Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Sunday in South Dakota: Black Hills Caverns - Tamara's Journeys

Sunday in South Dakota: Black Hills Caverns

August 13th, 2017

It’s not surprising that prospectors in search of gold discovered many of the underground treasures of South Dakota: its caves and caverns. The Black Hills Caverns was discovered in 1882 by a very slender gold seeker crawling into an even smaller hole in the side of a hill. Lakota Indians had found centuries before. Even now the cave is actively explored revealing new wonders in the beautiful underground landscape.

The Black Hills region is famous for its caves. Fifty million years ago, the caves of the Black Hills were formed when underground water dissolved layers of limestone, resulting in huge passageways, spacious cave rooms, and networks of narrow tunnels. As groundwater flowed into the passageways, full of dissolved minerals. One of these minerals, calcium carbonate, deposits crystals onto cave walls and ceilings, resulting in spectacular cave formations. Black Hills Caverns is formed by the “Paha Sapa Limestone” and contains the most complete variety of formations that exist in any cave in the Black Hills.

Black Hills Caverns entrance

Panning sluice outside visitors can try their hand to find gems.

I enjoy exploring caves as nature intended. That means Black Hills Caverns were on my list because they are free of elevators or escalators spoiling its natural beauty like some caverns. While walking sideways, down steps using hand rails and shimmying through narrow crevasses, the caves were different on each level. The tour gave me an idea of what the original explorers experienced, with the cave pathways kept as natural as possible. The cave Temperature remains a refreshing 45-50 degree. It felt fantastic with a long sleeve jacket.

The Black Hills Cavern is as majestic as it is huge with millions of rock formations that can be seen on one of their cave tours. The cavern offers many different types of crystals and formations to see — Popcorn Crystal, Frost Crystal, Stalactites, Soda Straw Stalagmites, Columns, Box Work, Cave Bacon  Dolomite, and the River of Ages is uniquely beautiful Flowstone. There are also fun natural formations that look like a chicken leg, a buffalo, even an alligator… so much to see! The Black Hills Caverns are well worth your time if you’re in the Black Hills area, are capable of climbing 250 steps and are wearing good shoes.

Forming Stalactites and Cave Bacon

Soda Straw Stalagmites

Dogtooth Crystals

Slippery, narrow passageway

Cave Bacon hanging from ceiling

Buffalo formation. The “eye” was created by early miners lantern soot.

Dust covered Frost Crystals

Wishing well near entrance of cave

Alligator rock

Example of early miner graffiti. This shows Ellis and his friends in 1937 prior to Ellis breaking both legs in the cavern. It took his friends 7 hours to get him out. He returned years later at 85 yr-old for a tour.

River of Ages formation created by Flowstone.

Chicken Leg rock.

Fun Facts: The Black Hills Caverns have a room called the chocolate room which is full of dolomite. Dolomite is a chalky natural substance used in Hershey bars. Also, due to the great flood of 1972 the crystal formations are covered in clay dust and not bright white as in the nearby Wonderland Cave. http://www.southdakotacaves.com/




  • Dad says on: August 13, 2017 at 8:28 am


    Really interesting. Like to have been there with you.

    • Tamara says on: August 13, 2017 at 5:03 pm


      That would have been nice. We’ve seen quite a few together. 🙂

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.