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07/08/2012

On The Road to Jewel Cave

Today we said "Goodbye" to South Dakota, as we hit the road heading west to Sheridan Wyoming - a one night stopping point on the way to Yellowstone National Park.

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We decided to do a little sightseeing along the way, and since this is a National Park road trip, we stopped to visit the first cave given National Park status!

 

Jewel Cave is 161 miles long, and still growing, as it is still being explored!  Our tour took us 300 feet below the surface, through many caverns and up and down 700 stairs!

IMG_5536When prospector brothers Frank and Albert Michaud made the discovery in 1900, they found a small cave with sparkling "crystals", thus the name "Jewel Cave."  The "crystals" turned out to be sparkling calcite, which is worth - you guessed it - nothing!  The brothers tried but failed to make the cave a tourist attraction, but the underground wonder had attracted national attention; in 1908 it become part of the National Park System to protect its extrordinary beauty.

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It wasn't until an expedition in 1959 by renowned rock climbers Herb and Jan Conn, that a bigger discovery was made.  Over the next 21 years the couple discovered 65 miles of this wonderous cave!  The mystery continues, however, as experts believe the 161 known miles of Jewel Cave make up only 5% of what lies beneath the Black Hills!

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Another 4 hours on the road through the Great Plains of Wyoming!  Tomorrow we discover Cody and the world of Buffalo Bill!

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