep underground, a connection is made between the surface and the cave.

Jewel Cave National Monument strives to maintain the natural quality and quantity of water entering the cave, but the infrastructure that has provided opportunities for park visitors (the parking lot, visitor center, restrooms, administrative facilities, etc.) has in some cases changed the natural hydrology.

Developed areas cause runoff, which redirects water. Some areas of the cave may now be wetter than they were naturally, and others may be drier. Such changes in hydrologic patterns can have an effect on how and where speleothems (cave formations) will grow.

Forested areas above Jewel Cave typically direct less water into the cave than open, grassy areas. This is because trees use more rainwater than grasses do. The Jasper Fire killed many pine trees, and as a result, more rain water is expected to enter the cave.

The fire opened up the meadows to native plants such as blanketflowers, purple coneflowers, and western wheatgrass. Unfortunately, the fire-disturbed land also encouraged the growth of exotic plants such as common mullein and Canada thistle.

Did You Know?

Entrance to Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave has only one natural entrance. Although the cave is more than 160 miles long, it lies beneath just 3 square miles of land area.