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[an error occurred while processing this directive]Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota

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Jewel Cave National Monument is a nature site in Custer County, South Dakota. It is located about 13 miles (21 km) to the west of Custer in the Black Hills.

The site protects Jewel Cave, said to be the second longest cave in the world. So far 151.34 miles (243.56 km) of passageways within the cave system have been mapped. The cave was discovered in 1900 by two homesteader brothers, Frank and Albert Michaud. To enter the cave, the Michauds have to blow open the entrance with dynamite. Inside, they found calcite crystals that seem to sparkle, leading them to call the site Jewel Cave.

Frank and Albert attempted to make a living from Jewel Cave by building walkways inside and taking visitors on tours. Although their enterprise failed, the discovery became known in Washington, DC, leading Presiding Theodore Roosevelt to proclaim the Jewel Cave National Monument on 7 February, 1908.


Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota
Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota
Author: Jllm06 (Creative Commons Attribution 1.0)

Until as late as 1959, just some 2 miles (3 km) of the cave passages were discovered. And then local spelunkers Herb and Jan Cobb began exploring the cave, and within two years have mapped out 15 miles of it. As the cave led to areas outside the national monument, within areas managed by the United States Forest Service, the two agencies did a land swap to enable more land to be added to the national monument. Today it covers 1,273 acres (5.1537 sq km).

Herb and Jan continued to explore Jewel Cave, and by 1979 had covered 100 km of passages. Even after they have retired from serious caving, exploration of Jewel Cave continued by later explorers. As the distance get further and further from the entrance, the explorers often had to camp within the cave for as long as four days.

On 26 February, 2011, cavers discovered uncharted passages leading away from the documented parts of Jewel Cave, paving the way for more areas to be added to the map in future.


The exhibit at the Jewel Cave visitor center
The exhibit at the Jewel Cave visitor center
Author: Jllm06 (Creative Commons Attribution 1.0)

Visiting Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota

This national monument site is easily reached from US Highway 16 about 13 miles west of Custer and 24 miles east of Newcastle, Wyoming. See location on map. There are ranger-guided cave tours for at least 2 visitors, on a first-come-first-serve basis. It may be necessary to reserve your cave tour tickets ahead of time by calling 1-605-673-8300 between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm Mountain Time. Tickets may be reserved up to 7 days in advance.

The visitor center is open daily except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day. While the surface portion of the monument is free of charge, the tour tickets are priced at $8.00 for persons aged 17 and above and $4 for those aged 6 to 16. Children aged 5 and below get free admittance but must be in possession of a free ticket as well.

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