Cave Tours, Visits To Buffalo Jump, On Tap At Wind Cave National Park This Summer

Tours of the Sanson Buffalo Jump at Wind Cave National Park will be offered this summer on weekends.

Just because "cave" is part of Wind Cave National Park's name, that doesn't mean the only thing you can do at this South Dakota destination is go underground.

Park rangers will be offering a variety of interpretive programs this summer. Thirty tours a day will be offered through the world's fifth-longest cave beginning at 8:40 a.m. with the last tour entering the cave at 6 p.m. New this year will be tours of the Sanson Buffalo Jump on weekends and a bird walk on Monday mornings.

A three-hour tour of the recently acquired Sanson Buffalo Jump will be offered on Saturday and Sundays beginning at the park visitor center at 9 a.m. From there, participants will car caravan out to the Sanson Ranch. Dress for the weather and bring water, sunscreen, and hiking shoes. The hike is moderately strenuous and is offered through August 18.

People interested in exploring the park's bird life should meet at the visitor center at 9 a.m. on Mondays to join a ranger for a 90-minute bird walk in the vicinity of the visitor center. If you have them, bring binoculars and a bird identification book.

Walking tours through the cave along the Natural Entrance, Fairgrounds, Garden of Eden, and Candlelight Tours to the Pearly Gates will be given daily. Fees range from $7 to $9, with children and Senior Pass holders half price. Children five and under are free. The minimum age for the Candlelight Tour is 8 years.

For the more adventurous, half-day cave crawling tours are led through a non-developed section of cave. Each participant is given a headlamp and kneepads before following their guide into a wild section of cave. Cost of this tour is $23; participants must be at least 16 years of age.

All cave tours begin at the visitor center which is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visitors will need a light coat or sweater and sturdy shoes. Reservations are recommended for the more strenuous Candlelight and Wild Cave Tours; otherwise, all tours are first come, first served.

Rangers will end the day with a nightly program at the Elk Mountain Campground. Beginning Sunday, June 10, and continuing through August 18, campfire programs begin at 9 p.m. From August 19 to September 3, programs begin at 8 p.m. Topics change daily.

For those wanting to wander off the beaten track, the park hosts 44 square miles of prairie and forest. People can use the 30 miles of existing park trails or strike off on their own. Horses are allowed in the backcountry; obtain a permit at the park's visitor center before beginning. For more information, call the park at (605) 745-4600 or visit www.nps.gov/wica