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Agency - Pictograph Cave State Park

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Pictograph Cave State Park
Last updated on April 4, 2016


At Montana State Parks we work hard to preserve, enhance and interpret Montana's most outstanding natural, cultural and recreational resources, for the personal, social and economic benefit of present and future generations.

A new, sandstone-hued interpretive center rises at the foot of rim rocks where Pictograph Cave has drawn human beings for over 7,500 years. Designed for high energy efficiency, the center features a classroom, ADA-accessible restrooms, gift shop and displays that contain replicas of artifacts - such as a wooden paint applicator and a bone turtle effigy - found during a late-1930s Works Progress Administration excavation.

A short 5-mile drive from Billings, the park is an ideal spot to enjoy a shady picnic, add to your birding list, attend an interpretive program or just take a stroll in the quiet outdoors.

The Pictograph, Middle and Ghost cave complex was home to generations of prehistoric hunters. With its abundant wildlife and vegetation, the fertile river valley provided an ideal campsite for travelers.
These caves were the site of Montana's first professional archaeological studies and excavations beginning in 1937. Over 30,000 artifacts were identified from the site.

Today, a one-half mile loop trail at Pictograph Cave State Park allows visitors to see the rock paintings that are still visible in Pictograph Cave. Interpretive signs and markers tell the story of our state’s first “professional” archaeological studies and excavations, geology, flora and fauna.

The archaeological significance of Pictograph Cave, then known as Inscription Cave, was first discovered in 1937 by four local residents, who found exposed material that recently had been uncovered by a stream of water that poured over the cliff during recent heavy rainfall. It was through their efforts that enough interest was created to induce the Montana School of Mines, Montana Historical Society, Montana Highway Commission and Montana Archaeological Survey to begin a series of excavations. The project took place during three summers (1937 – 1940) but was halted by U.S. entry into World War II and was not resumed after the close of the war.

In 1964, park supporters succeeded in transferring care of the site to the City of Billings. A grassroots community project to preserve the site resulted in its listing as a National Historic Landmark on July 19, 1964.

The park’s management was transferred to the Montana Fish and Game Department five years later, in 1969. (This department of Montana’s government is now known as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.) FWP also manages two other sites that contain native artwork: First Peoples State Park (south of Great Falls) and Missouri Headwaters State Park (west of Bozeman).

Contact people:

 Jarret Kostrba, Project Leader, (phone), (email)
Krystal Carlson, AmeriCorps Member, (email)


 3401 Coburn Rd.
Billings, MT 59101
(See a map)

Web Site: http://www.stateparks.mt.gov


 Pictograph Cave State Park is located southwest of Billings, Montana. It can be accessed via Exit 452 (Lockwood) on I-90, then 6 miles south on Coburn Road.
Last updated on April 4, 2016

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