Becoming a Monument

Jewel Cave Sign
Original Jewel Cave Sign

NPS Photo

A local movement to set Jewel Cave aside for preservation culminated in the proclamation of the cave as a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt on February 7, 1908. This was possible due to the Antiquities Act which passed in 1906. The Antiquities Act gives a president the power to provide legal protection on federal lands for cultural and natural resources of historic or scientific interest.

In 1928, a group of businessmen from Custer, SD, and Newcastle, WY, formed the Jewel Cave Cooperation (JCC). The JCC raised money and paid the Michaud family $750 in 1928 to give their mining claim back to the government. The JCC then continued to operate cave tours and manage Jewel Cave. When created, the monument was initially under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service until an executive order transferred the management of several National Monuments to the National Park Service in 1933. The JCC continued to work jointly with the NPS until 1939 when the JCC dissolved and Wind Cave National Park rangers began leading the cave tours in the summer.
Original Cabin and Entry Station
Original Entry Station and Visitor Center

NPS Photo

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a group of men hired by the U.S. government during Great Depression to provide people with jobs and a way of supporting their families, helped build much of the original infrastructure of the Monument. In 1935 members of the CCC were sent from the base camp at Wind Cave National Park to Jewel Cave National Monument. There was a camp set up at Jewel Cave from 1935 to 1939. Twenty-five men, with a budget of $1,500, accomplished several projects for the Park Service during the four years they were stationed here. A three-room cabin and comfort stations were built. Sewage and water connections were completed for the cabin and public campground. The cave entrance was altered to provide easier access, and a surface trail of approximately 800 feet was constructed, along with a new stone stairway. The Michaud’s original log building was removed at this time. By the end of 1941, the CCC had employed over 26,500 men throughout South Dakota and paid out in wages over $6,200,000.

In 1939, park rangers were stationed at the monument and began conducting cave tours and providing visitor services. The cabin was used as the Visitor Center as well as a residence for rangers. It became home to the monument’s first permanent ranger, Elwood Wolf and his wife Shirley in 1941. Except for a brief period of closure during World War II, NPS rangers staffed the cabin and cave tour operation. Then, in the late 1950s, significant discoveries were made within the cave, which lead to the development of a new visitor center and cave tour route. The cabin was continuously updated to accommodate increased visitation until the current Visitor Center, Scenic Tour, and Discovery Tour opened in 1972. After the new Visitor Center was built, the original cabin built in 1935 by the CCC was no longer needed and was restored in 2000 to how it looked in 1935.

Last updated: September 2, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

11149 U.S. Hwy. 16
Building B12

Custer, SD 57730


605 673-8300
The main phone line connects visitors with staff at the visitor center. Throughout the year, the phone line is monitored by staff on a daily basis, excluding holidays and days with limited visitor services. Please be advised that after-hours messages are not taken on the system; visitors are encouraged to call the visitor center during normal operations and speak with a park ranger for assistance.

Contact Us