Rainy weather, and problems at nearby Jewel Cave National Monument, are being pointed to as the reason for the largest visitor turnout at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota since August 10, 1975.
Fifteen extra tours were put in to handle the heavy traffic on July 12, park officials reported. Along with the damp weather, another factor thought to be behind the turnout was the temporary closure of the Scenic Cave Tour at Jewel Cave due to elevator problems.
“Tuesdays and rainy days are always our busiest days and when they both happen in July, we know we’re going to be busy,” said Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila. “Our staff knew, as soon the clouds and cooler weather moved in, we would have a big day. We just didn’t know how big.”
The park normally schedules 30 cave tours a day in the summer time. With all the extra tours that were put in to handle the heavy visitor traffic, the park gave a total of 45 tours Tuesday.
“We couldn’t have done this without the cooperation of the interpretive staff at Jewel Cave,” Superintendent Davila added. “They have been sending rangers over to help lead tours here while work continues on fixing their elevators. Hundreds of people were able to see the cave yesterday because of their help.”
Despite the big day, year-to-date visitation figures show a drop of around 4 percent over last year, which was the park’s busiest year since 1977.
Tours begin at 8:40 a.m. at Wind Cave and the last tour is at 6 p.m. Visitors are reminded to come early, bring a light coat or sweater, and wear good walking shoes. For more information, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/wica.