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Jewel Cave Pictures
The Lantern Tour

We decided to take a tour in Jewel Cave, having found out it is a National Monument, and the 2nd longest cave in the world. (Mammoth Cave in KY is the longest) The drive to the Cave was interesting. The majority of all the pine trees on this scenic route are bare, scorched, and dead. When I asked the tour guide about this, he said it was the Jasper forest fire in 2000.

Jewel Cave sign

It is the middle of July and the day was hot, and it seemed like a good idea to go spend a couple of hours in the coolness of a cavern. But apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea, because when we went to get tickets, they were sold out, so we got tickets for the Lantern Tour the next day. They have a couple types of tours you can take, and the most popular is the Scenic Tour. But we opted to try something different. The Lantern Tour takes more of a historical approach to the cavern.

Jewel Cavern Visitor Center

The next day, we got up early and left. They told us to go to the historical entrance which is located about a mile from the visitors center. We thought we were right on time for the tour. As it turns out we were here an hour early. Apparently the Black Hills is on Mountain Standard Time. It's amazing that we have been here almost a week and didn't realize this. So we had to wait another hour before the Lantern Tour.

Historical Cave entrance

We got the park ranger named Matt, and he made the Lantern tour very interesting. The tour starts out with a little bit of history at the 1930's park ranger cabin. When he takes you inside, you'll see some things that they used back then, an old stove, etc. and there are some old pictures on the fireplace mantel. First claim filed... first tours... opening made larger by the CCC in 1935... 1940 lantern tours

Then after the cabin, Matt took us down to get a lantern and explained safety precautions. He then told us to follow a path down some steps and he will meet us there. As we approached an opening in the side of Hell's Canyon, we all stopped and basked in the coolness of the wind coming from the cave opening.

When the park ranger caught up with us, he unlocked a gate and we followed him inside. After Matt gave us a brief introduction to the cavern, he led us to a room a few steps away, so our eyes could adjust to the darkness. He then led us down some steps. Most were a normal size step, but then we went down some real small steps to another room.

The Lantern Tour

We stopped there to catch our breath. Then headed up some stairs and through several small spaces, where we had to watch our head. Then up more stairs, and into a room that Matt called, The Heavenly room. I asked him why they called it the Heavenly room, and he shined his flashlight into an opening in the ceiling and said it was named that because the crystal formation resembled the sculpture of the "Madonna and Child."

While in the heavenly room, Matt told us all to find a rock to sit on, and then proceeded to tell us to turn out our lantern. When all the lanterns were out, he said now everyone be quiet and listen. We were all listening, and he said, Do you here that? It is is the sound of "nothing!" Totally quiet... no dripping... no crickets, no sounds whatsoever.

Then he relit our lanterns and we went back up the steps to where we started. We did have several bats fly past us that gave several members of the tour a "start." But that was about it for the Lantern tour.

Watch the Lantern Tour Video

More Caves in the Area

-Keystone - Rushmore Cave - Closest cave to Mount Rushmore, it's the area's largest stalactite cave. One hour guided tours. Open May 1 to Oct 31. 255-4384 Also there is a coupon in the Black Hills Visitor Magazine for $1.00 off. see picture
-Nemo - Wonderland Cave - Near Sturgis, view the crystal formations and learn the history of the (605) 578-1728
-Piedmont Stage Barn Crystal Cave - Located 2 miles off I-90 use exit 46 or 48 near Piedmont. Impressive 1 hour tour features rare formations and natural coloring. Steep to moderate trail leads to the cave. Open 8am to 7pm daily. AAA Phone (605)787-6606
-Rapid City - Sitting Bull Crystal Cave - South of Rapid City, North of Keystone
-Rapid City - Black Hills Caverns and Crystal Cave - 4 miles west on Hwy 44 Offers Adventure and Crystal tours, best variety of formations. New Gemstone Mining (605)343-0542
-Rapid City -Thunderhead Falls - Located 10 miles west of Rapid City on Hwy 44. Thunderhead Falls is located 600 feet inside the oldest gold mine open to the public, in the Black Hills dating back to 1878. Self guided, no waiting.
-Wind Cave National Park - Rangers guide you on a tour lasting from 60 to 105 minutes. Open year-round, 29 tours each summer day. Reservations are recommended for the candlelight tour and a separate half day crawling tour. (605)745-4600

Also see Gold Mine Tours and Gold Panning

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Photography © Vlad and Carol in Tripp, SD
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