A rocky outcropping with spring vegetation overlooks Hell Canyon, with blue skies and a few clouds in the background.
Although most visitors come to the monument for a ranger-guided cave tour, the surface features also capture their attention and create a sense of exploration and discovery.

NPS Photo / Bradley Block

Getting to Know
the Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument encompasses 1,274 acres of ponderosa pine forest, open meadows, and rocky terrain. Its surface features are beautiful and lure many visitors to the trails for recreation during the summer months. Throughout the year, visitors can observe an assortment of wildlife, wildflowers, scenic views, amazing sunsets, and enjoy some of the best night skies in the Great Plains.

Yet, the monument is most known for Jewel Cave, which offers spectacular formations and unusual cave and karst features. Since 1959, volunteer cavers have made a concerted effort to map the underground resource and have discovered that it is among one of the longest cave systems in the world. Scientific studies indicate that the current exploration and cave survey represents only a fraction of what remains to be found. Perhaps most noted is that more than 50% of the cave lies outside the surface boundaries of the monument.

Jewel Cave is one of over 400 sites within the National Park Service that, working with other partners, helps safeguard this nation's natural and cultural heritage.

National Park Service
Organic Act

Passed in 1916, this law created the National Park Service and established its mission:

"... to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

National Park Service Mission

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The National Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout the United States and the world.

Park Purpose

The purpose statement for the monument was drafted through a careful analysis of its enabling legislation and the legislative history that influenced its development. Since its proclamation by President Theodore Roosevelt on February 7, 1908, the monument has gradually changed over time. However, its significance as a treasured resource for the nation and global community remains a critical aspect for its preservation and protection. Like all sites within the National Park Service, the purpose statement lays the foundation for understanding what is most important about Jewel Cave National Monument.

"The purpose of Jewel Cave National Monument is to preserve, protect, and interpret one of the last great frontiers by managing and exploring an extensive cave system and the overlying surface for continued scientific and personal interest, and for inspiring public discovery."

Jewel Cave Progress Report

Park employees are hard at work all year long to support the purpose of the monument. The 2023 Jewel Cave Progress Report showcases many of the accomplishments of park employees in protecting and preserving Jewel Cave National Monument.

Park Significance

Significance statements express why a park's resources and values are important enough to merit designation as a unit of the national park system. Depending on the park site, its values may be important within a global, national, regional, or systemwide context. Whatever the significance, the identified values of a site assist park planning efforts and management decisions. As visitors might expect, the significance statements listed below are linked to the purpose of Jewel Cave National Monument and are supported by data, research, and consensus.

  • Jewel Cave represents a pristine and relatively unchanged underground environment featuring subterranean lakes, unusual speleothems (cave features), and abundant calcite spar.

  • The cave's extensive length, three-dimensional complexity, prominent barometric wind, and single entrance define its unique nature.

  • Scientific research has shown that most of the cave is yet to be discovered, creating opportunities for exploration and new scientific knowledge.

  • Jewel Cave National Monument provides important surface and subsurface habitats for wildlife and nine species of bats, including one of the largest known hibernacula for the Townsend's big-eared bat and threatened Northern long-eared bat.

Laws, Policies, and Management

Visitors have the responsibility of knowing the laws and policies at the monument before arriving on-site and taking part in recreational activities. Of course, questions often occur, and visitors may need assistance with clarification of a regulation. For information related to the Code of Federal Regulations and other governing documents, as well as guidance for firearms regulations and collecting of natural objects, please contact the Chief Ranger at (605) 673-8342.

Laws, policies, and regulations are in place at most every site across the country and around the world. For further information related to agency-wide regulations and guidance, visit the National Park Service online for various links, points of contact, mailing addresses, and phone numbers.


Last updated: December 6, 2023

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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.

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