one of the most important archeological sites of the Late-Prehistoric Plains IndiansBrochure for Vore Buffalo Jump
One of the reasons we travel is to discover new places, new ideas, and new paths to understanding nature’s creatures. So, when we saw a sign in Wyoming showing us an exit to Vore Buffalo Jump, we simultaneously asked each other this question: “Know what a buffalo jump is?” Of course, the answer was negative, so Bert jerked the steering wheel to quickly take Exit 199 off I-90 near Beulah, Wyoming. “What have we got to lose?” he asked. And we were off.
A huge teepee, surrounded by wide open spaces and broad swaths of grasses, stood tall in the distance. Inside, information was laid out, but pictures weren’t allowed.
A buffalo jump, we learned, was a natural sinkhole used by various Indian tribes (from about 1550 to 1800) to trap bison. The buffalo would be herded by the Indians to points near the rim in order to force them into the sinkhole. Indians killed the trapped buffalo and later processed the meat and other bison products to sustain their tribes through the winter.
In the 1880s, the Vore family homesteaded in the area, farming part of the land and grazing livestock on the remainder. When the Wyoming Department of Transportation surveyed the lower part of Vore land to construct Interstate 90, they found this sinkhole on the property. Additional drilling uncovered a vast amount of buffalo bones, and the decision was made to move the intended route of I-90 further south to preserve the buffalo jump.
An excavation of the site also revealed layers of sediment, called “varves,” which (much like tree rings do in dating trees) have helped scientists estimate the dates and magnitude of buffalo jumps with amazing accuracy. It’s been estimated that the remnants of over 10,000 buffalo are contained within Vore Buffalo Jump as well as numerous pieces of knives, tools, and arrow points. So, studies conducted at Vore Buffalo Jump have been important ecologically and historically.
On the Vore site, visitors can look down into the sinkhole (now covered in grasses) and see a covered facility built for the work of archaeologists on the initial location. But unless you are fortunate to arrive at tour time, you may only see the roof of the building, as we did!
Even without a tour of the excavation site, you can see some of the tools, bones, and artifacts on display at the visitor center. And further research on the website for Vore Buffalo Jump will provide resources and information, like articles by Gene Cade of the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation.
Can we recommend a detour off I-90 to see Vore Buffalo Jump? You bet we can! It’s a chance to ponder what life was like in the 1500s when Native Americans prepared for harsh winters and to see a site that’s well preserved, continuing to offer a glimpse into another time.
Yes, travel can be educational. But fascinating as well.
Travel to learn,
Rusha & Bert