Monday, October 01, 2012

South Dakota, Wall Drug, and a Buffalo Jump

On September 14th, our third day of travel during our western vacation, we crossed the state of South Dakota and entered Wyoming. Although it was a day of driving, it wasn't difficult to find things of interest to photograph.

Scattered here and there throughout the South Dakota prairie are old abandoned buildings, looking lonely and forlorn on the rolling landscape.


The South Dakota scenery is unique in its beauty. Much of the gently rolling terrain is covered with gorgeous golden wheat fields. At this time of year, most of the wheat had already been harvested, but many of the fields we saw still contained the large round bales of straw.


It's nearly 300 miles (482 km) from Mitchell, SD, where we had stayed the night before, to Rapid City, SD, on the western border of the state. In between, there are no towns of significant size. For miles and miles, as you drive across the state, there are signs advertising Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, until you just think you HAVE to stop there or you'll miss something exciting.

Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought we HAD to stop at Wall Drug.

Inside of Wall Drug

Inside Wall Drug, there are shops of all kinds, as well as an assortment of eateries. There are mannequins positioned throughout the store, representing various historical and contemporary western figures. It's a colorful and interesting place to visit. And it helps to break up the monotony of the seemingly endless miles.

Shortly after crossing into the state of Wyoming on Interstate 90, we saw a sign advertising the Vore Buffalo Jump. So, of course, we had to stop.

Plains Indians depended upon buffalo for many of their material needs – food, shelter, clothing, tools, fuel, ceremonial objects, even toys. Prior to acquiring horses in the 18th century, hunting individual animals on foot with bows and arrows was difficult and dangerous.

Vore Buffalo Jump

Tribes from across the northern Plains used this natural sinkhole, now known as the Vore Buffalo Jump, to trap bison between 1500 A.D. and 1800 A.D. Huge volumes of bone and assorted artifacts have been held in place by the bowl shape of the sinkhole. Within the site are the butchered remnants of as many as 20,000 bison as well as thousands of chipped stone arrow points, knives, and other tools. The materials are contained within 22 cultural levels that extend downward to a depth of nearly 20 feet.


This building provides shelter for the University of Wyoming Field School archaeologists, who significantly expanded the excavation unit in the summer of 2011, as well as a boardwalk around the excavation and displays. The facilities were closed for the season when we were there, so we had no opportunity to view any of the artifacts.


Following the site’s discovery during construction of I-90 in the early 1970s, University of Wyoming archaeologists documented the exceptional quality and importance of the site in two summers of excavation. The family of Woodrow and Doris Vore donated the property to the non-profit Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation.
There are numerous buffalo jumps scattered throughout the American and Canadian west, but this is the first we've ever visited. It would have been a gruesome sight to witness, but it was necessary for the survival of the Indians who used this method of hunting.


  1. Very interesting. I've never heard of a buffalo jump. Of course the Indians had to catch them somehow before they had horses.

    1. Horses made it easier to hunt buffalo without using jumps, but having horses also made it easier to use jumps. The Vote site is nice and easy to get to, but there are a number of jump sites on the northern plains.

  2. That first shot made me gasp! The golden fields are really beautiful. This is minimalist photography at its best, imo, with that little shack and tree surrounded by all that golden wheat. Wall Drug looks interesting (at first I thought you were saying Wall Dung--too early for me I guess), and the sink hole where bison were trapped. Such interesting travels! You inspire me to get out and explore.

  3. your first photo needs to be enlarged and framed. and made into notecards. and, and, and, and... it is phenomenal. truly!

    i made that drive w/ my sister some 31 years ago. to this day, i remember all those wall drug signs. made me crazy! then they stuck a bumper sticker on our car while we were in their parking lot. :)

    i had not heard of the buffalo jump. what an amazing artifact site!

  4. I love those prairie scenes. Have heard a lot about Wall Drug and seen the signs,but never had a look inside. It sounds like an interesting place to visit.

  5. Linda! That first photos is absolutely stunning. I agree with Tex.. print it.. it's just amazing. The colours.. the barn and tree.. perfect.

    I had no idea about these jumps..

  6. What a fun area, I always stop at Cabellas in Mitchel

  7. We passed the Wall exit on our way home, but it was too early in the morning for the drugstore to be open. I've heard so much about it, that I would have wanted to stop if it had been open. Your picture of the Corn Palace at sunset is beautiful (as are your photos from the lake).

  8. Loved your pics Linda! Brought back wonderful memories of our Western Trip last year...but we totally missed the buffalo jumps! Hey, did you get your 5 cent coffee and FREE water at Wall Drug?

  9. Linda, at this point you've covered such a long distance and you're still on your way. I mistook the golden wheat in the first picture for sand, it sort of matched up with the shack. Great picture. And one wouldn't guess what's hidden inside of Wall Drug, every new visitor must be surprised when entering it.

    1. Petra, we drove over 5,000 miles (8047 km) on our trip. There are some vast distances in this country. I'm awed with every trip we take.

    2. A long trip indeed. You see, Linda, we have our historical buildings and you have your vast distances! :)

    3. Petra, you have a good point. :)


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