Spelunking in South Dakota's Rushmore Cave - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Spelunking in South Dakota's Rushmore Cave


NEAR KEYSTONE, SD (KTIV) -- Since the dawn of man, for some reason or another, people have been interested in caves. And while most of us choose not to call them home, they are a popular choice for an adventure.

NewsChannel 4's Kristie VerMulm takes us deep inside one discovered by gold miners back in 1876.

A trek inside a cave can open your eyes to an entirely different world not found above ground. This group winding its way through narrow passageways is learning the history behind Rushmore Cave.

"This room became a destination because it was the first room in the cave where they could stand up, walk and gather," says the cave's general manager Tom Hagen.

And the locals left their mark.

Hagen says, "If you live in Hayward, there was an expectation that at some point you were going to come out here, make that arduous journey, get back here and add your name to the rest of the town's rolls."

Tom Hagen, one of Rushmore Cave's owners, shares stories about the incredible colors found in every room. Red streaks indicate iron oxide.

And weaved through the limestone, a purple stain -- manganese. Even more impressive, the "Big Room" and more than a million stalactites on the ceiling. These icicle like formations come from water slowly leaching through the ground. Drip by drip, calcite collects and builds.

Hagen says, "What you're looking at quite literally is billions of drops of water and tens of thousands of years of creation."

Stalagmites form from the ground up. When the two meet they create a column. Hagen says this column is the largest of its kind known in any cave in the Black Hills.

If you're feeling brave and you're not claustrophobic, and want a little more adventure, you can book a special expedition in Rushmore cave to actually crawl into some of the crevices that are only about a foot wide.

Hagen says, "If you're someone who's smaller, and more adventuresome, and more aggressive, we can take you through another part of it and it's about 2 hours of crawling. And we show you some pretty neat things in there.

If crawling on your belly isn't for you, you'll still need to duck your head a few times on the regular tour. But if you want to learn about the past, Hagen says underground is the way to go.

Hagen says, "You're looking at things that have happened over millions of years. And when we think of that in context with our lives, we're just a blink in the eye of what's taken place here."

At its lowest point, Rushmore Cave is about 150 feet below ground. And the temperature year round is 58 degrees.

If you're wondering about critters, it's really not a problem there. Bats like cooler temperatures so you won't find any there.

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