Named for the ubiquitous calcite crystals covering its walls, Jewel Cave is certainly a gem among Black Hills caves in more ways than one. It was the sparkling crystals that first attracted the attention of the Michaud brothers in 1900, but it is the wind, driven by barometric pressure changes, that draws cavers further into the depths of the unknown, even to this day.
The National Park Service manages Jewel Cave and the exploration program, which is currently one of the most active programs on earth. Cavers discover and map an average of 5 miles of new passages every year at Jewel, adding to the complexity and to our understanding of this giant cave system.
Cave trips at Jewel can last a few hours, or even a few days. These trips are physically and mentally demanding, and require training and dedication from volunteer explorers.
The vast majority of trips in Jewel are exploration trips, so knowledge of surveying techniques is certainly helpful. There are occasional management trips for photomonitoring, rescue-pack hauling, and maintaining the 20+ miles of flagged trails in the cave. There are also 8 established recreational routes that are used for introductory cave trips. Trip leaders can apply for permits from the park for any of these trips.