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Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains Medicine Wheel

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

High atop a peak in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains sits an ancient Medicine Wheel. Its origin
is lost in antiquity – no one knows when it was constructed, but it was there when Crow
Indians arrived in 1776. Early explorers reportedly found arrow points and beads between
the spokes of the wheel, which is found near the peak of 9,642-feet-high Medicine Mountain
in the Bighorn Range. The wheel has 28 spokes, designed of white rocks, and is 74 feet in
diameter; six of the spokes extend beyond the rim of the wheel to form horseshoe-shaped
enclosures thought to be fasting, or vision-quest, sites.

Today, you’ll find a barbed-wire
fence surrounding the Medicine Wheel’s 245-foot-circumference – erected to keep anyone from
vandalizing this obviously sacred relic of ancient peoples. Visitors have placed varied
talismans on the wire; these, too, are guarded so they won’t be disturbed. Many feel that
the Medicine Wheel is a religious monument, while some archaeologists claim that it is an
observatory – and that the ancients placed the spokes and cairns to mark the summer

To get to the Medicine Wheel – which was designated a National Historic Landmark
in 1970 – take State Highway 14A northeast out of Cody, past Lovell. The turnoff is 27
miles east of Lovell, followed by a three-mile drive up the mountain to the parking lot and
a 1 1/2-mile hike to the site. The Medicine Wheel is open from dawn to dusk,
June-September; there’s an RV park nearby in Lovell for campers.

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