Buffalo Jumps

Buffalo Jumps-Pounds & Kill Sites


Announcement: We have a Native Bison Skull that we need help in researching. Please take a look and let us know if you can help. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Native Painted Bison Skull.

Try Ancient Bison for more information.

Finding the First Americans: Archaeology and genetics can’t yet agree on when humans first arrived in the Americas. That’s good science and here’s why.

Native kill sites aren’t always a cliff or a rock formation left from the pre-settlement era. In the case of hunting in the more eastern states, they used fire. Hennepin had observed the practice in the Miami country southeast of Lake Michigan of firing the prairie to aid in hunting. “When they see a herd the Indians assemble in great numbers. They set fire to the grass all around these animals except for one passage left on purpose. There the Indians station themselves with their bows and arrows. The buffaloes, wanting to avoid the fire, are thus forced to pass by the Indians, who at times kill as many as a hundred and twenty of them in one day.”

Burning in the Red River Valley made a vivid impression on Alexander Henry in 1804. He noted:
“Plains burned in every direction and blind buffalo seen every moment wandering about. The poor beasts have all the hair singed off; even the skin in many places is shriveled up and terribly burned, and their eyes are swollen and closed fast. It was really pitiful to see them staggering about, sometimes running afoul of a large stone, at other times tumbling downhill and falling into creeks not yet frozen over. In one spot we found a whole herd lying dead. The fires having passed only yesterday these animals were still good and fresh and many of them exceedingly fat …. At sunset we arrived at the Indian camp, having made an extraordinary day’s ride and seen an incredible number of dead and dying, blind, lame, singed, and roasted buffalo.”


-Today we passed on the Stard. side the remains of a vast many mangled carcasses of Buffalow which had been driven over a precipice of 120 feet by the Indians and perished; the water appeared to have washed away a part of this immense pile of slaughter and still there remained the fragments of at least a hundred carcasses they created a most horrid stench. In this manner the Indians of the Missouri distroy vast herds of buffaloe at a stroke; for this purpose one of the most active and fleet young men is scelected and 〈being〉 disguised in a robe of buffaloe skin, having also the skin of the buffaloe’s head with the years and horns fastened on his head in form of a cap, thus caparisoned he places himself at a convenient distance between a herd of buffaloe and a precipice proper for the purpose, which happens in many places on this river for miles together; the other indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all shew themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffaloe; the disguised indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently nigh the buffaloe to be noticed by them when they take to flight and runing before them they follow him in full speede to the precepice, the cattle behind driving those in front over and seeing them go do not look or hesitate about following untill the whole are precipitated down the precepice forming one common mass of dead an mangled carcases; the 〈Indian〉 decoy in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranney or crivice of the clift which he had previously prepared for that purpose. the part of the decoy I am informed is extremely dangerous if they are not very fleet runers the buffaloe tread them under foot and crush them to death, and sometimes drive them over the precipice also, where they perish in common with the buffaloe. –

Organization of bison hunting at the Pleistocene/Holocene transition on the Plains of Jump DiagramNorth America written by Kristen Carlson, Leland Bement 2012 This paper focuses on the development of large-scale bison hunting across the North American Great Plains. Prehistoric hunters were not merely opportunistic. An understanding of topography, environment, bison behavior, and migration patterns was necessary to perform complex, large-scale bison kills. In turn, these kills required the existence of social complexity whereby multiple groups of hunters worked in unison toward a successful kill event. On the southern Plains of North America, evidence suggests large-scale bison hunting arose as mammoths and other megafauna became extinct 11,000 radiocarbon years ago. We review this evidence in light of new site discoveries. Texas Bonfire Shelter to Head Smashed in Canada. Read the full paper Carlson& LeLand Bement 2013 Q another paper LeLand shared with me Cooper Model of Folsom Bison LeLand Bement




Head-Smashed-In, Alberta, CanadaBuffalo Jumps - Head Smashed In

The buffalo jump was used for 5,500 years by the indigenous peoples of the plains to kill buffalo by driving them off the 11 metre (36 foot) high cliff. Before the late introduction of horses, the Blackfoot drove the buffalo from a grazing area in the Porcupine Hills about 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) west of the site to the “drive lanes”, lined by hundreds of cairns, by dressing up as coyotes and wolves. These specialized “buffalo runners” were young men trained in animal behavior to guide the buffalo into the drive lanes. Then, at full gallop, the buffalo would fall from the weight of the herd pressing behind them, breaking their legs and rendering them immobile. The cliff itself is about 300 metres (1000 feet) long, and at its highest point drops 10 metres into the valley below. The site was in use at least 6,000 years ago, and the bone deposits are 12 metres (39 feet) deep. After falling off the cliff, the buffalo carcasses were processed at a nearby camp.

The camp at the foot of the cliffs provided the people with everything they needed to process a buffalo carcass, including fresh water. The majority of the buffalo carcass was used for a variety of purposes, from tools made from the bone to the hide used to make dwellings and clothing. The importance of the site goes beyond just providing food and supplies. After a successful hunt, the wealth of food allowed the people to enjoy leisure time and pursue artistic and spiritual interests. This increased the cultural complexity of the society.

