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They are also great places to learn about science and the stories of intrepid explorers.” More than 120 years ago, a teenager named Alvin Mc Donald, began exploring the deepest recesses of Wind Cave.

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For many, the subterranean labyrinths such as those found in the Black Hills have become one of the last frontiers on earth and a dark mystery in an uncharted terrain.

And remarkably, this ancient mountain range is home to the second and third longest caves in the country.

With more than 400 miles of surveyed passageways, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest cave system.

But, explorers starting mapping its passageways before the Civil War, decades before intrepid cavers started searching the Black Hills caves.

Everyone has a different reaction to caves, according to my friend Tom Farrell. “They're all a little different and each has their own story to tell.

Geologically, Wind Cave is famous for its length, complexity (it's probably the most complex maze cave in the world), and its boxwork cave formation.Fifty years later, cavers Herb and Jan Conn began a two decade-long exploration of Jewel Cave that logged more than 6,000 hours and 708 trips into the quiet darkness beneath the Black Hills.The Conns’ efforts revealed one of the most extensive and complex cave ecosystems in the world, laced with scientific wonders and scenery few humans had ever encountered.We live in an age when satellites have mapped the topography of the earth’s surface, from the summits of our tallest mountain peaks to the watery depths of our massive oceans.But, far below the ponderosa pine forests and alpine meadows of the Black Hills lies an underground wilderness so vast that contemporary explorers are only now beginning to understand its scope and complexity.Two of those that do – Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park – are found right here in the playground known as the Black Hills.

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