Birth of a National Park - The McDonalds Arrive

The McDonalds

In 1889 the mineral rights to the cave were sold to the South Dakota Mining Company. Soon after J.D. McDonald was hired to manage the claim. With J.D. came two of his sons, Elmer and Alvin, and his daughter, Mary.

Four historic photographic portraits, each showcasing a member of the McDonald Family.
From left to right: Jesse, Elmer, Mary, and Alvin.
The McDonald Family: Jesse, Elmer, Mary, and Alvin

NPS Photo Archive

Alvin McDonald Posing in Studio
Alvin McDonald Posing in Studio

NPS Photo Archive

Alvin Falls in Love With the Cave

The McDonalds didn't find gold, but they did find a special cave. One of the boys, Alvin, fell in love with the cave. He began to explore the cave. Alvin began recording his explorations. His journal states:

On the first day of January 1891 I saw fit to keep a record of the inside workings at Wind Cave, ...which I called... "The Private Account Of A.F. McDonald, Permanent Guide of Wind Cave". ...By the word "exploring" I mean "finding cavities that no human beings have yet discovered.

Respectfully yours, Z. U. Q.

P.S. For the meaning of these initials or any other initials used in the pages of this book, inquire of the guide of any of the Celebrated Caverns of America.

Alvin McDonald's signature, "ZUQ," etched on a cave wall.  Dated 9-8-1892
It is not uncommon to find evidence of Alvin’s exploration.

NPS Photo

Following in Alvin’s Footsteps

Today, explorers of the historic zone of the cave are following in Alvin’s footsteps. The tour routes that are used today are the same routes that McDonald used.


Last updated: February 21, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747


(605) 745-4600

Contact Us