• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

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  • Trail Closure Information

    The Highland Creek Trail is closed. Backcountry Zones 1 and 2 are closed to all off-trail travel and use. The Sanctuary and Centennial Trails remain open to through traffic.

  • Temporary Road Closure Information

    Oct. 18 & 19: NPS 5 and 6 are closed for the entire weekend. Monday, Oct. 20, through Wednesday, Oct. 22, NPS 5 will be closed from Highway 87 to NPS 6. Highway 87 will be closed from Road 342 (Beaver Creek Road) north to the park boundary.

Birth of a National Park - The McDonalds Arrive

The McDonalds

In 1889 the mineral rights to the cave were sold to the South Dakota Mining Company. Soon after J.D. McDonald was hired to manage the claim. With J.D. came two of his sons, Elmer and Alvin, and his daughter, Mary.

McDonald Family: Jesse, Elmer, Mary, Alvin
The McDonald Family: Jesse, Elmer, Mary, and Alvin
NPS Photo Archive
Alvin McDonald Posing in Studio

Alvin McDonald Posing in Studio

NPS Photo Archive

Alvin Falls in Love With the Cave

The McDonalds didn't find gold, but they did find a special cave. One of the boys, Alvin, fell in love with the cave. He began to explore the cave. Alvin began recording his explorations. His journal states:

On the first day of January 1891 I saw fit to keep a record of the inside workings at Wind Cave, ...which I called... "The Private Account Of A.F. McDonald, Permanent Guide of Wind Cave". ...By the word "exploring" I mean "finding cavities that no human beings have yet discovered.

Respectfully yours, Z. U. Q.

P.S. For the meaning of these initials or any other initials used in the pages of this book, inquire of the guide of any of the Celebrated Caverns of America.

It is not uncommon to find evidence of Alvin’s exploration.

It is not uncommon to find evidence of Alvin’s exploration.

NPS Photo

Following in Alvin’s Footsteps

Today, explorers of the historic zone of the cave are following in Alvin’s footsteps. The tour routes that are used today are the same routes that McDonald used.


Did You Know?

fire on the prairie

Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.