• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

Resource Ramblings 2005-04

Jason Walz at the Snake Pit Entrance

Jason Walz at the Snake Pit Entrance

NPS Photo

Unexpected Visitors in the Snakepit Entrance

A small cave opening, referred to as “The Blowhole”, and located at the base of Elk Mountain, was known about since the McDonald’s era. It had airflow similar to Wind Cave but was too small to enter and was assumed to connect to Wind Cave, if one could ever enter it. During the early 1970’s as the survey of Wind Cave progressed in the direction of the Blowhole, park managers decided to enlarge the hole in an attempt to connect it to Wind Cave. After enlarging the opening, cavers discovered long crawls leading towards Wind Cave, but could not find a connection. It was not until 1984 that cavers connected the two, proving what was always thought and giving Wind Cave its second entrance.

In the late 1980s, the entrance was renamed “the Snakepit” entrance, due to relatively high number of snakes, particularly rattlers, that have been found inside its confines. The name “blowhole” was also confused with other cave openings in the park that were also called by the same name.

Due to the 800-foot long crawl and tight nature, not many cavers utilize this entrance. However it seems that something else has. While on a work trip into the Snake Pit Entrance to flag the route from this entrance to the main travel route into the western part of the cave, Jason Walz and I discovered a large pile of scat just inside the first crawlway off of the bottom of the entrance pit. Porcupine and packrat feces are commonplace in cave entrances. This entrance is no different. However, this was much too large for either. Cautiously we crawled on half expecting to be mauled to death around every corner. We saw no other signs of whatever left the scat and continued with our trip, which brought us out of the cave through the elevator.
The following day after discussing what we had found with the staff biologists, we returned and retrieved the scat for closer analysis. It is the overwhelming opinion that the scat is from a mountain lion. The park has had several deer and elk killed by mountain lions this year, including animals in the vicinity of the entrance.

The mystery is how the lion had gotten into the cave. The entrance is gated with a 30-inch culvert with a solid lid. Unless the lion has a key it could not enter through that. Next to the entrance is a small slot that appears to be too small for a lion, but it is possible that it squeezed in through this. The other possibility is that the lion has found a hole that we are unaware of. – Marc Ohms

The original entrance an animal would have to use is the dark hole located at the base of the rock and cement casing at the bottom center of the picture.

Length of Tour Routes in Wind Cave

There has been an overestimation of the length of the tour routes in Wind Cave, with various numbers floating around. In conjunction with the recently completed tour route map, the length of each tour route has been calculated. These measurements are from entrance to entrance and do not include the distance from the visitor center and back (that is an additional 200-225 yards each way). These are listed from the longest to shortest tour:

Tour

Length in Miles

Length of all tour routes

1.27

Length of all paved tour routes

0.85

Candlelight Tour

0.42

Natural Entrance Tour

0.39

Fairgrounds Tour

0.37

Garden of Eden Tour

0.09



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