Resource Ramblings June 2008


Wind Cave National Park Resource Management News Briefs June 2008

General Stuff

This issue of Resource Ramblings is dedicated to providing natural resource facts about the Park that you may or may not be aware of. If you find this interesting or useful, please come see the Resource Management Staff for additional facts.

Wind Cave National Park

The park consists of 28,295 acres of mixed-grass prairie, ponderosa pine forest, and shrublands.


WindCaveis located below a 1.1 by 1.3 mile rectangle and directly under 600 acres in the south-west portion of the park.

Wind cave is currently 128.47 miles long with a depth of 639 feet (from highest point to lowest point in the cave). There are four entrances to Wind Cave: Natural Entrance (natural), Walk-In (man-made), Elevator (man-made), and Snake Pit (modified natural). The volume of the cave is 54,221,440 cubic feet.The temperatures in Wind Cave average 53° F near entrance, 55° deeper in cave, and 58° at the lakes.

Tour: Length in Miles:

Length of all tour routes: 1.27

Length of all paved tour routes: 0.85

Candlelight Tour: 0.42

Natural Entrance Tour: 0.39

Fairgrounds Tour: 0.37

Garden of Eden Tour: 0.09

A total of 42 other caves are scattered throughout the Park.


There are three perennial streams within the park (Beaver, Highland, and Cold Brook Creeks) for approximately 3 miles of total stream length. There are 94 documented springs within the park. Due to drought conditions less than 1/3 of them are currently flowing. Average precipitation for Wind Cave National Park is 17.76 inches (using 56 year average).


An abundance of parameters are monitored at the Park's air quality monitoring station, including hydrogen, sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, chloride, base cations, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and meteorological data.


There are approximately 300 deer in the Park with about ¼ of them white-tailed deer and ¾ mule deer.

There are between 90-100 Pronghorn in the Park. These numbers may rise as fawns are born (first 2 weeks in June).

During the winter of 2007-8 there were approximately 650 elk in the Park with approximately 350-400 of them remaining in the Park now. There are 46 elk with gps collars on for migration and distribution studies.

There are 350-400 bison in the Park, except between calving season (April/May) and prior to roundup (October) when the numbers may increase to 450-500.

AverageWind Cavebison weights (data from 1966-2006):

  • Cows - 922 lbs.
  • Bulls - 1,497 lbs.
  • 1.5 year olds - 626 lbs.
  • 0.5 year olds - 297 lbs
  • New born calves (previous WICA research) ~40 lbs.

At present there are approximately 2,800 acres of prairie dog colonies within the Park.

The Park has the following number of documented species:

  • 215 species of birds
  • 54 mammal species, including 11 species of bats
  • 9 species of reptiles
  • 6 species of amphibians
  • 7 fish species
  • 61 butterfly species
  • 17 dragonflies
  • 17 damselflies
  • 26 snail species

The park is the only place in the world with a resident population of bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, white-tailed deer, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets.

From 1998-present 192 cervids have been tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) with the following results:

  • 55 elk (12 positives, 42 Negative, 1 pending)
  • 109 mule deer (7 positives, 102 Negative, 0 pending)
  • 28 white-tailed deer (1 positives, 27 Negative, 1 pending)


The Park has 571 plant species including 465 native and 106 exotic species. Exotic species include cultivated plants (e.g. grape hyacinths, tulips, apple trees, lilacs) as well as noxious weeds. The mapped vegetation types in the Park and their calculated acreages are as follows:

  • mixed-grass prairie 17,681 acres (62.6%)
  • riparian/wet meadow 29 acres (0.1%)
  • shrublands 2,142 acres (7.6%)
  • coniferous forests/woodlands 8,122 acres (28.8%)
  • hardwood forests/woodlands 87 acres (0.3%)
  • landscaped vegetation (lawns, etc.) 171 acres (0.6%)
  • open water 4 acres (0.01%)

Last updated: July 31, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747


(605) 745-4600

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