Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rock City: magical land of hoodoos

Our group in a field of hoodoos

Frank Smith near a free-standing hoodoo

Where the Two Med and Birch Creek come together

Hoodoos above the Birch Creek cliffs
Thanks to the Portage Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation I was introduced to Rock City, about 10 miles north of Valier on Saturday where hoodoos abound and Birch Creek and the Two Medicine River join in sight of a snow speckled Rocky Mountain Front.
Frank Smith of Great Falls, of the foundation, led a dozen hikers to this magical place on the plains.
After snowfall and melt during the week that muddied and softened the dirt road, we had to abandon a plan to drive to the rim of this unusual land of weathered rock formations, and hiked up the Rock City Road a couple of miles to reach the hoodoos.
This was our third experience with hoodoos --- rock weathered chimneys and slots --- this season.
We found them on the Lewis and Clark "Fight Site," Montana Wilderness Association hike led by Larry Epstein where the Corps of Discovery had an unfortunate skirmish that killed a teen Blackfeet boy, and at the Writing on Stone Provincial Park near Milk River, Alberta, not far from the Port of Sweetgrass.
While those hoodoos were beautiful, and historical, Rock City was far more spectacular.
Finding this spot is a tad complicated, because it is not formally marked, although it sits on Bureau of Land Management property, bounded by wheat farms.
Drive straight north of Valier on the highway to Cut Bank.  After several miles the road swings sharply to the west.  A "Rock City" street sign on a gravel road is straight ahead.  Take it and in several miles becomes dirt.  Stay straight ahead for a couple more miles.  It becomes two-track to the Two Medicine River's rim where the hoodoos become very visible.  When it is dry you can drive right to those rims.
The route to Rock City
If confused, Valier locals will tell you where it's at.
Take your time, wander around, squeeze through tight slots, ascend flat topped hoodoos, and eventually climb to the grass on the southwest for a view of where Birch Creek and the Two Med join.  There are high, sandstone cliffs above both bodies of water
Birch Creek is the smaller stream to the south.  The Two Med is powerful and where the two are joined there are rapids.
While Valerians are familiar with this area, it is largely unknown by those of us from Great Falls, who speed through this scenic northcentral Motnana farm town on the way to Glacier or the Front.
My great concern is that if it is eventually discovered it can be overused.
This place deserves some kind of protection.
Hoodoos everywhere

Tight squeeze for Richard Fischer through a slot

Stove pipe hoodoos


Tim Bondy said...

Great story. Thanks for sharing this place with your readers. It will go on my Montana bucket list that I just created because of this story.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful! what a wonderful adventure.