Ranger Don Frankfort Celebrates 50th Season During NPS Centennial


Seasonal Park Ranger Don Frankfort.  (NPS Photo) 

WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, SD – When New York City resident Don Frankfort received a telegram from Wind Cave National Park in 1967 offering him a summer job, he never realized it was a life-changing event. As the National Park Service celebrates its 100 anniversary this year, Ranger Frankfort is celebrating his golden anniversary working as a park ranger.

“When I first received an offer for a position at Wind Cave in April of 1967, I was somewhat disappointed. I was hoping for an offer from one of the larger and better known national parks,” said Ranger Don Frankfort. “However, I had wonderful experiences at Wind Cave in 1967 and 1968, and it was a joyous homecoming when I returned in May of 1970. I knew that this was the place I would always have to be.”

Other than one winter season at the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor over the winter of 1969 and 1970, Frankfort has worked 49 summers at Wind Cave National Park. During that time, he has seen the known length of the cave increase from 11 miles to the current length of 145 miles.

Frankfort said, “There have been many changes at Wind Cave over the years. One that I think is important is that we now manage and protect the park using extensive scientific research. Rather than protecting an individual bison, flower, or cave formation, we’ve learned to protect a larger entity, such as an ecosystem of connected resources in which the interrelationships are more complex than I ever imagined in 1967.”

Over the last five decades, Frankfort has led around 5,200 tours through the cave to more than 100,000 people, taught thousands of children in curriculum-based environmental education programs, and answered untold questions about his favorite place on, and under, the earth- Wind Cave.

“People might think I would be bored doing the same job and showing the same cave for almost 50 years, but 87% of our visitors are seeing Wind Cave for the first time. I still enjoy making the experience exciting, fun, and memorable for them,” said Frankfort.

Frankfort will be the featured speaker at a friends and employee reunion being held July 8 and 9 at Wind Cave National Park. For more information concerning the reunion and activities, visit

Categories: Custer, Custer County, National

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