In 1906, Congress passed the Antiquities Act, which allowed the president to create National Monuments, as opposed to National Parks, which could only be created by Congress. The act was intended to allow for quick protection of land, particularly to allow the government to protect archeological sites that were being looted by pot hunters. It was the second step, after the invention of National Parks, in the creation of a system that would still not have its own managing agency until the Park Service would be created ten years later in 1916. Concerning restrictions on the use of land, it was also the second step in a series of protections that would culminate in the Wilderness Act in 1964.
Jewel Cave National Monument was established by President Theodore Roosevelt on February 7, 1908 as the nation’s thirteenth National Monument. It was intended to protect what at the time was assumed to be a small, but distinctly beautiful cave. Jewel Cave now stands as the second longest on Earth at over 166 miles of explored passageways.
After our morning tour of Wind Cave, we had planned to do a couple short hikes and then visit Jewel Cave for the 2pm Scenic Tour. The unexpectedly busy tours at Wind Cave (particularly for a Monday after Labor Day) made us a little anxious about getting the tour we wanted that afternoon. (The ultimate plan was to come back to Wind Cave to do some hiking in the late afternoon.) So we started out on the 35-mile drive to Jewel Cave