Friday, July 19, 2013

Madison Buffalo Jump

Our goal today was to explore the area between the I-90 freeway, and to the south, the Norris Highway, west of Bozeman. There is a large valley through which the Madison River flows, coming north up from Yellowstone. We ate lunch in Three Forks, then found the Madison Road heading down toward the Buffalo Jump. The valley is broad, and not quite as hilly and green as it is a little further south. We came upon this historic little cabin identified as that of George and Edna Wilcox, 1907-1940.

 The valley included several large ranches, populated by horses, cows, and crops. The backdrop here shows the cliffs rising up from the Madison River.

 We turned off onto the Greycliff Road hoping to get a look at the river. Free ranging cows looked at us reproachfully, seeming to claim the road as their own.

 The Madison River, wide and beautiful. I stuck my feet in and discovered it was almost warm, a surprise in this part of the country.

 After traveling for miles on a dusty, gravel road we finally came to the Jump.

From the State Parks website:
"Situated on the edge of a broad valley carved by the Madison River, this high limestone cliff was used by Native Americans for 2,000 years--ending as recently as 200 years ago. Native people stampeded vast herds of bison off this massive semicircular cliff, using them for food, clothing, shelter and provisions." I read at the Interpretive Center that Salish, Pend d'Oreille, Bannock, Crow and Blackfeet Indians all used this site.

 "Runners, highly skilled young men trained for speed and endurance, wore buffalo, antelope or wolf skins to lure bison to the "pishkun" or cliff. The buffalo jump was often the key to existence for native peoples. Although the introduction of horses led to the abandonment of this jump sometime after 1700, the rugged outcropping now serves as an inspiring monument to the region's early inhabitants." I was most impressed to read that the Indian women were the ones who skinned the bison, cut up the meat, dried it and also preserved the hide and many other parts of the bison, using almost the entire animal.

 Looking away from the "Jump" we gazed out onto the valley with a Montana mountain range in the distance completing the picture. The awesome landscapes all around us continue to amaze us. There is always something new to see in "Big Sky" country!


Char Hardt said...

Horses, huh? Guess that explains why they quit using this method. Can you imagine the coordination and planning it must have taken?

Randy and Pam Warner said...

Very interesting. We visited a much smaller and less noteworthy buffalo jump just across the border from SD in Wyoming a few years ago. I can't help being sad at what happened to the buffalo and the way of life it supported.
Beautiful pictures!