Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump

This is probably the most interesting thing I found in the Havre, Montana area on Wednesday.  As I was driving through town early Wednesday to get my bearings I saw this sign near the Best Western motel just west of the downtown district:

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When I first saw the term “Buffalo Jump,” and before going back for a picture of the sign, the first thing that entered my mind was a competition, like bull riding, to see who could make their bison jump the highest or furthest.  Of course that’s ridiculous and it turns out it is nothing like that at all.

This is the recently (1960’s) discovered area just west of town where several native American tribes drove buffalo off the steep cliffs overlooking the Milk River and slaughtered the injured bison for food and pelts. Wakpka Chu’gn (pronounced walk-paw-chew-gun) is derived from the Indian words for Milk River, which runs just north of Havre.  Other signs directed me a little further west, where I had seen a teepee and bison statue next to the road but didn’t realize the significance of it.

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That sign is in front of a strip mall, behind which the site was discovered.  Other sites nearby were inadvertently destroyed when the railroad ran a series of tracks just north of Havre and roughly parallel to the river.

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The site was open for regular tours during the summer months but since it is now past Labor Day it is open by appointment only.


Thursday is yet another travel day as I go from north-central Montana over to south-central North Dakota.  I will head east, a little over 300 miles on Highway 2, a 2-lane, 70 mile per hour highway to Williston, ND and will then take a series of smaller, scenic roads south, zig-zagging south and east to Bismarck.  I will lose another hour by crossing into the Central time zone but will be back in Mountain time briefly on Friday when I backtrack to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in extreme western North Dakota.  That Park, split in two parts, will have scenic loops in both halves so once again I am hoping to have some good photo ops.  I traveled 3 different directions from Havre on Wednesday and while it is pretty countryside there was nothing which particularly caught my eye.

I am hoping to see more examples of “strip cropping” like I saw last year.  The fields I have seen thus far in Montana have been fairly ordinary.

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