How Wind Cave National Park supports the area economy

Tourism is South Dakota’s second-largest industry generating about $361 million in 2022 alone.
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 6:25 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Tourism is South Dakota’s second-largest industry generating about $361 million in 2022. Wind Cave National Park generates a sizable portion of that revenue at about $53 million.

The National Park Service found that more than 600,000 visitors came to Wind Cave National Park in 2022. The money these visitors spent is enough to support 741 area jobs. The Chief of Interpretation at Wind Cave says revenue from visitor spending outweighs any money the park receives.

“For every dollar that Congress invests in national parks (it) adds ten dollars to the nation’s economy. So we’re a great place to come and visit to learn the story of the United States but also we’re strong economic drivers for gateway communities and the country as a whole,” said Tom Farrell.

Don Frankfort has seen the impact during his 55 years at the park and believes the best part of being a ranger is educating people.

“I think what’s important about providing this service is that you want people to leave with the sense of places like this matter... that there’s significance to these places whether it’s here or any national park unit that they should care about it. That it’s the kind of place where maybe their own children or even grandchildren will come back and visit because they have good memories of it,” said Frankfort.

It’s the memories, remembering past visits, and sharing with families that keep people coming back.

“Well they like to see the cave, it’s a unique area, it’s the 6th largest cave in the world and has a formation known as boxwork which is a honeycomb formation that hangs from the walls and the ceilings and this is where it was discovered. We have the best example of boxwork found anywhere in the world.”

Tours of the cave are currently suspended while the elevator is being repaired but Farrel says it should be completed by this Fall.