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Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-4600
WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, S.D. – Visitors along the Fairgrounds Tour Route will view Wind Cave in a new light this summer thanks to a new lighting system. Crews worked through the winter installing 295 lights and 5.3 miles of cables as part of a two-year project to replace the cave’s lightning system, some of which dated back to the 1950s. The remainder of the system will be replaced next winter.
Rangers will be offering thirty cave tours a day through the fourth-longest cave in the world beginning at 8:40 a.m. with the last tour leaving at 6 p.m. Besides Natural Entrance Tours, walking tours of the Fairgrounds, Garden of Eden, and candlelight tours to the Pearly Gates will be offered throughout the summer. For the more adventurous, half-day cave crawling tours are led through a non-developed section of cave. Each participant is given a headlamp and kneepads before following their guide into a wild section of cave.
All cave tours begin at the visitor center, open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and require a fee. Visitors will need a light coat or sweater and sturdy shoes. Surface activities include a daily prairie hike at 9 a.m., along with an evening campfire program given in the Elk Mountain Campground Amphitheater beginning at 9 p.m.
Members of the cave lighting crew are temporarily assigned to surface duties, joining over seventy seasonal staff, many from nearby communities, working at the park this summer.
“We hope people in nearby areas will take opportunities this summer to visit attractions closer to home,” said park superintendent Vidal Davila. “In our case, the Fairgrounds Tour Route has a totally new look and we encourage everyone to come out and experience it. The cave’s fifty-three degree temperature makes it a pleasant place to visit on a hot summer day. ”
Besides ranger programs, many recreational activities can be found at the park. Camping is available in the Elk Mountain Campground for $12 a night or in the park’s backcountry with a free permit. For those wanting to wander off the beaten track, the park hosts 44 square miles of prairie and forest waiting to be explored. People can use the 30 miles of existing park trails or strike off on their own. Horses are allowed in the backcountry; obtain a permit at the park’s visitor center before beginning.
For more information, call the park at 745-4600 or visit www.nps.gov/wica.