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Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
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Boxwork at Wind Cave

 

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

Wind Cave, named for the revolving air exchange between the cave system and atmosphere, is noted for its boxwork, popcorn and frostwork formations as well as its many miles of maze-like passageways. Not only is this 132-mile (213 km) cave the third longest cave in the U.S. and fourth longest in the world it boasts 95% of the world's thin calcite fins called boxwork. Yet what makes Wind Cave National Park a true gem is the geology of the maze-cave system and the environment above. Limestone, gypsum (calcium sulfate), acid-rich water and lots of time - 300 million years give or take a few - have all contributed to the formation of this complex and unusual cave. Up top the cave sits a whole 'nother world. Wind Cave National Park is one of the few remaining mixed-grass prairies in the United States. The natural entrance of the cave, once referred to as the hole that blew air, is a sacred site of the Lakota Indians. What's more, the park is home to native wildlife such as bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes and prairie dogs.
Prairie Dog Facts
Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dogs

Alfredo De Simone

 

There are lots of fun facts about prairie dogs. Did you know that?

  • The prairie dog is not a member of the canine family but rather a type of squirrel.
  • Prairie dogs are found in Canada, Mexico and western U.S. They live in open grasslands and plains.
  • The prairie dog digs warrens of tunnels. And while they might seem haphazard these burrows aren't randomly built. Each chamber has a specific purpose: nursery, dormitory and even toilet.
  • Prairie dogs are herbivores - they eat grasses and flowering plants - but they will also eat insects when plant-life is scarce.
  • The prairie dog is diurnal meaning it is active during the day and rests at night.
  • Prairie dogs are gregarious animals that live in large colonies called towns.
  • The prairie dog makes a barking or yipping sound when communicating danger to its neighbors.
  • Prairie dogs are prey for a variety of birds and animals including ferrets, fox, eagles, hawks and badgers.
  • The prairie dog is considered a pest yet their massive tunnel system actually helps prevent runoff and erosion. What's more, some species of animals, such as bison and pronghorn, prefer to forage on grasslands weeded by these burrowing rodents.
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Travel Trivia
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