Wind Cave to resume tours after 20-month hiatus
Written by Rapid City Journal
March 22, 2021

It's been a challenging 20 months for Wind Cave National Park, but after extensive repairs to its elevators and precautions taken for the COVID-19 pandemic public tours will resume Saturday, March 20th.

"We're excited about the opportunity to offer limited tours through Wind Cave beginning Saturday," Tom Farrell, chief of interpretation at Wind Cave, said Friday. "We've instituted safety measures both on the surface and in the cave for our visitors and staff. Chief among them is the requirement to wear masks in federal buildings and in the cave."

Farrell said tours will be limited to 50% capacity and leave the park's visitor center at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. through the spring, with an expanded schedule as summer approaches. Tickets will only be sold at the visitor center on a first-come, first-serve basis on the day of the tour.

"We will limit the amount of people on our tours to provide for social distancing once we are in the cave," Farrell said.

The initial tours will only be through the elevator entrance, which takes visitors 19 stories below the surface to the cave's interior. The walk-in entrance will be closed to avoid disturbing hibernating bats, Farrell said.

Wind Cave National Park's tours were canceled June 29, 2019, when a safety problem was identified in the elevators, forcing the shutdown. The elevators were repaired in December 2020, but then the world had also changed.

The National Park Service closed down all visitor centers and facilities in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After President Joe Biden signed a January executive order mandating the wearing of masks in federal facilities, Wind Cave National Park began planning to reopen its visitor center and hold cave tours.

"We've instituted those safety measures we've talked about and now we are back up and running," Farrell said.

Wind Cave Visitor Center reopened on Feb. 5.

Additional precautions were put in place after white-nose syndrome was confirmed in the cave's bats earlier this month. The disease is not harmful to humans or other species, but is deadly for the bats.

Farrell encourages all visitors to decontaminate caving, hiking gear and boots after visiting any cave. At Wind Cave, tour participants will be required to walk across a mat that contains hydrogen peroxide to kill any fungus on their shoes.



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