Montana Medicine

Saturday, we drove three hours to Medicine Rocks State Park in Montana. Think of it as prep work for our upcoming road trip!

A coworker at Ye Olde Publishing Company told me about this place last year, wooing me with pictures of cool rock formations and carvings. To say it’s off the beaten path is an understatement; we saw no more than half a dozen cars during one hour-long stretch driving down the two-lane Hwy. 323. No wonder this place is such a well-kept secret.

Medicine Rocks got its name because it was considered a sacred place by the Plains Indians. An ancient river once flowed through the area, depositing sand and sediment from the Rocky Mountains. Over time, this fine-grained sand compacted into sandstone. Weather and erosion carved the rocks into unique structures with arches, caves, columns, holes, pillars, and flat-topped towers. Some are as tall as 80 feet.

“As fantastically beautiful a place as I have ever seen.”

Theodore Roosevelt

The really cool thing about Medicine Rocks is the carvings that date back over a century. The park was a popular weekend getaway with locals in the 1910s and ’20s, and many of these folks carved their names and drawings into the soft sandstone. This practice continues to the present day, though it’s technically illegal to deface the rocks now. We saw carvings dating as far back as 1901 and as recent as 2020.

We left shortly after 7 a.m. and got back home about 12 hours later, so it was a full day. But that also included a stop in a ghost town (that’ll be a future post) and dinner in Spearfish.

This was all pretty much a last-minute idea. You might recall that my parents had originally planned to visit this weekend, but changed their minds when they saw snow in the forecast. Well, it did end up snowing on Thursday, but the ground was warm so we didn’t even end up with an inch…and that melted Friday morning. But it was probably a good decision on their part after all, because another storm is moving in this evening. Because the bulk of precipitation will be falling overnight and it’s a colder system, they’re expecting several inches by tomorrow morning—which is the same time I would have been driving them to the airport.

The craziest thing of all? Right now it’s 62º.

Categories: Travel

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16 replies

  1. A post devoted to rocks! Most excellent. Looks like my kind of place…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lovely pics, fabulous etchings and trip.
    Congrats on 400 followers

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that folks defaced a sacred Native American site. Sad, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree with you, but I also think Bijoux has a good point. I don’t mind the 100 year-old “graffiti,” but the more recent stuff bugs me. Which is funny, because in another 100 years, that will be considered ancient.


  4. That looks like a really neat place. The carvings remind me of Newspaper Rock in the Canyonlands NP in Utah. Indigenous people defaced rocks, too🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting place to visit. I like your photos and the history behind them. Your weather patterns are dramatic. I think we have fluctuations but they’re nothing like yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great, fun adventure!

    (I know I’m way behind on your posts. I’m going to pretend you noticed. Or care.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a fantastic day trip! Well, a LONG day trip, but obviously it was well worth it for those images.
    Snow? *checks calendar, yes it’s April*
    I’ve yet to visit Montana, but we did visit Arches National Park many years ago and the rock formations were breathtaking, much like your views on this trip.

    Liked by 1 person

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