WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, S.D. (KELO) — Less than an hour drive from the famous faces of Mount Rushmore and situated beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the longest and most complex caves in the world.
Wind Cave National Park is believed to be the seventh-longest cave in the world and it was thurst into the national spotlight on Thursday night lighting up social media.
Here’s how it happened: Leading up to Thursday’s PBS Newshour/Politico debate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg began leading polls in Iowa. This made him a target, especially among the other frontrunners.
At one point in the debate, a clash between Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren took place over how their campaigns are being funded. Buttigieg was being criticized for holding a fundraiser in Napa, California. The fundraiser was held in a “wine cave” with big-money donors.
Warren seized on that and attacked the South Bend, Indiana mayor. The two went back and forth for nearly three minutes when Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) jumped in.
“I came here to make a case for progress and I have never even been to a wine cave,” Klobuchar said. “I’ve been to the Wind Cave in South Dakota.”
She told the audience in Los Angeles and just over 6 million people watching at home to go visit the national park.
Immediately, interest for the park spiked on Google and social media.
Even South Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives chimed in.
So, is the park ready for a bunch of tourists to tour the cave? Right now you can’t go in the cave. It has been closed to tours since July when the elevator broke.
A park spokesperson told KELOLAND News that they hope to have it repaired by late winter or early spring. He wasn’t able to comment about the attention from the debate.
They do want tourists to know that the visitor’s center is still open and a large amount of wildlife, including a rare free-range bison herd, roam the park’s nearly 34,000 acres above ground.
Below ground remains quite a mystery. So far, 152 miles of the cave has been discovered and park officials believe there is more to be found.
The discoveries of Wind Cave are not without danger.
South Dakota is well known for its National Parks from Mount Rushmore to Badlands National Park. However, fewer tourists make the trip to the park in Custer County.
It still helps stimulate the surrounding economy, according to National Park Service data. In 2018, the park spurred $66.6 million in visitor spending and just over 1,000 jobs to the area.