Friends Of Wind Cave NP

Friends of Wind Cave National Park . org

A nice article from Keven Woster – Partnerships Pay Off … a Place you Gotta See
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Here is a summary of some of our past public events:

June 2022: The Friends hosted a booth at the National Speleological Society convention in Rapid City for the week. Board members assisted with the booth and two members were on the convention planning committee and managed the registration.

January 2022: The Friends received a request to partially fund equipment for a camp in the cave for longer exploration trips. The request was approved.

August 2021: The Park conducted the annual wildlife survey.

July 2021: The Park reposts hosting 110 – 1200 visitors every day and the mask mandates are still in effect. The Park is planning to round up 50-100 two year old bison to transfer to the Tribes Conservation organization.

June 2021: Members of the Friends met at the Park to do cleanup along the 266 Road including removing the erosion control wattles.

Spring 2021: The elevators are up and running and tours are being done at 50% capacity due to covid. It appears that the Guard will no be able to do any work on the 266 Road this year due to covid as well.

November 2020: Wind Cave NP welcomed the new superintendent, Leigh Welling.

September 2020: Wind Cave NP held the annual park wide wildlife survey by volunteers.

August 2020: on the 13th the Friends hosted a volunteer work day to do some reseeding in the road shoulders and erosion control work.

Spring 2020: Due to Covid the Park visitor center and caver were closed and it was unsure if the National Guard would be able to do any work on the 266 Road due to Covid. The Park has contracted with a company to repair the elevators that have been out of order since last summer.

December: The Friends took part in the annual Christmas open house at the Park December 12, 2019. The Park held it’s annual bison roundup and fitted some with tracking collars so they can be tracked by satellite for research purposes and others were fitted with micro chips for research. Wind Cave held the celebration of the 150th mile of mapped cave. Park Superintendent Vidal Davila retired at the end of December.

June 2019: Most of the finish work on the 266 road was completed by the Missouri National Guard. The Friends played a critical role by providing the materials (gravel, riprap, and culverts).

April 2019: The Friends had a booth at the Hot Springs Spring Fling.

October 2018: The Friends funded a portion of the seeding expense along the 266 road on the Park section.

September 2018: The Friends joined the South Dakota Day of Giving even to be held in December for fundraising for non-profits. The Friends hosted a reception for the donors to the road project and the National Guard at the Camp Rapid in Rapid City.

June – August 2018: The National Guard held the Golden Coyote summer camp in the Park constructing the road from the Red Valley Road to the Park boundary at the Sanson Ranch. Materials for the construction were funded by the Friends fundraising efforts. There is still some work to be done and the Friends will fund annual maintenance on the road.

February 2018:
March 2018: The Friends progressed with the road project in purchasing materials and making plans with the SD National Guard to do the work

December 2017: The Friends attended the Wind Cave Christmas Open House and the employees Christmas party. Wind Cave NP was heavily impacted by a wildland fire that started in Custer State Park and move south across a portion of the park. There had been no snow and was very dry and windy so the fire burned uncontrolled for several days.

November 2017: The engineering firm for the 266 Road is hired and will have plans in place by April. The Board agreed to a membership in the Public Lands Association, an organization of cooperating associations and friends groups on public lands throughout the nation.

September 2017: The Friends hosted a guided Great Views Hike to the high point on the Sanson Ranch property on September 30th.

August 2017: The Friends had a booth at the Find Your Park event in Rapid City. The Friends installed a display in the visitor center with a donation box. Funds will go towards the road project leading in to the Sanson Ranch and buffalo jump are. Potential donors were given a tour of the Sanson Ranch and buffalo jump area.

April 2017: The Board began work on acquiring engineering drawings for the 266 Road project to reconstruct the road into the Sanson Ranch property to provide access to the buffalo jump site in the future.

March 2017: The Friends took part in the Annual Spring Fling in Hot Springs. The Friends is providing prizes for the winners of the Hot Springs school video contest in the form of two Go Pro cameras.

December 2016: The Friends participated in the Christmas in the Hills event in Hot Springs and the annual Christmas open house at the Park.

November 2016: November 1st was the event designation the Bison as the National Mammal at Wind Cave NP and was attended by over 300 visitors. The Park conducted an elk hunt to cull the herd due to the chronic wasting disease.

 December 2016

The park’s celebration will wrap up in December, as the Centennial serves as the theme for this year’s Christmas in the Hills celebration. 

September 2016

     In recognition of National Public Lands Day, September 24, Wind Cave National Park joined many other federal sites across the nation to offer a work project for volunteers.  Members of Friends of Wind Cave National Park enjoyed helped at the Sanson Ranch bison jump site with the removal of seed heads of  invasive Mullein plants.  The weather was a perfect example of seasonal comfort and Friends and park staff enjoyed working comaraderie and successfully cleared the immediate area of most of this year’s Mullein seed heads.

August 2016

     August 25 marked the 100th anniversay of the National Park Service.  Friends of Wind Cave provided the cake and ice cream for the public “birthday party” at the park headquarters visitor center.  Friends also co-funded the performance of Gordie Pratt who appeared as singer/reenactor, Seth Bullock, famous old west character in the Black Hills and first superintendent of the park.  That evening program was well attended at the camp ground amphitheater and, again, Friends supplied cake and ice cream refreshments at the close of the celebration.  The American Solar Challenge is a college competition to design, build and drive solar powered cars in a cross-country time and distance rally event.  This year’s course will begin in Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio and travel 1800 miles through nine natinal parks before ending at Wind Cave on Saturday, August 6.

