Beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota is the intriguing underground world of Jewel Cave. With 173 miles of explored passageways, Jewel Cave ranks as one of the longest caves in the world. The cave was discovered at the turn of the century by brothers passing through Hell Canyon.
With over 180 miles of documented trails, this underground environment can satiate even the most curious of humans. Brilliant color and fragile rocks reveal an amazing ecosystem not visible anywhere else. The third longest cave in the world has much to offer to a wide range of those interested in its natural glory. This resource is truly a jewel in the National Park Service.
Guided cave tours provide opportunities for viewing this pristine cave system filed with calcite crystals and other wonders such as stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, frostwork, boxwork, flowstone and hydromagnesite balloons.
In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Jewel Cave a National Monument with the National Park Service assuming their management role 1933. Cave tours began in 1939 and two years later the first permanent Ranger was stationed at Jewel Cave.
By 1959, around two miles of Jewel Cave was discovered. The initial tours were short which led some to ponder if the cave held any national significance.
A geologist by the named Dwight Deal came along and enlisted the help of two rock climbing adventurers, Herb and Jan Conn. Together they explored the interior Jewel Cave.
The Conns explored and mapped new passages. By 1961, discovered upwards of 15 miles within Jewel Cave.This led the National Park Service to become interested in developing more tours.
The "Scenic Area" was discovered in 1961, but the original boundaries of the National Monument dated back to an era when most of the cave was undiscovered. The new cave passages rested beneath the U.S. Forest Service lands.
A land exchange had to take place with the Forest Service in order to establish these new routes. An agreement was reached in 1965 forever altering the monument boundaries. The present scenic area cave trail, the elevator shafts, one elevator, the visitor center, maintenance area and parking lot began in 1966. This took approximately 5½ years to complete.
On May 28, 1972, The Scenic Cave Tour and visitor center were first opened for touring.
Exploration of the cave continues which allows an ever increasing amount of data. This continued education and exploration will serve for future protection of this National Monument.