Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site
Medicine Lodge State
Randall Chapman | July 24th, 2018 | Travel
My fascination with rock art began just a few years ago when I started working on a hiking guidebook to the Grand Junction Area. I lived in GJ for about 10 years before I discovered that there was a lot of rock art left behind by the Freemont tribes and later the Ute and possibly some other tribes. I had heard about the art and had been to several other locations such as News Paper Rock and Capital Reef but something about hiking out to these remote locations sparked my imagination. Since then I have sought out locations with rock art and tried to research the natives that left them behind.
As I traveled north from Colorado to Billings Montana to meet up with my brother for a week of exploration I stopped off for a few nights at the Ten Sleep Rock Ranch. The ranch sits at the mouth of Ten Sleep Canyon on the west side of the Bighorn Mountains. My Friends Louie and Valery moved here a little over a year ago and started a climber’s campground complete with showers, WiFi, cabins, and most other amenities you would expect to find in a modern campground.
As I left the Ranch I headed north to a place called the Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site, a small state park and campground where evidence of early man going back about 10,000 years has been found. The site is a small cliffside about 750ft long and around 25-35ft tall with an overhang of rock at the top that has protected the rock art over the millennia. Now there is no known way to date rock art but archaeologists have found arrow heads and other artifacts that give a better picture of how long ago early natives were active in the area. It is highly unlikely that any of the rock art is more than a few thousand years old but it is likely that there was older art that has faded away and new art carved over top of it.
This seemed to be a popular camp ground for petrol sports enthusiasts. If you wanted to go here just to see the artifacts it would take about an hour or two to see everything. The main feature is the cliff band with all the rock art but there is also a cabin with some interpretive signs and some of the arrow heads that were found here. As you approach the cliff band you’ll see a row of signs on the ground that demonstrate how old the oldest artifacts found here are using different historic events. It helps put it all into perspective. There was a flyer at the center of the wall that gave information on the different panels going from left to right. By the flyer there were 10 panels all left by different people. From here you can also pick up another flyer and hike a short trail and learn about the local plant life.
If you’re into rock art this place is a must see, even if you’re not it’s worth a drive up if you’re in the area. I don’t think I would go too far out my way to see it but if you’re climbing in Ten Sleep Canyon and/or staying at the Ten Sleep Rock Ranch I’d say it’s a must on one of your rest days.
These are just a few of the pictures that I took, for more pictures check out our album on Facebook!