Jewel Cave NM

The tours at Jewel Cave were first come first serve. There are four different types of tours: Scenic Tour, Discovery Talk, Historic Lantern Tour, Wild Caving Tour. The Scenic Tour was just over half a mile and lasted 1 hour 20 minutes which takes you through various chambers and views various formations. The Discovery Talk is 20 minutes, and you just go into the entrance of the cave. Since we were already signed up for the candlelight tour at Wind Cave NP, we decided against the Historic Lantern. And the Wild Caving Tour was similar at both Jewel Cave & Wind Cave. But at Jewel Cave they have a box in the courtyard that you can test out to see how you’d like the wild cave, it is 8.5″ by 24″ and we decided against that here as well. But!! I did try out the box and I do fit it in, more comfortably than I originally presumed. That being said, the tour that fit best in what we wanted was the Scenic Tour.

Our tour consisted of 723 stair steps along a 1/2 mile loop, starting from an elevator in the visitor’s center.  Below was the first type of “jewel” in Jewel Cave that we saw. It is nailhead spar which is a type of calcite crystals.

This is not a great picture of it, but below is a dogtooth spar, which is the other type of calcite crystal found in Jewel Cave NM.

There were many other cave formations we saw along there way. Here are some flowstone and a few other formations.

These are a number of cave formations called drapery.

Below is one of my FAVORITE cave formations it is a form of drapery called Cave Bacon!!

These are very close to Mules Ears.




  • 65-40 Million Years Ago – Black Hills uplift after massive geological event, which causes cracks in the sedimentary layer
  • 30 Million Years Ago – Jewel Cave begins forming in the Paha Sapa Limestone
  • June 1900 – Frank and Albert make the entrance to Jewel Cave by expanding a blowing hole they found
  • February 7, 1908 – Jewel Cave becomes the 13th National Monument
  • 1959-1979 – Herb & Jan Conn map 60+ miles of Jewel Cave

The cave was formed after water seeped into the cracks formed 65-40 million years ago which eventually dissolved the rocks. As the water is dissolving the rocks, the rooms and passages we now see was being formed. Eventually the water dried up and the formations started to form. Jewel Cave was named after the jewel-like formations called Nailhead Spar.

Animals at Jewel Cave: Little Brown Bat, Elk, Great Horned Owl, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Lion, Coyote, etc


  • Nine species of bat live in & around the cave entrance
  • Hibernating bats take refuge in the first 1,000 feet from the entrance
  • Cave is 49 degrees F year round
  • 193 miles mapped


The Smith Family

The Smith Family is from Minnesota, we met while my dad and I were on our way out of the National Park and they were on their way in. We had all stopped at the Wild Cave Box. This is a box that you need to be able to comfortably fit through in order to participate in the Wild Cave Tour. We started to chat about what I was doing and it was a pleasure meeting them!


Here is my dad and I in the Cave!

Some of the other formations I didn’t get pictures of were boxwork, cave popcorn, stalactites, and stalagmites.

After the cave tour we attended a ranger talk that was about bats!! Below is a picture of the 9 species of bat that live in and around the cave.

And of course, my picture of my Jr. Ranger badge and souvenirs and one of my doing the Ranger oath!

NEXT TIME at Jewel Cave NM: I would like to do the Historic Lantern Tour and the Wild Caving Tour.

One Reply to “Jewel Cave NM”

  1. Hi Emily!
    It was fun seeing this post …it brought back great memories of our own visit to the Cave!
    It was such a pleasure meeting both you and your dad that day and hearing about all your experiences.
    We we hope that the rest of your year long adventure goes well. I couldn’t remember when you were heading “back home.”

    Have a Merry Christmas!
    The Smiths

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