Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crazy Woman Canyon

An advantage of being in such a spectacular location as Paradise Ranch is the plethora of fantastic drives or hikes in the vicinity. One of the most scenic locations nearby is Crazy Woman Canyon, which ranch guests can visit on a Thursday morning hike or on an independent drive.
The round-trip, which is about 40 miles or so, takes you off Highway 16 onto Crazy Woman Canyon Road, through the dramatic and extremely photogenic gorge, then onto rolling prairie land, with the loop road bringing you back to Buffalo. It’s an easy drive on a narrow gravel road, even in a regular two-wheel drive, though vehicles larger than an SUV are not permitted. 

Cut by the fast-flowing Crazy Woman Creek, the gorge rises sharply with dramatic boulders and soaring overhangs. The road weaves through the heart of the gorge, with cliff faces looming overhead and sharp turns revealing even more spectacular vistas. Along the way, there are waterfalls, pretty bridges, rock climbers scaling sheer walls, meadows covered in wildflowers, and grazing wildlife such as moose and white-tail deer - I was literally stopping my car every 60 seconds, jumping out to take yet another photograph!

There are several legends associated with the name Crazy Woman, but the most credible story comes from the Crow people who told a story about a white couple who came to the area in the 1840s, opening a trading post on the stream and trading with the Indians. The most popular item on the shelf was ‘fire water’ - some sort of moonshine, which the local tribe took quite a liking to. Eventually, he sold out of the liquor, and said he was leaving to find more. 
However, the tribe didn’t believe him, suspecting he was going to trade instead with their enemies, the Sioux. So they killed him and scalped him in front of his wife, who was struck in the head by a tomahawk but not killed. Nursed back to health by the Crow women, the woman remained in the area but went a bit nuts at the memory of the attack, running away screaming every time a Crow warrior approached. Eventually the woman disappeared, presumed dead from animal attack or starvation, and the creek where the trading post was located was named in her memory. 

Another legend, attributed to the Sioux, claimed the stream was haunted by an old, insane squaw who could be seen on moonlit nights shooting the stream’s rapids in her canoe and leaping from village to village like a spirit. Her sightings were welcomes by the Indian villagers, believed to be ‘good medicine’.
Personally, I prefer the latter story - for indeed, if this crazy woman lived along the bank of such a beautiful river, I’d be hollering and whooping for joy too!

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