Birth of a National Park - The Wonderful Wind Cave Improvement Company

Beyond Mining

Due to financial difficulties, the South Dakota Mining Company stopped paying the McDonalds. However, the McDonalds had found that people were interested in seeing this unusual cave. In 1890, the first cave tours were conducted.

Early Cave Tours
Two historic black and white photographs of early cave tours: both pictures feature tour participants crowded together in a cave room

NPS Photo Archive

Historic sepia-toned photographic portrait of John Stabler
John Stabler

NPS Photo Archive

Partners With the Stablers

Soon, the McDonalds began looking for a partner to help build the business. In 1892, John Stabler, saw the financial value of the cave and bought an interest in the Wonderful Wind Cave Improvement Company. His sons and daughter, George, Charles, and Katie, helped lead tours and explore the cave.

Historic sepia-toned photographic of the following: A group of people are crowded around William Jennings Bryan.
William Jennings Bryan is the man in the middle of the photo with a child on his lap. Katie Stabler is on the high left. John Stabler is the lower left.

NPS Photo Archive

Making a Name for the Place

John Stabler knew that Hot Springs was a popular tourist destination and money could be made by promoting the cave. They invited famous people to visit. Governor Lee of South Dakota and William Jennings Bryan were guests. Bryan reported that he "was enthusiastic over the beauty of the cave." These visits were advertised in the local newspapers and brought attention to the cave.


Last updated: February 20, 2018

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26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747


(605) 745-4600

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