January 23, 2017
Custer, SD – The elevator shafts and much of the related elevator system at Jewel Cave dates back to the construction of the visitor center in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Over the past 50 years, the elevators have witnessed thousands of trips up and down into the cave. Like any mechanical product, wear and tear has gradually occurred, and a proactive condition assessment is needed to ensure the best possible service for staff and guests.
Elevator technicians and park staff will be assessing the elevator shaft and related components starting on Monday, January 30. The assessment process is scheduled to conclude on Friday, February 10. Unfortunately, during this entire time, cave tours will not be available. This will help to facilitate the most expedient inspection and reduce additional closures in the future. Superintendent Bonnie Schwartz states, “Although cave tours will not occur during the assessment process, the visitor center will be open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Staff will be available and will provide visitors with informal and spontaneous interpretive talks and guided hikes or snowshoe walks, depending on the weather.”
This project is the first step toward determining whether a new elevator system is needed, or if updates to certain aspects of the system will provide long-term viability. The Monument has had some intermittent elevator issues in past years, which at times has caused a delay in visitor services. Furthermore, new technology is available which may create a more efficient system, enhance safety features, and offer energy savings.
Superintendent Schwartz continues, “Late January and early February are traditionally low in visitor numbers. We selected this time for the condition assessment in an effort to cause the least amount of disturbance to visitor access to the cave.” Beginning Saturday, February 11, Jewel Cave plans to offer tours seven days each week. A seven-day schedule in the off-season has not been available since 2012. Schwartz comments, “We are fortunate to have some incredible volunteers this winter that have been trained to lead cave tours. Once the elevator assessment is complete, visitors will have even more opportunities for programs and cave access on a daily basis.”
For more information, contact the visitor center at (605) 673-8300. Specific tour information can be found online at www.nps.gov/jeca. Interested visitors are also welcome to follow the Monument using social media at www.facebook.com/JewelCaveNPS or www.instagram.com/jewelcavenps.