Rushmore Cave is located six miles east of Mount Rushmore Memorial in the town of Keystone, South Dakota. Nestled in the Black Hills, Rushmore Cave is the most extensive stalactite cave in the area.
In the 1870s, the site of Rushmore Cave was home to Professor Walter Jenny. While living in the area, Professor Jenny reported discoveries of gold entangled in plant roots. The news of Professor Jenny’s finding quickly reached prospectors, and mining began in the area.
Rushmore Cave was discovered in 1876 by gold miners following an ore vein. Tours of the cave began in 1927, and the cave remained a modest tourist attraction until Lester and Ruth Pullen purchased it in 1950.
From 1950-1952, Ruth and Lester worked tirelessly to fulfill their dream of owning and operating a tourist attraction. Ruth and Lester graded roads, enlarged the cave entrance, added steps and walkways, and painted signs. In 1952, the Pullens’ vision came to fruition when they began offering tours of Rushmore Cave. Today, Rushmore Cave remains in the Pullen family; Ruth and Lester’s children and grandchildren manage the cave’s operations, and continue the family legacy.
The unique geological factors of the Black Hills region led to the formation of some of the most beautiful caves in the world. Most caves in the area are formed in a layer of pahasapa limestone, dating back 330 and 360 million years ago. Rich in minerals and ores, pahasapa limestone produces spectacular colors and formations when corroded by water and oxidized.
Rushmore Cave is coated with beautiful stalactite, stalagmite, helectite, column, and ribbon formations. The most spectacular portion of the cave is referred to as the “Big Room.” The Big Room contains more stalactites in one room than any other touring cave in the Black Hills. Rushmore Cave is also home to the largest column formation in the region.
During the summer months, a tour of Rushmore Cave, with its crisp, consistent temperature of 58 degrees, is a great way to escape from the searing heat of the day. Tours are available from May through October. The one-hour tour can be walked at a slow pace and involves only modest stair climbing, making it suitable for all fitness levels. The cave is well lit, and handrails are available. Portions of the cave are wheelchair-accessible.
While in the area, visitors are sure to enjoy Mount Rushmore Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial, both of which are within easy driving distance from Rushmore Cave.