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“A let-down National Monument”

Jewel Cave National Monument
Ranked #9 of 39 things to do in Custer
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Jewel Cave National Monument is home to one of the longest caves in the world. Offering an assortment of cave formations and recreational opportunities, many visitors are truly amazed by this underground wilderness. Most impressive is the fact that exploration and discovery continue to take place at this significant natural resource. As part of the National Park Service, the Monument offers four different types of cave experiences: Scenic Tour (1 hour and 20 minutes), Discovery Talk (20 minutes) Historic Lantern Tour (1 hour and 45 minutes), and Wild Caving Tour (3 to 4 hours). NOTE: Reservations are available up to 90 days in advance and can be made online or through the Call Center of Black Hills Central Reservations. Tickets can also be purchased at the Monument on a first come first served basis. Please be advised that during the late spring, summer, and fall seasons, tour times often sell out by late morning.
Reviewed September 3, 2013

I first visited Jewel Cave NM in 1983 and was amazed by the jewel-like minerals in the cave walls (thus its name "Jewel" Cave).

In the 30 years since, the National Park Service has obviously skimped on maintaining the cave because the entire cave (at least the 1 hr 45 min tour) was grimy and dirty and I saw absolutely none of the jeweled cave minerals. The entire cave is coated with a dark, dirty grime from all the people who have visited it over the years. I asked the Ranger giving the tour (who was about 20 years old) why the walls were so dirty and she denied that there had ever been "jeweled" cave walls. This was obviously her first year at the monument.

A sad let-down. If you have been here before and loved the jeweled walls, stay away now. Keep your memories. You will only be hurt by what you see now.

Perhaps they need a new Park Superintendent, someone who actually cares about the cave.

Thank Jessica S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NPSParkRanger, Public Relations Manager at Jewel Cave National Monument, responded to this reviewResponded September 4, 2013

Dear Sir and/or Madam:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts related to Jewel Cave National Monument. As much as we value and respect the input of each visitor, we do not believe that your observations portray an accurate reflection of the Monument. And / Or, we are confused by your observations from 30 years ago as compared to your most recent tour.

The "jewel-like" crystals within Jewel Cave are made of calcite (mineral), which offers a variety of natural colors. White and creamy white do appear clean for the casual observer. There are other areas of calcite where the crystals are clear (colorless). Yet, there are sections of the cave which showcase drab white, burned orange, red, brown, and an assortment of Earth tone colors. The colors within the cave change quite often from one area to the next, sometimes dependent on the amount of water dripping or flowing over the rock ... which often consists of other minerals (staining).

Is it possible that you took part in a Scenic Tour in 1983 and perhaps took the Historic Lantern Tour most recently? The Scenic Tour is very beautiful and seems to complement your past observations. The Historic Lantern Tour is very dark (no electric lights) and does not offer as many "pretty" cave features. The Scenic Tour focuses on the exploration and discovery of Jewel Cave, while the Historic Lantern Tour provides a rustic and nostalgic experience.

It is important to note that this past week, a group of volunteers assisted the Resource Division in cleaning the cave ... mostly focused along the Scenic Tour route. They cleaned the lint tarps which are found underneath the walkways and platforms. And, staff and volunteers cleaned some prominent cave features along the route ... and, this task has been conducted on multiple occasions throughout the calendar year. You can be assured that we take great strides to preserve and protect the cave, and generations of visitors will witness the beauty of this underground resource well into the future.

Thank you again for your comments. We appreciate your feedback and hope that our reply addresses your concern / perceptions.

Best wishes,
Park Ranger

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a ReviewReviews (1,146)
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"scenic tour"
in 261 reviews
in 26 reviews
"longer tour"
in 26 reviews
"ranger guide"
in 29 reviews
"bring a jacket"
in 31 reviews
"minute tour"
in 35 reviews
"great tour"
in 43 reviews
"interesting formations"
in 21 reviews
"buy tickets"
in 20 reviews
"long tour"
in 14 reviews
"down stairs"
in 13 reviews
"tour tickets"
in 13 reviews
"ticket booth"
in 19 reviews
"visitor center"
in 68 reviews
"park ranger"
in 37 reviews
"make reservations"
in 16 reviews
"black hills"
in 70 reviews

833 - 837 of 1,146 reviews

Reviewed September 2, 2013

Glad we arrived in the morning, because the tours were almost booked for the whole day. Had we arrived later in the day we might have been turned away. The cave is cool - 46 degrees, so make sure to bring a jacket and I'd recommend wearing pants. We did the scenic tour, which could have moved at a bit faster pace, but overall was a great tour.

1  Thank blondeambition151
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 1, 2013 via mobile

We went to Jewel Cave in late August and decided on the Lantern Tour. We went in through the original cave opening. Once inside we had 2 options: Heavenly Tour or Devils Basement. Our group decided on the heavenly tour which was to be the "easier" option. It was a very unique experience going through a cave with only the lights from a few lanterns. Their was several narrow steep stair cases that we had to maneuver through. It was more intense then I expected, but very neat experience. Our guide Vance was very informative. I had no idea that Jewel cave was the 3rd longest cave system in the world. Would recommend to anyone looking for a cave tour outside the norm.

1  Thank ChrisMovick
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 30, 2013

Get there NO LATER than 9 am, earlier in July. In 2013, you look at the list of available tours and times and choose one you will attend the same day. You can't book or another day. There are about 30 spots a tour and you will be disappointed if you come too close to noon in the summer because the tours fill up quickly. Most people have to book for a later tour, so have a sightseeing back-up plan in case you can't get in within the hour. Consider going to the last tour of the day so you can go around nearby Custer.

For the money, I don't think the 20 minute tour is the best value. If this is your only choice because of timing or wanting to avoid a lot of stairs, consider just browsing the interesting visitors' center. If you are athletic, try the lamplight tour.

We took the 75 minute tour. There are sloping ramps and many short flights of stairs. The narrative is very entertaining. The cave itself is not breathtaking but as one of the longest in the world it is very interesting.

2  Thank RoadTrip19Mom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 29, 2013

We took the scenic tour which lasted about 1 1/2 hours. Although lots of steps it was well worth the workout. Our ranger guide was entertaining as well as informative about the cave explorations. Do not advise taking children under the age of 6. There is no touching and several very deep drop-offs. At times the path is quite narrow and dark.

Thank bpbikergirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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