Rare cave preserve founded in Black Hills

Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 12:21 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - South Dakota is home to some of the longest-known cave systems in the world. Thanks to the collaboration between two cave exploration groups, it is now home to one of the few cave preserves in the United States.

Black Hills Cave and Nature Conservancy (BHCNC) announced the formation of the Dahm Springs Preserve, a 46-acre canyon that hosts seven caverns a few miles west of Rapid City, including the mile-long Brooks Cave.

The cavern network, which lies near Dark Canyon, is also home to the similarly-named Dahm Spring Cave. Renowned by local spelunkers as a “jewel box,” the cave is lined with unique stone formations and beautiful “cave draperies” - curtain-like mineral deposits.

Some caves also contain delicate fossils and rare bacteria used to research novel antibiotics, which is partly why the conservation organization chose to protect the region.

BHCNC partnered with the National Speleological Society (NSS) to create the the Dahm Springs Preserve. The BHCNC will be responsible for generating funds for and maintaining the region.

The cave system is only the second NSS-registered preserve in the western U.S.

Adam Weaver, NSS vice president, is optimistic about the joint venture: ”this is kind of a story about how a small group of people has made a permanent impact upon the landscape here ... I mean, it’s a significant thing because it’s a permanent thing.”

As above, so below, the cavers say: BHCNC’s preserve will protect the forest above the caves as well.

BHCNC spokesperson Rene Ohms says there is uncommon flora above the caves that requires study and protection.

”There’s also really unusual vegetation and we’re working with a botanist to do a botanical survey of the preserve, because what we’re really all about is preserving caves and nature” Ohms says.

Marilyn Borgeson, the former landowner, provided the area as part of a purchase-donation agreement to the conservation group. Paha Sapa Grotto, BHCNC’s parent organization and local caving group, has worked with Borgeson since 1984 to protect the caves. Brooks Cave’s proximity to Rapid City leaves it vulnerable to graffiti artists and littering.

The conservation group has raised half of their $350,000 goal to pay for the preserve and related maintenance fees. For more information on ways to donate, visit BHCNC’s donation page.

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