In Blackfoot, the name for the site is Estipah-skikikini-kots. According to legend, a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the buffalo plunge off the cliff from below but was buried underneath the falling buffalo. He was later found dead under the pile of carcasses, where he had his head smashed in.

World Heritage Site
Head-Smashed-In was abandoned in the 19th century after European contact. The site was first recorded by Europeans in the 1880s and first excavated by the American Museum of Natural History in 1938. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1968, a Provincial Historic Site in 1979, and a World Heritage Site in 1981.

The park was established as a World Heritage Site in 1981 for its testimony of prehistoric life and the customs of aboriginal people.

Legend of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”. Bison in Mythology and Religious Ritual. University of Calgary, the Applied History Research Group. 1997. Retrieved 2012-07-14. ^ UNESCO. “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump”. Retrieved 2006-01-10.

Some exciting news (Jan 13 2017) just published: Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside. Royal Alberta Museum archaeologists dug up a 1,600-year-old roasting pit at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta. This photo shows the preservation of the pit and plaster jacketing being started.

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

The roasting pit was first discovered in 1990, but archaeologists didn’t excavate it until last year, before packing it up and moving it to Edmonton. The oven was intact and still had a prepared meal inside, which could make it the only known artifact of its kind.



Oct 2015 FM Ranch Calgary

Two years after floods tore through communities across southern Alberta, archeologists are still exploring what was unearthed by the raging water.

At FM Ranch, an ancient bison jump just south of the Calgary city limits, the flood exposed “thousands and thousands” of bison bones, and significantly changed a major archaeological resource for the better.

“There’s no question we lost a lot (in the flood). But, there’s a silver lining in the fact the new exposures have revealed hundreds of previously undiscovered sites,” said Darryl Bereziuk, director of the archaeological survey unit of Alberta Culture and Tourism.

Students from the University of Calgary’s archeology department joined archaeologists with Alberta Culture and Tourism at the site on Thursday afternoon to excavate animal bones and artifacts including stone tools and ancient pottery.

“It’s really quite a fascinating and interesting spot,” Bereziuk said.

“You can stand there and envision a bison jump having occurred, with bison at the bottom of the slope and all the processing activities: bison butchering, boiling pits, stone toolmaking.”

Almost immediately after the 2013 flood, the province started getting calls from members of the public stating they’d found “bones hanging out” or unearthed stone tools along southern Alberta riverbanks.

The province launched a three-year archeological flood recovery program, and staff began following up on tips, surveying river banks, identifying what was lost, and scouring the new sites that have been revealed.

After flood waters walloped the FM Ranch site, citizens turned to a provincial website and phone number in droves to report new archeological discoveries.

“Of all the calls we’ve received through our Report a Find hotline, the FM Ranch site was by far the largest reported,” Bereziuk said.

At the site, flood waters exposed significant new deposits, and archeologists have spent the past two weeks assessing the site and excavating certain portions.

“The new exposures show that the site is so much larger than what we had originally protected. We’re trying to get a handle on how extensive the site deposits are so we can expand our protective boundaries,” Bereziuk said.

He said it’s important the protective boundaries around FM Ranch be expanded to prevent any kind of developments in the future from affecting the archeological sites.

“Archeological sites are extremely sensitive to both natural and cultural disturbances. It’s a non-renewable resource. We’re not making any new sites. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever,” he said.

“These sites, each of them preserve a record of the human history of Alberta that we’re really striving to save. It’s a legacy for all Albertans.”



Uncovering secrets: Ancient southern Alberta hunting site: published Jan 2015
We marvel at the secrets hidden in our backyard!

In the fall of 2012, the exhibit “Uncovering Secrets: Archaeology in Southern Alberta” highlighted 15 sites and features telling human stories found under the soils and across the landscape of the area. We will share these sites in monthly installments, beginning with an archaeological excavation on grazing land east of Lethbridge, which has uncovered an ancient hunting site dating back circa 2,500 years.

To help archaeologists determine the full story of artifacts, they need to study them where they were originally left and eventually buried. The site in question had previously been disturbed by human activity, making it critical for archaeologists to obtain a government permit in order to excavate undisturbed areas, before valuable information was lost forever.

Shawn Bubel, an archaeology professor at the University of Lethbridge, along with U of L and Red Crow College students, discovered that a group of hunters had killed at least 65 bison at this site. Stone tools and projectile points, thousands of animal bones and teeth, debris from tool-making processes, and fire-broken rock all indicated that the hunt would have taken place in the fall.

The shape of the Besant projectile points indicated hunters were using darts, a technological improvement over the spear. The shorter shafts, thrown with the aid of a throwing stick called an atlatl, made for a very efficient tool with increased accuracy and power. The majority of points were made from Knife River Flint quarried in North Dakota, and a few of Obsidian from the Yellowstone area, revealing travel to, or trade with, people in those areas. The fire-broken rock shows that at least some of the meat was processed on-site. Rocks heated in a fire were dropped into water boiling pits to extract grease from the animal bones. The grease was added to dried bison meat and possibly dried berries to make pemmican, easily stored for later consumption. Several unusual arrangements of bones were found placed vertically, in precise patterns, and are thought to have had a ceremonial function.