July 2016

A reunion of former and current employees and friends of the park occurred on Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9.  There were special events at the park ending with a banquet at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs Saturday night.

June 2016

     On consecutive Thursdays, June 16 and June 23, a group of Friends volunteers joined Wind Cave National Park staff to establish the first walking trail for interpreting the bison jump at the Sanson Ranch addition.  Natioanl Park Service archeologists assisted in assuring the trail did not impact sensative areas.  The volunteers then used weed eaters, rakes and other hand tools to physically create the winding walking path that created a semi-circular route from the historic ranch to the both base and top of the bison jump.

May 2016

 On Saturday, May 21, the park participated in the National Park Service-wide BioBlitz Weekend.  The focus of the Wind Cave BioBlitz was birds with volunteers focused on recording bird sightings, especially spring migrants.  Festivities included beginner and family bird walks, bird banding demonstrations, live raptors and a bird box construction workshop.  Species data from all BioBlitzes throughout the country were entered into a central “Base Station” and broadcast on a large screen on the Natinal Mall in Washington, D.C.

 April 2016 

The Park celebrated National Park Week April 16-24, with free tours.  South Dakota’s National Park Treasurers, through the Voices of Our Youth, partners area national parks with elementary school classes in Custer and Porcupine to work with Native American songwriter and performer Mr. Sequoia Crosswhite to write an original piece of music about each park.  The musical premiere occured on April 19 in Custer with a later performance in Porcupine.

July 25, 2015

Friends of Wind Cave National Park hosted a program and reception at the Park Visitor Center auditorium on the most recent findings at Persistence Cave.   The event attracted a standing room only crowd of nearly 100 persons.  The program detailed a collaboration of Park personnel and staff from the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs. 


 Friends of Wind Cave National Park and national park staff worked together for a two day event commemorating the successful reintroduction of bison to their native range at Wind Cave.   

On August 16 an evening program at the park visitor center filled TWO presentation rooms to overflowing, standing room only!  Attendees heard  Tom Farrell, Chief Of Interpretation, present “The Return of the Bison:  The decision that shaped Wind Cave National Park.  Following that audio/visual program, the award winning documentary “The Vanishing Prairie” was shown.

On August 17 a well attended interpretative hiking tour called “Exploring the Past:  A Visit to the Forgotten Wind Cave National Game Preserve” gave on site understanding to the century old efforts to reintroduce bison.

In Hot Springs, Friends of Wind Cave National Park organized a celebration event at the Mueller Civic Center.  From 10 am to 5 pm there was an outdoor artist fair with artists who honor the American Bison in their work.  Food vendors added to the atmosphere and displays and informal workshops were presented including authentic buffalo hide native craft, stone tool making and more. At 5:30 pm Susan Ricci, Director of the American Bison Museum, presented an educational historical lecture from the Mueller Center Stage.  

The days activities were highlighted with the evening performance of Grammy Music Awards entry Jack Gladstone.  Also known as Montana’s Blackfeet Troubadour, Jack traveled from far western Montana to entertain the theater crowd with a blend of story telling and original song.


Public Lands Day was commemorated with a joint work day activity, with Friends of Wind Cave National Park volunteers joining with National Park staff to make improvements on the new Sanson Ranch addition property.  The park provided equipment and transportation and Friends volunteers donned leather gloves.  The work group spent about 1/2 a day in strenuous labor removing three different sections of internal barbed wire fencing, removing all posts and rolling up wire.  Weather cooperated for a perfect event and the group was privileged to enjoy a brief stop atop the vista overlooking the entire new section of park. 

JULY 2012

Friends of Wind Cave National Park hosted the Sanson Ranch Celebration on July 7, 2012.  The event provided participants the chance to  experience the newest addition to Wind Cave National Park, the 5556 acre acquisiton of the Sanson Ranch.

Park personnel were on hand at the homestead era ranch to share various alternatives (still under development) for interpretation of the ranch additon to the park, taking addional formal input from the public.  Park rangers guided tours to the prehistoric buffalo jump just a short hike from the ranch, with tours throughout the day.  An additional hike of four miles duration was led to the highest point on the new property, offering spectaular views of the surroundings. All park led activities were free to the public.

About 200 participants enjoyed an authentic “chuck wagon” supper with the mouth watering flavors of the old west.  They reveled in the sounds of live western music while they dined, provided courtesy of the Ramblin Rangers musical duo, Brad and Bonne Exton.  The event was held under a “big top” tent and was capped by a vigorous, educational and highly entertaining performance by Teddy Roosevelt.   Teddy told of his life in the west and the “Big Idea” that established Wind Cave National Park in 1903.  Teddy was performed by premier re-enactor Joe Wiegand, a performer whose credentials include appearances at the White House.  The Sanson Ranch Celebration served as the inaugural fund raising event for Friends of Wind Cave National Park. 

Joe Wiegand is regarded as the premiere Theodore Roosevelt Reprisor in the country. In 2008, Wiegand was joined by his wife, daughter and golden retriever in a fifty state tour, highlighted by performances at Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace and at the White House. Wiegand is a political science graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and a former graduate assistant at the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. Joe is a Harry S Truman Scholar, a Thomas Watson Fellow and an active member of the National Association for Interpretation and Rotary International. Wiegand, who lives with his family in Sewanee, Tennessee, continues his national TR Tour with details at  (Photo credit

Authentic western dining, chuck wagon style

Brad and Bonnie Exton bring cowboy music alive!

Rangers conducted  guided tours to the nearby “buffalo jump.”

This historic ranch was the site of the “Sanson Ranch Celebration.”