Cave Trip Summaries

A caver in a large passage in Jewel Cave
A caver in Dreary Boulevard, a large passage near the Scenic Tour route in Jewel Cave.

NPS Photo by Dan Austin

Exploration of Jewel Cave is ongoing, and airflow studies indicate that only a fraction of the cave has been discovered so far.

Click the links below to read summaries of some cave exploration trips:

April 28 - May 1, 2016: Three cave explorers entered the cave for an exploration trip to the western branch. The team surveyed a total of 3,358.9 feet of new passages. This brings Jewel Cave's length to 181.89 miles / 292.72 km.

January 15 - 18, 2016: An exploration trip took place over the holiday weekend, which resulted in a team of cave explorers surveying 2,255.15 feet, adding to the cave mileage. More information will be coming in the near future.

November 8 - 11, 2015: A team of four cave explorers surveyed 6,158 feet near the Southwest Splinter. The length of the cave is now 180.07 miles long. Passages near Hourglass Lake were surveyed and they discovered another similar-sized lake, just 100 feet away. The explorers named the lake "Piso Mojado" or "wet floor" in Spanish. Since March of 2014, over eight miles of new passages have been discovered beyond the Southwest Splinter with over 300 unchecked leads for future exploration.

October 9 - 12, 2015: A team of five cave explorers surveyed 8,078 feet of new passages in the western branch of the cave. The most important discovery was Hourglass Lake, a deep blue, crystal-clear lake measuring 15 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 20 feet deep. This is the first discovery of an actual "lake" in Jewel Cave. The length of the cave after this exploration trip was 178.9 miles.

April 10 - 13, 2015: A team of cave explorers surveyed 9,048.25 feet (1.7 miles) of passages in an area of the cave referred to the Splinter Section. Since June of 2014, cavers have explored and mapped 5.3 miles of passages in this new section, with many leads to return to and going in multiple directions off the edges of the current cave map. This trip was one of the most productive exploration trips in recent memory. The length of the cave after this trip was 177.01 miles.

February 13 - 16, 2015: A team of six cave explorers surveyed 6,557.65 feet of new passages near their new camp site, "West Camp", in the western branch of the cave. The objective of this trip was to continue mapping the cave beyond an area known as The Southwest Splinter. There was evidence of ancient stream-flow in some of these areas, with calcified stream cobbles and meandering stream-like passages. This survey trip ended in the "Crushing Deep", where a final survey station was named MILE 175.

September 10, 2014: A team of four cave explorers surveyed 106.85 feet near the Curio Shop in the main part of the cave. The length of the cave was listed at 171.96 miles.

March 11, 2014: Recently, there were three cave exploration trips with about 675.4 feet discovered and surveyed. One trip was to the southeast area known as The Turtle Room, and one trip went west to the Visc / Vard section of the cave. The third trip was to the west and south past the Fitting Room. Cave explorers discovered a passage heading southwest off the edge of the current map that they named the Southwest Splinter. Explorers ran out of time, but the passage continues beyond where they had to stop, with airflow (a lead). This last trip also replaced an old 2-gallon water collector in the far west with a new 15-gallon water collector.

November 2, 2013: The survey team mapped 1,168.32 feet of new passages in an area between Blessed Relief and Pseudomite Corner. The passages were mostly walking in size, but there was one squeeze that was named "The Vocal Struggle". A new loft was discovered with a popcorn-covered ceiling more than 60 feet tall so we called it "Kettlecorn Loft". Many smaller passages were left as continuing leads from this new area.

July 21, 2013: An exploration team went to the Mind Blower area and mapped 90 feet of new passages. The explorers were hoping to make a connection between the Mind Blower and Art Attack areas, but did not succeed on this trip.

July 14, 2013: The exploration team went to a lead just before the Miseries and discovered a lower level passage with shelfstone, flowstone, and dry pools. In some places the ceiling was 40 feet tall. They surveyed 273.25 feet and left more passages to explore at a later date.

April 25, 2013: G Survey

April 18. 2013: Rambling Loft

April 11, 2013: G Survey

April 6, 2013: Awesome Brink

April 5, 2013: Fiscal Cliff

March 28, 2013: Rosette Room

March 13-16, 2013: Four-Day Camp

March 8, 2013: Fiscal Cliff

February 28, 2013: The Hub

February 23, 2013: Big Block Room

February 21, 2013: G Survey

February 10, 2013: Counting House

February 9, 2013: Cloud Nine

February 7, 2013: Rambling Loft

February 2, 2013: Z Survey

January 17, 24, and 31, 2013: G Survey

January 10, 2013: G Survey

December 30, 2012 - January 2, 2013: Four-Day Camp

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11149 U.S. Hwy. 16
Building B12

Custer, SD 57730


(605) 673-8300
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