More information about this exhibit, including images, is available at http://www.galtmuseum.com.

Your old photos, documents, and artifacts might have historical value. Please contact Galt Museum & Archives for advice before destroying them.



Dry Island, Alberta, CanadaDry Island Alberta Canada

Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is a provincial park in Central Alberta, Canada, located about 103 km (64 mi) southeast of Red Deer and 16 km (9.9 mi) east of Trochu. The park is situated along the Red Deer River and features badlands topography. Its name derives from the large plateau in the middle of the park, 200 m (660 ft) above the Red Deer River, which has never been developed by humans and retains virgin prairie grasses.
The park is situated at an elevation ranging from 720 m (2,360 ft) to 875 m (2,871 ft) and has a surface of 34.5 km2 (13.3 sq mi).
The park is the site of an ancient buffalo jump, where Cree native people drove bison over the cliffs in large numbers to provide for their tribes. The hills also contain unique flora and fauna that are not found this far east of the Rocky Mountains in as large numbers as at Dry Island.

The park contains the most important Albertosaurus bone bed in the world, which was first discovered by Barnum Brown in 1910 and rediscovered by Dr. Phil Currie in 1997. The bone bed excavation was halted at the end of August 2005. Dr. Currie left the Royal Tyrrell Museum in October 2005 to become the Canada Research Chair with the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Alberta. Under university auspices, excavation at the bone bed has continued in the summers of 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation & Culture. “Activities in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park”. Retrieved 2007-07-14.


Ross Buffalo Jump, southern Alberta (Drive Lanes)


Old Women’s Buffalo Jump in Cayley, Foothills, Alberta National historic site dated from A.D. 100 -1790’s


Gull Lake Jump site in southwestern Saskatchewan (Prehistoric Bison Drive site)


Recently a site user contacted me, he has found a couple of skulls located near his property.

He writes: “The location is Beynon, Alberta and the fellow we bought the land from there told us that the natives from the Gleichen, Alberta used to winter in the area. (not sure if that is true or not)

We have been in contact with the University of Alberta and the fellow there plans to come out when he gets a chance.

Both were found around the same place, so maybe it was a small buffalo jump at one time. Might get more answers once the fellow comes out.”

The first one was found in July and the second around August.

First skull found July 2018

Second skull found Around Aug 20' from the first

Skull Location



“We have sent both to the University of Alberta and from the measurements that they asked us to provide, they are guessing the first one could be as old as 5000 years old (without carbon dating). Not sure about the 2nd one. The first one is 26 inches tip to tip…the 2nd one is about 24 inches. The fellow at the U of A says that the first one is a bit too big for a newer age buffalo but a bit to small for the extinct version (taxa, I believe he called it)

In the picture of the location, the white area is actually a pretty high cliff. (maybe 40 feet) So maybe the river did not run right under it before as it does now.”


MA- owner


Ulm Pishkun Ulm, Montana

Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump is likely the largest buffalo jump in the world. It was used by the Native Americans in the area between 900 and 1500 AD. The cliffs themselves stretch for more than a mile and the site below has compacted bison bones nearly 13 feet (4.0 m) deep. Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump is located in First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park in Cascade County, Montana, north-northwest of the community of Ulm. First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is a Montana state park in Cascade County, Montana in the United States. The park is 1,481 acres (599 ha) and sits at anUlm Pishkun Jump site_top view elevation of 3,773 feet (1,150 m). It is located about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northwest of the small town of Ulm, which is near the city of Great Falls.

Ulm , First Peoples Jump
The cliff area is about a mile long in all.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park contains the Ulm Pishkun (also known as the Ulm Buffalo Jump), a historic buffalo jump utilized by the Native American tribes of North America It has been described as, geographically speaking, either North America’s largest buffalo jump or the world’s largest. There is some evidence that it was the most utilized buffalo jump in the world. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1974. The former name of the park was derived from the Blackfeet word “Pis’kun,” meaning “deep kettle of blood,” and the nearby town of Ulm.
Although there are more than 300 buffalo kill sites in Montana, First People’s Buffalo Jump is one of only three protected buffalo jumps in the state. The other two are Madison Buffalo Jump near Three Forks, and Wahkpa Chu’gn near Havre (both of which are also on the National Register of Historic Places).

First People’s Buffalo Jump provides window to native history



Madison Buffalo Jump: Threeforks, Montana

Madison Buffalo Jump OverlookMadison Buffalo Jump State Park is a Montana state park in Gallatin County, Montana in the United States. The park is 638 acres (258 ha) and sits at an elevation of 4,554 feet (1,388 m). The park is named for a canyon cliff used by Native Americans as a buffalo jump, where herds of bison were stampeded over the cliff as an efficient means of slaughter. This limestone cliff was used for 2,000 years by Native Americans.

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is a day-use-only park. It is open year-round for hiking, wildlife observation, and some picnicking. There is an impressive 3-D reconstruction of Charles M. Russell’s painting of a buffalo jump on display at the Helena State Capital Museum, Helena, Montana.
The buffalo jump at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park was used by numerous Native American tribes for approximately 2000 years, dating as far back as 500 B.C. and ending around 1750 A.D. The indigenous peoples stampeded the herds of bison off the cliff without the aid of horses or guns. They used the bison for food, clothing, provisions, and shelter. The bison were forced into a stampede by young men known as runners.

