National Register of Historic Places

Bear Creek Ranch Medicine Wheel

Near Greybull

Date Added to Register

Wednesday, April 01, 1987

Smithsonian Number


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The Bear Creek Ranch Medicine Wheel (48BH48) is a rather unique example of a small number of stone effigies which have been documented for the region. In the Northern Plains and central Rocky Mountains there are a sizable number of surviving examples of stone figures and alignments left by the Native American inhabitants of the region. By far the most numerous of these stone features are so-called tipi rings. These are circles of cobbles or stones that may occur singly or in groups, with each circle about three to seven meters in diameter. The commonly accepted interpretation of these mid-sized circles is that they were stones which had been placed around the perimeter of portable or perishable structures, such as tipis or wickiups. When the structures were moved or disintegrated, the arrangement of stones remained.

Less common are medicine wheels, cairn lines and stone effigies. The Bear Creek Ranch Medicine Wheel roughly conforms to the conventional conception of a medicine wheel. It has a central cairn or circle, several ''spokes'' radiating out from this center, an outer ring, and several outlying figures. Some studies have suggested that many stone figures on the Northern Plains may be monuments or memorials to important persons and events. Many of the figures may be aligned with solar or celestial phenomena, or may be depictions of mythical or legendary figures. The location of the medicine wheel on Bear Creek Ranch, commanding a spectacular view in all directions, may indicate its significance as an aboriginal vision quest site. Whatever interpretation is appropriate for the Bear Creek Ranch figures, this monument was a significant element in the lives and world view of its builders. It has also inspired the curiosity and imagination of subsequent visitors, possibly including groups of Native people who may have treated this monument as a locus of spiritual power.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources