Author Topic: Medicine Rocks State Park  (Read 229 times)

Bogus Jim

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Medicine Rocks State Park
« on: August 11, 2019, 09:34:31 PM »
About a week ago, on an Iron Butt training ride  ;D , I found myself near the intersection of the North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana state borders. Some of you have probably been to the Four Corners Monument, where the Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico state borders meet.

I wondered if there might be some type of monument or marker at the ND/SD/MT intersection. After all, 3 states is only 1 less than 4. But alas, there is no monument; just 3 hay fields, each lying in their respective states.

After returning home from the ride, and zooming out a bit on Google Earth, I noticed something interesting near that intersection - Medicine Rocks State Park in Montana, a park I didn’t even know existed. The wikipedia entry piqued my interest, and the next weekend, I set out to explore the park.

7am Saturday, I set out on my usual north route out of town. Although skies were clear in Rapid City, I was surprised to run into thick fog only 3 miles north of town.

In the low areas (fortunately there weren’t many), visibility was limited to about 40 yards. My biggest fear in heavy fog is someone blowing through a country intersection… you can’t see or hear them until it’s too late. I held my speed to 30 mph and after about 25 miles I was out of the fog.

Crossing highway 34, I headed north of Union Center. Skies were now clear and the sun was out. Shaping up to be a good day in beautiful South Dakota.

I crossed Highway 212 and continued north on Bixby Road. Bixby is a narrow paved two lane with little traffic, one of many great motorcycle roads in South Dakota. Upon reaching Highway 20, I headed west towards Reva, and stopped at the Slim Buttes Battle Monument.

There are 3 headstones at the monument. It’s not clear to me if the soldiers were actually buried here, or if the headstones were placed later when the monument was constructed.

On the back of this monument, there’s a plaque with some information on the battle of Slim Buttes. Crazy Horse and General George Crook were central figures in this battle.

The monument is just south of Highway 20. If you’re an adventure rider, you can traverse the rutted trail and ride right up to the monument. If you’re strictly a Harley rider, continue west to the nearest bar in Buffalo, SD.

I fueled up in Buffalo, and headed west towards Camp Crook (the town is named after General Crook). Here’s the lonely highway heading towards Camp Crook.

At Camp Crook, I headed north again on county road 867. 867 is a 1 1/2 lane rough paved road with no paint markings and enough potholes to keep you awake. Another really fun motorcycle road. At the North Dakota border, it turns to gravel.

After reaching the North Dakota border, my planned route called for crossing west into Montana on a road called Big Gumbo. But it appeared that all the gravel roads had been renamed to street numbers (probably due to oil drilling activity) and Big Gumbo was nowhere in sight. Even worse, I had not loaded my GPS with maps for North Dakota or Montana.

Oil wells are thick as weeds in this area, and the plethora of spur roads and feeders quickly turned frustrating as I tried to find the correct main road. From studying the maps the previous night, I knew my turnoff was between 5 and 20 miles north of the North Dakota border, so through trial and error I eventually found my planned route into Montana.

This small sign on a cattle guard was a welcome sight. I continued west and eventually came out on Montana Highway 7, which runs past Medicine Rocks State Park.

Finally arriving at the park… here’s the entrance sign.

Some of the rock formations are on private land, north of the park and also east of Highway 7. I did not explore these.

The shadows in the sunlight play some strange tricks on these rocks. By standing in a certain location, I could see a devil’s face on this rock… in the far left of the photo, the devil’s horns are pointed up and the hook nose is pointing to the right of the photo. The devil’s face is looking towards the right of the photo.

Several of the rocks have holes completely though them.

Here’s another rock… standing in just the right location, I could see several faces here. The top of the rock has a horse’s head, mouth open facing left, teeth just touching the tallest part of the tree. Underneath the horse’s head is a tortoise shell and head. And just underneath the tortoise’s head, there appears to be some type of ghost face looking right at you. What’s weird is you could move left or right a dozen feet and the faces would disappear. A trick of the shadows.

On the upper left of this rock, I see a large monkey’s face… two eyes, two nostrils, and mouth slightly curved downward.

The top middle part of this rock looks like a dragon head, or maybe some type of large cat.

This was one of the largest rocks. To give you an idea of the scale, the pine trees in the foreground were well above my head. I’d estimate this rock to be 50-60 feet high.

Another large rock. I didn’t see any faces on this one.

Looking towards the sun.

I climbed into one of the holes in the rock and took this silhouette photo.

I spent about 45 minutes hiking in the park and taking photos, and I’d estimate I saw about 60% of the park. There are 12 campsites, two hydrants with potable water, and toilets.

So was it worth it? Well I wouldn’t make a special trip, but if you happen to be near that part of the country, it might be worth a look-see. Traveling north of Hulett, Wyoming, you can reach the park entirely on pavement. Traveling from Camp Crook, you will need to ride a fair amount of gravel (easy gravel, at least when it’s dry).

Supposedly there are ancient hieroglyphics at this site, but I didn’t see anything other than vandalism, unfortunately. I suspect the remaining hieroglyphics, if any, are probably on private property. Vandalism seems to be common at these sandstone sites, perhaps because the rock is easy to carve.

So with that, I headed south to Hulett and back to Rapid. The final tally was 493 miles, 4 states, and 11.5 hours (including the time I spent lost). Another fun ride in this place we call western South Dakota.

Lonesome Dave

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Re: Medicine Rocks State Park
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2019, 09:54:15 PM »
That was a great write up.  Well done.  And, I should have gone with you.
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Re: Medicine Rocks State Park
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2019, 02:37:22 PM »
Thanks for sharing, this is great!
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Re: Medicine Rocks State Park
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2019, 03:57:41 PM »
very nice!
stupid is my middle name, but my first name is Mike


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Re: Medicine Rocks State Park
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2019, 04:41:05 PM »
Bravo!!!!!! I drove past there 4 times in the last 5 days, and wondered if I should have stopped to check it out. I enjoyed the cliff notes version.
"You don't know how fast you can go till you crash"