The runners were trained for endurance and speed. The bison were also forced into groups by linear cairns and logs that were placed to funnel the bison into specific locations on areas in behind the cliff face. The introduction of the horse to North America by European explorers and settlers brought about the end of the buffalo jumps. The State park has not changed much over the years; bone shards are still scattered at the base of the cliff and tepee rings still gather around the top.
The buffalo jump along the Madison River was used by numerous tribes including the Hidatsa, Shoshone, Lakota, Dakota, Nez Perce, Bannock, Arapaho, Salish, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Gros Ventres, Cree, and Assiniboine. The families of the runners from the tribes would camp at the base of the cliffs. From there they were able to process the bison. The meat was used for food and the meat that was not eaten right away was dried. Skins were used for tipis and horns and bones were used for various types of tools. Markings on many of the bones indicate that foul play was a possible cause of death.


Atlas Obscura Feb. 2017

Madison Buffalo Jump

For thousands of years, Native American hunters drove buffalo straight off this cliff in Montana’s Yellowstone Country.

Madison Buffalo Jump

The native tribes hunted their prey without guns or even horses, but by strategically using the natural landscape. A young boy would dress in the pelt of a buffalo calf and lure the animals to the edge of the cliff, while athletic young men trained as runners would shepherd the herd from behind. The bison would plummet to their deaths in a frenzy. At the bottom of the hill, pelts, meat, and bones could be harvested from the fallen animals.

The Madison buffalo jump was utilized by tribes from across the plains. The Hidatsa, Shoshone, Lakota, Dakota, Nez Perce, Bannock, Arapaho, Salish, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Gros Ventres, Cree, and Assiniboine all used this cliff to hunt bison, sometimes simultaneously, which required cooperation between peoples despite their cultural differences.

Plains Indians who had never before used horses or guns began using them to hunt when westward expansion brought these goods to the tribes. The buffalo jump method of hunting waned in the mid-17th century, though the site remained significant to the tribes who had used it in their past.

Olsen-Chubbuck Bison Kill Site.
Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump State Historical Monument Park and Center. LewisAndClarkTrail.com
Madison Buffalo Jump State Monument”. Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. June 1, 1995. Retrieved 2010-07-13. a b “Madison Buffalo Jump State Park”. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Montana Official State Travel Site


 Finger and palm prints
Finger and palm print

Bison Jumps and Rock Art on the Northwestern Plains by Mavis Greer Ph.D. and John Greer Ph.D. Several bison kill sites on the Northwestern Plains contain rock art. This is not surprising since the physical feature of a steep cliff used for a bison jump is the same
setting normally used for rock art. Obviously, co-occurrence of the two site types could be coincidental. However, other kinds of bison kill sites, such as steep embankments without rocky cliffs and trap areas in drainage bottoms, also occasionally have associated petroglyphs, and this occurrence argues for the intentional association of rock art and bison kills. The purpose of this paper is to present some preliminary observations on bison kills with rock art and point out problems determining association of the two activities. Examples in this paper are from Montana. Other examples can be found throughout the Northwestern Plains such as Head-Smashed-In in Alberta, where paintings are associated with the main jump.

You can view their paper/pdf format here. 2004 Bison Kills Greer


Wahkpa Chu’gn, Havre, MtWahkpa chugn buffalo jump havre Montana

Nestled in the shadow of the Bear Paw Mountains, on the road to everywhere in north central Montana, WAHKPA CHU’GN (pronounced walk-pa-chew-gun) (buffalojump.org )is the most extensive and best preserved Native American hunting ground buffalo bone deposit in the northern Great Plains.

Dating to 2,000 years ago, visitors are given a chance to view up close, with no glass cases or “incredible simulations,” extensive Native American material and buffalo bone remains. This is NOT a sterile museum or tourist trap. Wahkpa Chu’gn is a real historical site. Search the National Register of Historic Places using the site number 1974-12-30, site name “Too Close For Comfort Site” or the location of Havre, Montana.
You get to see actual archaeological excavations, with a 20-foot wall of buffalo bones, buffalo skulls, and Native American arrowheads. All left where they were found by the archaeologists for you to experience.


Sarpy Creek Kill Site: Crow Reservation, Montana. (Billings Gazette)Crow Reservation, Mt

In Oct of 2014, Billings Gazette’s paper read: 2,000-year-old bison bone site mired in controversy.

The enormous bone bed they left behind, salted with hundreds of projectile points that may have been used in the kill, is now part of the Crow Reservation. Enough bison fragments were removed to nearly fill a semitrailer. A pile of bones the archaeologists considered “redundant” material, unlikely to add significant information to the samples already collected, remains near the scar left by the excavation. Early estimates said 30,000 pounds of bone and 13,000 pounds of fire-cracked rock lay in the bone bed.Sarpy Kill site marked by archaeologist red pin

“The site was sacred, he said. Rituals had been performed”.

