BisonWind Cave National Park has just acquired an additional 5,555 acres of ranchland to add to the 30,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie and pine forest that comprises the park.  The Conservation Fund acquired this property at auction last year and held it until federal funds became available to transfer it to the Park Service.   Located on the southeastern edge of the park, the new acquisition includes a 1,000 year old buffalo jump – a cliff used by Native Americans to drive bison over to their deaths – and a homestead dating back to 1882.  The land also has Native American tipi rings and other cultural sites.  The Lakota consider this a sacred place, and it holds great potential for educating visitors about the indigenous peoples of South Dakota.

 

Wind Cave was set aside as the country’s eighth national park in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt.    It was the first cave ever designated as a national park, and is the world’s fifth-longest cave.   Wind Cave is known for its boxwork, an unusual cave formation composed of thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs.  Last year, 104,000 visitors toured Wind Cave, and with the new acquisition, those numbers are very likely to increase. Wind Cave is home to one of America’s most ecologically significant bison herds, dating back to bison relocated from the Bronx Zoo and Yellowstone in the early 20th century.   It is also home to elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, and prairie dogs.

 

The public planning process will begin this fall and will allow visitors and outside experts to experience and give their input on managing this new addition to the park.  A visitor access plan and environmental assessment will determine if and where hiking trails will be constructed, and will also address whether or not visitor service facilities are needed and if existing wildlife management plans are adequate.

 

Tracks & Trails offers a trip to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota that includes a visit to Wind Cave National Park.  Now there’s even more reason to plan that trip.  Call (800) 247-0970 for more information.

 

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