January 14, 2005
Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130
Wind Cave became the fifth-longest cave in the world after explorers mapped 2,715 feet of passages on Saturday, January 8. The official length of the cave is now 114 miles long. Members of the Colorado and Paha Sapa Grottos joined National Park Service employees in sending five teams of surveyors in to map and explore what many claim to be the most complex three-dimensional maze cave in the world.
Physical Science Specialist Rod Horrocks said, “This also makes us the third-longest cave in the country, behind Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and Jewel Cave near Custer. This achievement is the culmination of decades of efforts by numerous cavers.”
Exploration efforts at Wind Cave began in the early 1880s and by 1893 it is believed 6 to 8 miles of passages had been discovered, many by teenager Alvin McDonald. Modern exploration began in the late 1950s with cavers from Colorado taking up where McDonald left off. Wind Cave was thought to be a small cave until Chicago caver, and now Hot Springs resident, John Scheltens lead four consecutive summer expeditions in the early 1970s that expanded the number of known unexplored holes in the cave from the hundreds into the thousands.
Horrocks added, “Since 1991, we have hosted monthly exploration trips by members of local caving clubs. With numerous caves in Colorado closed due to snow this time of year, many of our explorers drive up from the Denver area for a weekend of caving. Over the years, these cavers have helped the park inventory features, correct surveying errors, and collect data such as water samples.”
To learn more about exploration at Wind Cave, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/wica/Home.htm. Ranger lead tours of Wind Cave are offered year-around. Currently, tours are offered of the Garden of Eden area of the cave at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Last updated: July 20, 2017