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Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-4600
WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, S.D. - To kick off the beginning of summer, rangers at Wind Cave National Park will offer free cave tours on Tuesday, June 21. All thirty cave tours that day will be free. The first tour starts at 8:40 a.m. and the last tour leaves at 6 p.m. All cave tours begin at the visitor center which is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visitors will need a light coat or sweater and sturdy shoes. Reservations are recommended for the Candlelight and Wild Cave Tours; otherwise, all tours are first come, first served.
"In these tough economic times, our fee-free days will give families many opportunities to enjoy our nation's heritage and natural beauty in meaningful and affordable ways," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Beginning Saturday, June 11, rangers will be offering a variety of interpretive programs throughout the summer. Walking tours of the Natural Entrance, Fairgrounds, Garden of Eden, and Candlelight Tours to the Pearly Gates will be given daily. Fees range from $7 to $9, with children and Senior Pass holders half price. Children five and under are free. The minimum age for the Candlelight Tour is 8 years.
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. Cost of this tour is $23; participants must be at least 16 years of age. Reservations are strongly recommended for the Candlelight and the Wild Cave Tour.
Ranger-led surface activities include a daily prairie hike at 9 a.m. beginning at the visitor center. Rangers end the day with a nightly program at the campground. Beginning Saturday, June 11, and continuing through August 13, campfire programs begin at 9 p.m. From August 14 to September 5, programs begin at 8 p.m. Topics change daily.
For those wanting to wander off the beaten track, the park hosts 44 square miles of prairie and forest. 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 (605) 745-4600 or visit www.nps.gov/wica.