Day-Long Celebration Planned To Mark Addition Of Land To Wind Cave National Park

The Sanson Ranch buffalo jump, as seen from below, is part of the more than 5,500 acres recently added to Wind Cave National Park. NPS photo.

A day-long celebration, complete with chuck wagon dinner and an appearance by President Theodore Roosevelt, is planned to celebrate the addition of more than 5,500 acres to Wind Cave National Park.

The affair, on July 7, is to officially welcome the so-called "Casey Addition" into the park. The land wound up in the park's hands courtesy of The Conservation Fund, which purchased the ranch and transferred title to the Park Service.

Located on the southeastern edge of the national park, the 5,556 acres holds a 1,000-year-old buffalo jump -- a cliff used by Native Americans to drive bison over to their deaths -- and a homestead dating to 1882, according to park officials.

On July 7 those who turn out for the celebration will have an opportunity to hear updates of current planning efforts for the tract's ongoing management, experience tours of the ranch and nearby buffalo jump, and hike to a scenic viewpoint, all as part of the park’s first annual Sanson Ranch Celebration Day.

Planning for the 5,556 acres the park acquired last September from The Conservation Fund began in earnest last February with the start of a Visitor Use Plan/Environmental Assessment (EA). Begun as an interim plan, the EA will now serve as the implementation plan for the park’s Zone Management Plan, a plan that will look at how the new land fits into the park as a whole.

Staff will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 7 to provide updates on various research studies currently under way.

“We wanted to complete the EA this fall, but we soon realized we needed more information. We’re in the process of studying the ranch structures, buffalo jump, ethnographic resources, and the land’s vegetation in an effort to learn the information we need to move forward,” said park Superintendent Vidal Davila. “In the interim, we wanted to host this event to offer an opportunity for people to see the land and receive an update on the planning process.”

Ranger-led tours of the Sanson homestead and buffalo jump will leave from the Sanson Ranch at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. A hike to the new addition’s highest point, offering a spectacular view of the southern Black Hills, will leave from the ranch at 9:30 a.m. This strenuous 4-mile round-trip hike will climb 500 feet and take around 3 hours. Participants are encouraged to dress for the weather, have good footwear, and bring snacks and water. All these programs are free.

From 5 p.m. - 8 p.m., the Friends of Wind Cave National Park will host a chuck wagon dinner with music provided by the Ramblin' Rangers. Afterwards, Theodore Roosevelt re-enactor Joe Wiegand will tell about his life in the West as the president who helped establish Wind Cave National Park in 1903.

Donations for tickets include the meal, entertainment, Friends of Wind Cave National Park 2012 membership, and a memento. Donation prices are adults - $30 non-members, $20 Friends members, with children under 16 years of age $10. Tickets are available at Hot Springs Chamber Visitor Centers, local businesses as well as Friends members, and online at: www.friendsofwindcavenp.org (click on News and Events).

This fundraiser will support the Friends group in their efforts to assist the park in opening this land for visitation.

“We hope to make this event an annual celebration. It is a fun way to learn about our local cultures and experience a chuck wagon dinner," said Supt. Davila.

A map to the event can be downloaded from the park's website.

In case of inclement weather, the ranger-led tours might be canceled and the dinner event moved inside. Call the park at 605/745-4600 for updated information.

In addition to events on July 7th, rangers will be giving tours of the ranch and buffalo jump throughout the summer on weekends beginning at 9 a.m. at the park visitor center.