The Black Hills are full of wildlife and mature forests. Underneath is a completely different world.
We returned to Jewel Cave and were part of their first tour group, barely. Pictures do not do the unique surface justice. It is really a cave of mystery as geologists aren’t quite sure how it was formed and it is still not completely explored.
(This part has been added for those of you reading after Aug 28): We did get an added bonus on our cave tour when at the halfway mark a fellow stated, “Ive gotta get outta here.” Not because he was claustrophobic, he was feeling ill. Nothing makes tour guides more excited than the Spector of a tourist vomiting all over their pristine cave. Considering they make you feel guilty for breathing on the formations this guy almost made them apoplectic. They found someone to quickly whisk him away. He never did yak in the cave but the girls let me know that he made it to the parking lot before he could no longer keep it in.
The second underground wonder was the Mammoth Site. In 1972 a real estate development was halted when a bulldozer plowed through at least 4 mammoth remains. A unique set of circumstances preserved a sinkhole which entrapped a number of mammoths in a small area. It was amazing. Many skeletons are still on site and they have at least 30 more years of excavating to go. Well worth the trip, the kids loved it.
Our third underground visit was to Wind Cave where Scarlet and Brody earned yet another junior ranger badge. We did not tour the cave as the budget for the day had already been obliterated by our other adventures.
Now I have a small gripe. We purchased an annual National Parks pass for our trip. So far it has not been a great deal. The pass covers entrance fees. Turns out Jewel and Wind Caves do not have entrance fees, they have “tour” fees. Word on the street is that Rushmore and Crazy Horse have “parking” fees. Not cool National Parks, not cool at all.