Vore Buffalo Jump Site Set to Re-Open for the Summer Season

(Crook County, Wyo.) In the seventies, the Department of Transportation nearly paved over it. Thirty years later, a non-profit organization took charge of a sinkhole located about six miles west of the South Dakota border, on I-90. Two hundred years of erosion and several feet of mud and debris covered any evidence that the sinkhole, located on the Vore family ranch in Crook County, was significant in any way. "You couldn't look down here and see anything special," said Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation president Gene Gade. Since 1971, nearly 500 buffalo have been recovered from the bone pile that was originally under four feet of overburden. Current excavations started in 1995, and four tons of bones have been archived by the University of Wyoming, about 10% of what they estimate the site to hold. Researchers have uncovered remains 25 feet underneath the floor of the sinkhole. [image: 20160517_123102.jpg] "We can't go deeper than what we have now, because OSHA regulations say that you can't have anything that might collapse in," said VBJF's Jacqueline Wyatt. "We're kind of at the limit of how deep we can go without considerable engineering." The Vore site has seen some important transitions in the last few years. A temporary tipi out front became a permanent log structure containing exhibits and bathroom facilities. Last year their admissions cabin floor collapsed due to flooding and rainwater damage, and so an improved structure will debut this summer. The current size of the excavation pit is around 30 meters square. In 2010, the foundation built a shed to cover it, and provide several hands-on exhibits right near the bones. Two years ago the foundation's insurance provider had them erect a railing around the site's walkways. This year they've added a four-wheeler to become truly handicap-accessible for those that can't manage the walk down to the bottom of the site. [image: 20160517_124003.jpg] *How is a horn like a sippy cup? One of the hands-on exhibits in the Excavation Building provides a look at modern-day equivalents of Buffalo Jump era items.* From learning how to jump a buffalo to finding out how natives butchered hundreds of animals at once, the site provides a look in to the innovation of area tribes from the past 500 years. Visitors can walk through the history of a place that is literally layered with cultural significance. What the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation is really hoping for, though, is to become a center for research in Wyoming. "We're trying to figure out how to get a better profile and do more active excavation," explained Gade. Part of the reason they desire more research in to the bones is to better account for history in the area. For instance, by looking at which buffalo were butchered using stone tools versus metal tools, they can determine when trade goods started moving in to the Black Hills. "There's still some question about who was where when," said Wyatt. "The Vore site has the potential to shed light on what tribes were here during a time of great transition." [image: 20160517_122255.jpg] *The visitor center log tipi at the edge of the site is an impressive stop along the buffalo jump tour.* This summer, State Archaeologist Greg Pierce is visiting the site to do surveys of the surrounding areas. They're hoping to find out more about what happened before and after a buffalo hunt. Processing camps, drive lines, and evidence of other activities near the Vore Jump are some of the things a team of volunteers will be helping search for. The site is open to the public June 1st through Labor Day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance fee is $7 per person with a $20 maximum per family. On June 11th the foundation is hosting an "Artifacts Roadshow," where people can bring in things they own or have found to get an appraisal of what, where, or how old their artifacts are. #county17 #news