Pretty On Top




Four Buttes, Montana, located in the NE corner. Four Buttes Mt buffalo jump





Kutoyis Buffalo Jump, Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Montana

Two Medicine Jump

Two Medicine Formation Map

These bones protruding from the south bank of Cut Bank Creek about 24 inches below ground level possibly indicate the use of the nearby buffalo jump long before Lewis camped here. The Blackfeet Indians generally abandoned that means of killing bison after they acquired horses and developed the “surround” method, sometime before the middle of the 18th century.

Old Bones J Agee photo
Text and photo are the work of J. Agee http://www.lewis-clark.org/article/622

Some students of the Expedition believe that since Lewis had ample evidence that Blackfeet Indians had recently been in the area, he would not have camped under that bluff because, with his back to the river, he would have been vulnerable to a surprise attack. It may be that he and the three men with him camped near the creek about a tenth of a mile to the west of the bluff.

In any case, Lewis made no mention of bison remains beneath the cliff, so it is probable that these bones were already covered by river-borne silt.



Henry Smith Kill Site, Montana (Along the Big Bend of the Milk River)

In April 2015, the NOC partnered with the BLM HiLine District Office in Montana to collect imagery over the Henry Smith archaeological site near the small town of Malta. The Henry Smith and Beaucoup sites are located in the Big Bend of the Milk Cultural Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which encompasses nearly 2,000 acres in north-central Montana. Both sites are dominated by the presence of an Avonlea-period cultural resource complex, including a buffalo kill site, prehistoric drive lines, ground figures (both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic), habitation sites, and medicine wheels. The project also included a first-of-its-kind prescribed burn over a known cultural site to remove vegetation so that a more thorough and accurate aerial mapping mission could be accomplished. Products derived from this project include digital surface models and orthophotography.

Orthophoto mosaic derived from UAS-collected imagery, Henry Smith archaeological site. North is oriented toward the top of the image.

Orthophoto mosaic derived from UAS-collected imagery, Henry Smith archaeological site. North is oriented toward the top of the image.






Henry Smith Kill Site
Source: Billings Gazette

BLMHiLine District archaeologist Josh Chase walks around the perimeter of a teepee ring in the site near Malta. It can be distinguished from other features by its size, typically 16-23 feet in diameter.

Nomadic groups of people were lifting and moving large stones to create drive lines, cairns, vision quest sites and — most unusual of all — outlines of animal and human figures. Ancient artisans were also chipping animal hoof prints and other symbols into boulders.

The densest collection of these features, along with numerous teepee rings and tool and arrowhead artifacts, are crowded onto a parcel of Bureau of Land Management acreage known as the Henry Smith site.

Casey Page/Gazette Staff, read more


Buffalo Falls, Montana (South of Simms, private land)One Kill Site, Four Buttes, and a Big Grouchy Bear

“This hike was on private land, so I obtained permission from a couple of ranchers several days before setting off on the walk. I wanted to explore the buffalo jump before it warmed up enough for rattlesnakes to come out, and then walk a loop that included climbing each of the four buttes. So I left Helena at 4:45 am on a Saturday morning a couple of days after school let out for the summer, drove the 85 miles, put my snake gaiters on, and started hiking. The kill site exceeded my expectations – It was much more impressive than the few developed buffalo jumps that I’d visited. “

Thanks to Rodney Benson, for sharing his adventure and allowing me to publish it.

Read about his tour & hike.


The Foss-Thomas site Tongue River in Montana

Keogh Buffalo Jump east of the foothills of Beartooth Mnts along the Stillwater River about 25 miles from Absarokee, Mont

Grapevine Buffalo Jump is located along Grapevine Creek in Bighorn County Mont.

Boarding School Bison Drive site near Browning Mont

Sun River buffalo site Montana

Freeman Creek site, central Montana

Kobold Site on the Rosebud Battlefield in southeastern Montana

Bear Gulch near Lewistown

Pictograph Cave near Billings

Cut Bank Creek site east of Glacier Park.




Vore Buffalo Jump



So much more to read, the past & present. I suggest you may want to check out their site. The president of Vore Jump Foundation has written a great paper which you can find in 1800’s
History, Educational Programs, Facilities Concept, Exhibited Building. and much more!


Vore, Crook Co WY


The Vore Buffalo Jump is an archeological site in Crook County, Wyoming. A sinkhole, formed where gypsum soil was eroded, leaving a steep-sided pit about 40 feet (12 m) deep and 200 feet (61 m) in diameter. Native American hunters could stampede bison in the direction of the pit, which was deep enough to kill or disable the animals that were driven into it. The location is one of a number of buffalo jump sites in the north-central United States and southern Canada. The Vore site was used as a kill site and butchering site from about 1500 AD to about 1800 AD. Archeological investigations in the 1970s uncovered bones and projectile points to a depth of 15 feet (4.6 m). About ten tons of bones were removed from the site. About five percent of the site has been excavated, and the pit is estimated to contain the remains of 20,000 buffalo.

Vore_Buffalo_Jump Crook Co WY

Bison bones in an excavation in the bottom of the buffalo jump. Lithic evidence suggests that the Kiowa and Apache used the site as they migrated southwards to their modern home in the Texas-New Mexico region. Later peoples using the Vore site included the Shoshone, Hidatsa, Crow, and Cheyenne.
The site was discovered during the construction of Interstate 90 in the early 1970s.[3] Located on the Vore family ranch, the site was to be crossed by the Interstate. Exploratory drilling in the sinkhole yielded quantities of bison bones. The University of Wyoming was notified of the potential archeological site and the road was moved to the south. The site was investigated in 1971 and 1972 by Dr, George Frison of the University of Wyoming. In 1982 the site was transferred to the University by the Vore family with the stipulation that it be developed as a public education center within twelve years. Funding limitations prevented development, so the site was again transferred to the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation, which has built a small interpretive center and provides interpretive services. The Vore site is located in a narrow strip of land between I-90 and US 14. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

1. ^ a b “National Register Information System”. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
2. ^ a b “Vore Buffalo Jump”. Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
3. ^ a b “About the Vore Buffalo Jump”. Vore Buffalo Jump. Vore Buffalo Jump Association. 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
4. ^ Gade, Gene. “Tribes That (Probably) Used The Vore Buffalo Jump Parts 1,2,3, and 4”. Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 8. ^ “History of the Project”. Vore Buffalo Jump. Vore Buffalo Jump Association. 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-04.


The photo shows an excavation unit at the Vore Buffalo Jump with some of the more than 20 layers of bison bone and other artifacts. The photo was taken during the post-discovery survey in 1971.

Vore Buffalo Jump dig 1971


The variety of arrow point styles and stone types found at the Vore site provides inferential evidence that the “Jump” was used by multiple tribes.

Vore Buffalo Jump arrows point

April 11, 2016 — One of the world’s most significant bison kill sites will be among discussion topics on this week’s UW podcast, “The University of Wyoming Today.”

Charles Reher, a professor in the UW Department of Anthropology, will discuss the history and significance of the Vore Buffalo Jump site in northeastern Wyoming.

In other segments, UW Cultural Programs Director Janelle Fletcher will explain why many world-class acts continue to perform in Wyoming, and coordinator Tanner Parmely will discuss the merits of earning an MBA degree.

To listen to the podcasts, go to www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/podcast/index.html or click on the link provided in the left-column navigation on the UW News home page. You can listen to the podcasts by clicking the link on the page, or subscribe to the RSS feed, which will deliver the podcast link to you via email each week. You also can click on the iTunes link and listen to or subscribe to the podcast there.

New podcasts are scheduled weekly and will be updated with new episodes every Thursday.


Glenrock, WY
9 acres
Level of Significance National Areas of Significance Prehistoric/Science

Resource Type Restricted site.

Period of Significance 1000-500 AD 1499-1000 AD 1749-1500 AD 1900-1750 AD

Historic Function Agriculture/subsistence
Current Function Agriculture/subsistence

Plains Anthropologist © 1970 Plains Anthropological Society
The Glenrock Buffalo Jump, 48CO304 is part of a Late Prehistoric period buffalo procurement complex in central Wyoming along the south side of the North Platte River. Operation of the jump required controlled movements of buffalo herds for as far as one to three miles before they were finally stampeded over a bluff 40 feet high. The effective width of the bluff was small and as a result, the herd had to be under control during the final stampede as well as the initial drive. Good bone preservation in much of the site allowed recovery of large samples for analysis and in addition, large numbers of simple but functional tools were found in context. Marks that reflected a number of butchering operations appeared repeatedly suggesting stylized methods, and from this, a model of Late Prehistoric butchering is postulated which needs further testing in other mass butchering contexts.


Big Goose Creek, Sheridan, Wyoming

Restricted site.


The Wardell Buffalo Trap, Pinedale Wy in Sublette County, Wyoming is a small box canyon used by Native Americans

Wardell Trap Mural
© Photo by Green River Valley Museum
Wardell Buffalo Trap Mural

for 500 years during the Late Prehistoric Period. Nearly 55 feet of bison bones were found at the site. A campsite and butchering area is located nearby, and evidence has been found for a fence at the entrance to the canyon.


BLM Archaeologists revisit prehistoric Indian buffalo kill site
by Clint Gilchrist & Dawn Ballou (read more)
September 10, 2005

‘Organized chaos’ may be the best way to describe a group of Indians on foot driving a herd of 1500-pound wild bison at full speed for as much as a mile into a specially built corral of juniper and sagebrush and then killing them with bow and arrows. It would have taken a long time for full-grown, excited, angry bison to bleed to death from the small 1-2” stone arrowheads, giving them plenty of time to raise havoc.

It seems inevitable that people would get injured or killed during the drive or kill. But the danger was acceptable because the success of the fall hunt could be the difference between life and death for the whole group in the upcoming harsh Rocky Mountain winter. One thousand years ago, right here in our Upper Green River Valley, this very scene unfolded over and over again each fall not far from Big Piney.

Native American Netroots, Wy

Found this great site with so much great information. (source for sites below)

Cody Complex

The Cody complex is found in the Northern Great Plains area. In his entry on the Cody Complex in A Dictionary of Archaeology, William Billeck writes:

“The tool assemblage consists of projectile points, flake tools, scrapers, gravers, wedges, choppers, bi-faces, hammer stones, and bone tools that are often found in bison kill and processing sites.”

Casper Bison Site,

Agate Basin Site

By 8000 BCE, the cultural complex which archaeologists call Agate Basin extended into the Northern Plains region. These Agate Basin people were big game hunters whose subsistence strategies included bison trapping.


The Horner site:  The Billings Gazette recently published this article in December 2022, written by 

Buffalo Jumps by Brett French
Kilgore News Herald- Billings Gazette

Fantastic work by Larry Todd and a great read in the Gazette.-AAB

So the retired anthropology professor was very excited to talk about bison at the Draper Natural History Museum in Cody, Wyoming, last week.

He confesses his “first love” was for bison bones.
Todd recently sent a bag of bison ear bones, called petrous, gathered from the University of Wyoming’s archaeological collections, to a California laboratory for DNA analysis.

The bones are so hard that, even when shallowly buried for thousands of years, they contain excellent DNA material. Two earlier samples, sent by the Draper’s Amy Phillips, came back with two distinct bison clades, or bison that shared different ancestors.

“The two specimens we sent in fell into two different sort of genetic clades of bison,” Todd explained. “Clade one is your normal sort of North American plains and woodland bison. Clade two is a bison clade genetically that’s most associated with Old World bison. So the bison living here in the Bighorn Basin 10,000 years ago were really genetically interesting. They weren’t just sort of your normal, run of the mill bison. They had more to them than that.
“This got me really excited about bison earbones and DNA and all that sort of stuff.”

Based on the results of the material now being analyzed, Todd said that Wyoming is going to become one of the best places in the world to understand Ice Age and post-Ice Age bison genetics.

Horner site
The ear bones first sent to the lab for analysis came from an archaeological dig close to where Todd was speaking. Just downstream along the Shoshone River is the Horner site. Discovered by James M. Allen in 1939, the camp and kill site with about 700 bison remains proved to be key to understanding Paleoindian presence in the Bighorn Basin, as well as North America.

The site is so important it has been recognized as a Natural Historic Landmark. In 1987 George Frison, dean of the archaeology department at the University of Wyoming, and Todd — who was by then working for Denver University — co-authored a detailed book on the Horner site, starting with re-examining the original excavations done by scientists from Princeton and the Smithsonian in the 1940s.

“It’s one of those really significant places in this area that people really don’t know about,” Todd said.
Most of the early work on bison “owes a huge debt, as does everything in archaeology in Wyoming,” to Frison, he added.

The site Allen discovered, named after landowner Pearl Horner, was dated to about 10,500 years ago. In 1977, next to Allen’s discovery, Frison located an even older bison bone bed, dating to about 12,000 years ago when bison antiquus still roamed the landscape. These forefathers of modern bison were about 20% bigger, stretching to 15 feet long and 7.5 feet tall. Their wide horns extended 3 feet across.

“These were big, tough animals to deal with,” Todd said.
One theory is that these massive grazers may have disappeared from the landscape, evolving into today’s faster and more agile bison — not only because the climate became warmer and food sources changed — but because Paleoindian hunters were so deadly.

“All of a sudden you have a novel predator on the scene that probably had a big impact on the genetics, the shape, the behaviors and the evolution of contemporary bison,” Todd said.

“So one of the things I like to talk to people about, or at least think about in the back of your mind, is when you see a bison in Yellowstone Park today — and it’s the icon of wild North America, it’s the official North American mammal — it’s in large part the way it is because of those 11, 12, 13,000-years interaction with human predators. It’s not a domestic animal by any means, but it’s not an animal free of human impacts. The human predators probably had a huge impact on contemporary bison.”

The Horner site revealed more than 250 bison killed, much more than a wolf or bear would take, Todd noted.
The Paleoindians occupying the site were so attuned to their prey, Todd said, “They could probably go outside and look at the sky and the wind direction and the temperature and tell just exactly what those animals were going to do that day.”

What’s unusual is that unlike buffalo jumps, where bison were run off inclines, injured and then killed, the dead bison at the Horner site were killed atop a flat terrace above the Shoshone River. Todd said rather than a buffalo jump it may have been a bison climb, with hunters hiding out of sight as bison climbed the hill, although he added that’s just “wild speculation.” Other possibilities are that the hunters created corrals, or trapped the animals in natural corrals created by drifting snow.

Type site
About 12,000 years ago, these big animals would have been brought down by hunters using thrusting spears and atlatls, a stick that allows the thrower greater leverage to heave an arrow-like dart. Several differently designed stone projectile points were found for such weapons, as well as knives, at the Horner site.

Because the first Horner site (Horner 1) contained points of different styles — “a real mishmash,” as Todd put it — it became a “type site,” or standard of comparison to describe the culture of that era, the Cody Cultural Complex.
“The Horner site opened the door for how long people had been here, 10,000 years back into the Ice Age,” Todd said in a 2009 talk.

By looking at the tooth eruption and wear of bison preserved at the site, scientists were able to determine the area was inhabited in December.

Winter camp
Over the mountains from the Horner site, in the Sunlight Basin above the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River, John Bugas was having a home built for his foreman in 1973 when bone fragments, stone artifacts and pottery sherds were unearthed by construction equipment.

