As our time here in Custer grows short, we're paying increasing attention to our "Bucket List" of things to see and do. On Tuesday, we visited Jewel Cave, said to be the second longest cave in the world, just behind Kentucky's Mammoth Cave. It is located thirteen miles west of Custer, and is several hundred feet below the visitor center and Hell Canyon. Discovered in 1900, Jewel Cave was designated a National Monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. At that time, only about one mile of the cave had been explored. Fifty years later, exploration of the cave began in earnest, and today more than 100 miles of the cave have been explored and mapped.
Jewel Cave is known for its calcite crystals. Many of the walls are covered by calcite crystal formations known as "nailhead spars." Crusts of calcite crystals cover many of the cave walls in crusts two to six inches thick. The following are images taken inside the cave. Many of the formations are relatively small....two to six feet in size....but lovely. Others cover the entire wall of the cave. They include not only nailhead spars, but "cave bacon," "flow stone," "cave draperies," stalagtites and stalagmites.