Monday was predicted to be a cold and rainy day, so we decided to go to Wind Cave. While we were waiting for our tour to start, Megan and I took a little walk outside to see the natural entrance. Do you see that tiny little black hole in the ground to the left of Megan? That's the natural entrance. I wasn't even sure Amelia would fit through it, much less an adult. Megan was fascinated by it, and that's what she remembers best about the cave and wants to tell everyone about. It's named Wind Cave because of the strong wind that blows either in or out of this hole based on the barometric pressure changes.
Wind Cave wasn't a particularly spectacular cave; it was mostly dry with no fancy speleothems. Instead, Wind Cave is noted for boxwork, which is formed when calcite leaches through cracks in teh limestone, and then the limestone is dissolved away over time, leaving thin sheets of calcite. We also saw some frostwork and popcorn.
The girls enjoyed being inside a cave; neither one had remembered being in a cave before, since it was probably three years ago that we went to Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin. They thought the boxwork was interesting, but mostly they seemed to like walking around through the rocks. Nathaniel fell asleep on the hour long cave tour, isn't he sweet?
This is the only photo we got near a National Park Service sign.
As we were leaving Wind Cave, we saw a prairie dog town, with prairie dogs right up by the side of the road. The girls, who had been extremely disappointed that the Wind Cave gift shop didn't have any prairie dogs left, were thrilled to see some real live prairie dogs.
After a picnic lunch, we drove down to Hot Springs to the Mammoth Site:
The first thing the girls checked on was whether there were any prairie dogs (just like Natalie and Noah's!) in the gift shop, but sadly, there were not. There was, however, a fun fossil dig set up for kids, that focused on teeth from different animals. Mammoths had quite distinctive molars. Everyone got in on the fun of digging for fossils in their own little roped off section of the dig.
I missed almost everything that the tour guide said about the Mammoth Site dig area, because Nathaniel was running around like a crazy person, so maybe Mom can fill in some interesting information in the comments section. It was cool to see how the dig was done; they chose to leave most of the fossils in place so that visitors could see how many different fossils were in the one area. The theory is that this area was a sinkhole where mammoths would come to get a drink of water. The bank was slippery, so the mammoths would fall in, and then they couldn't climb back out again, which explains why so many mammoth bones were found piled on top of each other in the same spot. When we got home that night, the girls played that they were mammoths falling off the bed onto the floor and trying to climb back onto the bed. It was really cute!
The photo below shows a nearly complete head and tusks:
Megan still says she wants to be a paleontologist when she grows up, so I think she enjoyed seeing the dig site.
Here are the girls posed by sculptures or cutouts of the Columbian mammoth, so that you can see how big they really were.
After the dig site, they had a little museum, which contained a caveman dwelling made of mammoth bones and covered in bison hides. It was amazing how huge the bones were close up.
Here are Mom and Dad posed in front of the mammoth skeleton. It is a lot easier to get a good photo of two cooperative adults than it is of small children.