In 1983, Bugas’ widow invited scientists to investigate, right before the property was sold to Earl Holding. The Bugas-Holding site revealed to anthropologists, Todd being one of them, that Shoshonean people had lived and hunted bison in the 6,000-foot-high basin during the winter.

The site was dated to about 400 years ago, and also revealed the inhabitants were eating bighorn sheep and bison. Based on tooth wear and eruption, it was determined the bighorn sheep were killed in the fall. They could tell that the bison were killed all winter long based on preserved bison fetal bones — from tiny ones to almost fully developed.

“That means very definitely this was a winter campsite,” Todd said. “That’s really fun to think about, because one of our prejudices is that people here in the past must not have lived in the mountains during the winter, they must have come down on the plains. And Bugas-Holding caused us to really start questioning that.”

The dig even showed that cooking was done outside, based on where the ash fell and where lithic scatters from tool making were located. The site also produced projectile points, knives, scrapers, and a variety of bone and elk antler tools. About 70,000 objects were recovered.

High up
Other high-elevation historic campsites have been unearthed near Greybull, at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, at about 9,000 to 10,000 feet. It makes sense people would camp near these high-elevation bison, because the winter weather would provide a natural freezer in which to safely preserve the animals for months.

“Lots of us today think of bison as being plains animals, mostly, down in the lowlands” Todd said. “We talk a little bit about mountain bison or other bison, but the notion is the bison’s favorite habitat is the lowland. And in starting to look at the bison remains at high elevations, we’re seeing that they are there much more commonly than our usual biases show.”

As an example, Todd showed a photo of a bison skull that melted out of an ice patch at an elevation of about 11,000 feet. Surrounding the skull was a thick mat of dung that had also been revealed.

When it comes to research about bison and human habitation of high elevations, Todd said, “We’re just getting to the tip of the iceberg of what we know. We’re just starting to recognize that what we thought we knew, we really don’t know. And that it’s a lot more complex, a lot richer, a lot more interesting question than we usually thought we understood.”

Hell Gap Bison Kill

In his entry on Hell Gape in A Dictionary of Archaeology, William Billeck writes:

“The Hell Gap site consists of a stratified series of short-term campsites where bison was the predominant animal represented.”

Buffalo Kill: about 6000 BCE, near Casper, Wyoming, hunters used a parabolic sand dune with steep sides to capture a herd of about 100 bison during a hunt in late autumn. The bisons’ hooves sank into the loose sand and immobilized them, which allowed the hunters to move in and kill them at close range.

Hawken: by 4340 BCE, the Hawken site (48CK303) in northeast Wyoming was used as a communal buffalo kill site. This was an arroyo trap. The bison were killed in the winter. The bison bones at the site are intermediate in size, between the extinct Bison antiquus and the modern Bison bison.

McKean: by 2590 BCE, Indian people were occupying the McKean site (48CK7) near the Belle Fouche River in northeastern Wyoming. They were hunting bison as well as deer, rabbit, and pronghorn.

Scoggin: In about 2540 BCE, a small band of Indian hunters used the Scoggin site (48CR304) as a bison impoundment area. The impounded buffalo were killed by using a thrusting spear. This site is located in south-central Wyoming near the North Platte River.

Ruby site near Pumkin Buttes

Mooney site near Gillette Wy

Muddy Creek Besant bison trap Wy

300 year old Cache Hill site in Northern WY

The Oshoto site NE of Cache Hill Wy

Willow Springs Buffalo Jump near Laramie, Wy.



850 Year Old Buffalo Jump In James River Valley, South Dakota (Aug 2016)

Archaeologists in the state are hoping to start excavating a bison kill site near Ree Heights later this summer.

Three years ago, a rancher noticed bison bones sticking out of a hillside near Ree Heights. Now a team of archaeologists are set to begin excavating the site.

Michael Fosha is the assistant state archaeologist for the State Historical Society.

“So what we’re looking at is populations were either driving these bison from on top of Ree Heights down into this existing slump or what has normally occurred is people drive bison up a slope into the depression. And it was enough of a depression to successfully kill quite a number of bison,” says Fosha.

Fosha says the time period makes the site unusual. He says most bison kill sites in the state date back to 3,000 years ago. The Ree Heights site is about 890 years ago.



Jan 03, 2023

“Nearly one-quarter of all recorded bison kill sites in South Dakota are located in Harding County,” said Jenna Carlson Dietmeier, review & compliance coordinator with the State Historic Preservation Office of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

“These landscapes not only drew bison in for grazing on the short and mixed grass prairies but also provided ample locations in which or to which American Indians could drive and/or trap the bison without the animals knowing what was ahead,” she said. “Although the landscape of the county has changed over time and arroyos and draws have shifted, the past landscape likely had similar features. “

“Recorded bison kill sites in South Dakota span from the Paleoindian Period (roughly 13,500 to 8,000 years ago) through the Late Prehistoric and Initial Middle Missouri Periods (roughly 1,500 to 200 years ago).  However, sites in neighboring states indicate that communal bison kills were practiced in the region until the mid-to late-19th century,” Carlson Dietmeier said.