Cave Exploration - Early Exploration
Candles and String
The first written record of a trip into Wind Cave was by Frank Herbert, a Black Hills pioneer who visited the cave in 1881. He was given the cave’s location by Charlie Crary, believed to be the first person to actually descend into the cave. In this early party were Hebert, Jesse Girelle, his wife, the two Cole girls, and Mayme Sprague.
“I started down…”
I was supposed to lead, Herbert said. We had to jump down a hole that I could just about squeeze through, six or seven feet. I started down with my lantern. Had to crawl on hands and knees facing a terrible wind for about fifty feet, and then the main hole seemed to be going down at right angles and very steep, but it gave a good foothold.
NPS Photo Archive
“…got scared and went back.”
After exploring for a time, Herbert and Sprague began the long climb back toward the entrance: We started on back, found the string and followed it. Those on top helped to pull us up. They went down as far as where the main part turned down, but got scared and went back.
Did You Know?
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.