Halfway between Badlands and Wind Cave national parks in the Black Hills area of South Dakota is Jewel Cave, the third-longest cave system in the world with more than 180 miles of mapped passages. Decorating the ceilings are calcite formations (called nailhead spar and dogtooth spar) that shimmer like crystals next to other formations including gothic-looking boxwork—which lives abundantly in Wind Cave—stalactites, stalagmites, popcorn, flowstone, frostwork, and our favorite formation: cave bacon, a type of flowstone. At Jewel Cave there is a 20-plus-foot slab of it that excites every single visitor joining a guided scenic tour with its exact likeness of every meat-eaters favorite food.
Some believe that Jewel Cave is connected to Wind Cave, although that is yet unproven. If it were determined that they were in fact connected and the system were to be mapped, it would become the longest cave system in the world, surpassing Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. If they are in fact connected, it is by geographic proximity more than character—these two underground worlds are very different from one another and are both uniquely fascinating places to visit.
Jewel Cave was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, who dedicated much of his term in office to building the foundation of the National Park Service (the reason he is called the "Conservationist President.”) After your exploration there, consider driving 35 miles up the road to tip your hat to him at Mount Rushmore, where he stands 60-feet tall on a granite cliff side.
Yet another cool place to #FindYourPark! Happy trails everyone.