The Sacred Mountain at Bear Butte State Park

South Dakota is fortunate enough to have a lot of very special country, and one of its most revered places is Bear Butte State Park near the city of Sturgis.

Bear Butte is a geological formation from the Eocene period which was caused by volcanic activity.  It has very special significance to Native Americans, particularly for members of the Latoka nation who call it Bear Mountain; also for members of the Cheyenne Nation, who refer to the site as Noahvose, which roughly translates to the place where their God gave knowledge and enlightenment, and the place where their God communicates with them.

Needless to say, the mountain is sacred to many indigenous peoples, who make pilgrimages to leave prayer cloths and bundles tied to the branches of the trees along the mountain’s flanks.

Because of its natural and historical heritage, Bear Butte State Park has been designated as a National Natural Landmark and a National Recreation Trail.

There has been human activity recorded around Bear Butte for at least 10,000 years, and whilst is has special significance for Native Americans, the European settlers saw it more as a place to prospect for gold, urged on by General George Custer in 1874.

Bear Butte was declared a State Park in 1961, and now it is open for day use only. One of the attractions there is a herd of buffalo which roams the base of the Butte.

Today there is a visitor centre with interpretive displays.  There are a number of campsites and about 15 hiking trails.  The Ceremonial Trail is a one-mile loop, that branches into an additional one-mile hike to the top of the mountain. At the summit, you’ll discover a breathtaking view of four states.

The park also serves as the northern trailhead for the 111-mile Centennial Trail.

2 comments to The Sacred Mountain at Bear Butte State Park

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steve Grumpy Collins, Steve Grumpy Collins. Steve Grumpy Collins said: The Sacred Mountain at Bear Butte State Park #South_Dakota http://ow.ly/3LOr8 #travel #USA #State_Park #outdoors #hiking […]

  • Steve de Vroom

    Fortunately, displaying photographs of Bear Butte does not attract legal threats as is the case with Ayres Rock and The Olgas, here in Australia.

    In 2003, world famous photographer and film maker, Wim Wenders, had to take down photographs that he took of Ayres Rock that were on exhibition in the Contemporary Art Museum in Sydney, under threat of legal action and fines. These boulders and rocks are the only geological features in the world that are protected by IP laws, which were passed in 1985.

    Like Bear Butte, they are considered by the local native population as sacred. Unlike Bear Butte, you have to pay if you take commercial photographs of these features of nature.

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