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First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

This state park is also known as Ulm Pishkun. It is located near Great Falls Montana and is considered  a "sacred place".  The park includes a visitor centre and interpretive trails. The site is one of the largest in the United States and the cliff is over a mile long. The vista from the top of the cliff is truly breathtaking.

 sign with information about the prairie dogs

Near the entrance to the park is a large area that really looks like an alien landscape. It is home to the prairie dogs and they have  a unique effect on the landscape.

The sign reads: Prairie dogs lived in a close relationship with the buffalo. Heavy grazing encouraged weed growth - the prairie dogs' food, and buffalo used towns for dust "wallows." Overgrazing by white man's cattle created more habitat or living area for "dogs," and they increased rapidly. Although millions have been destroyed since then, scattered towns remain.

These rodents fill an important role in the "prairie food chain," being prey for owls, hawks, eagles, coyotes, snakes and other predators.

 Prairie Dogs, belonging to the squirrel family, are social animals that live in "towns." Black tailed prairie dogs, found here, are most active during the day and warn each other with barks.

"Dog towns" range in size up to hundreds of acres. They dig in "tight" soil which won't cave in and average 20 to 40 entrances per acre. Burrows are usually 3 to 15 feet deep with nests in the deeper parts.

Included on the plaque is  a diagram of a burrow. Please note I have been faithful in reproducing the text on the sign even though I disagree with the punctuation.

Here is a prairie dog taking a look from the entrance to its burrow

This prairie dog was on alert as I came close enough to get the photograph.

 


Ulm Pishkun - Place Where Life Sings

The plaque above reads: 
Place Where LIfe Sings

Welcome to Ulm Pishkun, one of many buffalo jumps in Montana, where people and animals have come together, lived and died for 12,000 years.

Before you, the Missouri River swerves east toward the Mississippi. Behind you lies the Rocky Mountain Front Range, still bearing remnants of the Old North Trail, a trade route used for 12,000 years.

Between the Highwood Mountains to the east and the starkly noble Square Buttte on the southwestern horizon, bison gathered by the tens of thousands to feast on seasonal grasses. Where bison gathered so did Plains Indians, celebrating and hunting.  A buffalo Jump was an event of great excitement and thanksgiving.

The spirit of thankfulness still permeates this place. Many Native and non-native people find Ulm Pishkun very powerful. Please respect this sacred site and all the creatures who belong here.

Removal of artifacts from this site strictly prohibited.

 

photo of sign describing a buffalo runner

 The sign in the photo above reads:

Over the precipice!

A great buffalo runner often raced right over the cliff - with the stamped treacherously close behind - and jumped onto a safe ledge out of the way of the cascading horns and hooves. Even those animals who saw the cliff at the last minute were shoved over by the momentum of the racing herd.

Hunters with bows or spears waited below to finish off bison that were not killed in the fall.

As you hike along the cliffside trail, look for ledges where you would jump to safety if you were a buffalo runner. Would you ever do something that dangerous to feed your family or tribe?

Removal of artifacts from this site strictly prohibited

Please drive to the visitor center directly below the cliff.

 

close up of cliffs


Another view of the cliffs

Above is another view of the cliffs, off in the distance is the Horseshoe Bend Wind Farm

 The cliffs viewed from below

The above is a view of the cliffs taken from near the Visitor's center.

 



sign with a trailmap

The picture above describes the various creatures that inhabit this area.

A buffalo exhibit in the Visitor's center

A buffalo exhibit in the Visitor's Center