Medicine Rocks
Posted by Hal Neumann (+10307) 13 years ago
Federal Writers' Project (MT), and Montana Department of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry. MONTANA: A STATE GUIDE BOOK (New York: Hastings House, 1946, (c)1939). Page 365.


Left from Baker on State 7, an improved road, into the least developed part of Montana's plains. Badlands make up one-fourth of the region; side roads are twin tracks in the dust when the weather is dry, ribbons of greasy mud when it is wet. Many of the people living here dwell in makeshift shacks or in dugouts along shadeless streambanks; modern comforts are almost unknown. The available water has an unpleasant taste, and is so hard that it can be used for washing only with difficulty.

Most of the country is a rolling plain best suited to livestock production, but some crops are grown. Hills in the ordinary sense are rare, but rocky heights rise abruptly from the plain, affording a series of views of amazing sweep. The layers of sandstone, shale, clay, and various sedimentary materials enclose a wealth of fossils. It is a strange region, isolated and rude, but fascinating.

At 8.4 m. is the junction with a dirt road; L. here 10 m. to the 101 RANCH, established by the Standard Cattle Company of Texas in 1888 when new range was sought in the Northwest. Several herds of longhorn cattle, each containing 3,000 or 4,000 head, left Texas in the spring and arrived in the North in October. The 101 was the steer ranch; the stock or calf ranch was in Wyoming, where the herds wintered after the long summer on the trail. Each spring 30,000 two-year-olds were driven into Montana from the calf ranch; at autumn roundup time they were driven from the 101 Ranch to Wibaux for shipment to Chicago stock markets. The 101 brand is still used but the ranch is much reduced in size. Of the early improvements only the corrals remain.

On State 7 at the approach to a bridge, 28.1 m., is the junction with a dirt road; R. here 3.4 m. to MEDICINE ROCKS, described by Theodore Roosevelt as "fantastically beautiful." Some of these strange sandstone buttes, which cover about one square mile, tower as sharp peaks or ridges 80 feet above low, sandy hills. Others have flat tops 25 to 200 feet wide. Eroded by wind and rain, they exhibit a confusion of spirals, columns, archways, caves, escarpments, and pyramids. In strong sunlight the rocky buttresses appear chalky white above the flowing sands; in moonlight they have the splendor of molten silver. The crannies in the rocks appear gray against the white, intensely black against the silver, and the whole has an effect of eerie unreality. The name of the rocks comes down from a time when Indian medicine men circled among them in weird ritual dances. Until white men came, several of the buttes bore Indian inscriptions. Among the names later carved on the sandstone is that of Theodore Roosevelt, whose stock ranch at Medora, N. D., was only a day's ride away.
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Rock of Ages
By Brett French
July-August 2005

It's a place where "the spirits stayed and the medicine men prayed," this site of unusual formations of sandstone jutting 50 feet above the surrounding sage- and pine-spackled prairie.

It's a place where visitors can imagine other-worldly voices in the sound of wind sighing through pine boughs and floating among cathedral-like rocks. In an increasingly noisy and jarring world of car alarms, diesel engines, and blaring TVs, Medicine Rocks State Park in eastern Montana's Carter County still speaks in the hushed tones of ancient times. . . .

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Medicine Rocks State Park
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Related Readings:

Carter County Geological Society. SHIFTING SCENES: A HISTORY OF CARTER COUNTY, MONTANA (Ekalaka, MT: Carter County Geological Society, 1978-1986).

Armstrong, James Bell, 1888-1971. BEDDING THE DRAGS (Missoula, University of Montana, 1972).
Posted by Stone (+1588) 13 years ago
Thanks Hal, good stuff as always.