Pictograph Cave State Park in Billings, Montana, went on ‘the list’ recently. I think it was while I was in either Wisconsin or Minnesota that I discovered it and wanted to check it out.
On the drive there, a rather copious amount of rain fell throughout the area. It was a deluge that only lasted for a short while on the road, but apparently it was voluminous enough to do some dangerous damage to the park. When I arrived in the evening, I was told that the entire park was closed due to flash flooding. Because so much water had fallen, the park staffers wanted to ensure that chunks of rock didn’t separate and drop on tourists while they were drying out, so it was a ‘better safe than…” move, which I can respect.
Even if a little frustrating. So, I ended up going to see World War Z that night, then crashed out in a local KOA campground. (it’s cheap, and there are toilets. That’s all I care about on the weekends.)
The next morning I rose, bright and early, and headed out to the park. Ghost cave and Middle Cave were still closed, as was most of the path headed towards it, but Pictograph cave was open, so up the hill I went. I ran into one of the staffers that was already hard at work trying to clear out debris and clean up the area.
As to the features of the park itself, tall, sandstone bluffs peppered with pine trees here and there rise out of the brush and grass, little holes pockmarking the surface of the stone. The trail to Pictograph cave is paved, but the others are gravel, and they’d washed out in the flood. Above both Ghost cave and Middle cave, it almost looks as if waterfalls used to cascade over the openings; the rock was definitely worn in a U shape above them.
Along a railing inside the cave itself is a sign that details all the original pictographs that were catalogued initially, but most of them were really light and difficult to see. Large chunks of rock were missing, and the images with them. Even so, the cave itself is very nice. It’s more of a large stone mouth opening in the sandstone than a cavern that goes back with any depth.
I still wish I’d been able to get into the Ghost cave.