Beautiful Bad Lands of Makoshika State Park
In the eyes of Montana photographer Jason Savage, the vast and unique landscapes inside Makoshika State Park more than allow the land to live up to its name.
The largest state park in Montana, “Makoshika” is a variant spelling of the Lakota word meaning “bad land” or “bad earth.”
The park’s 11,531 acres – located just outside Glendive – are filled with giant formations of light colored capstone that reach toward the expansive eastern Montana skies like elegant pedestals.
Among the wild landscape lies the bones of ancient species, including Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, and artifacts left behind by ancient peoples thousands of years ago.
“To me as a photographer, it feels like a harsh landscape but it has all this beauty,” Savage said. “It’s kind of an unforgiving place, especially in the summer it’s hot, but it’s got all this fantastic landscape and wildlife. It’s pretty spectacular.”
Planning a trip to Makoshika? Ranger Tom Shoush recommends several things you’ve got to see:
- Drive the 10-mile road through the park.
“If the road system is open, I always tell people to drive to the top. That’s where the views are,” Shoush said.
- Watch out for dinosaur bones.
The bones of 10-12 species of dinosaurs have been found inside Makoshika. Most of the finds, Shoush said, are large herbivores that lived near end of the age of dinosaurs. The most significant is an entire Thescelosaur, a “very rare” and “tremendous find” Shoush said.
- Stop at the visitors’ center.
It’s home to dinosaur bones and rare artifacts left behind by ancient peoples. “A human presence in the area dated back to 10,000 to 12,000 years ago,” Shoush said.
- Stop by during the “spring green up.”
Shoush recommends visiting from Makoshika in mid-May through mid-June.
“I tell people somewhere around June 1 you have the best chance of seeing the flowers in bloom and the migratory birds have returned,” he said.
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