Area Description: Just a little ways of the trail, these striking red cliffs rise from a peaceful forest meadow. Though this area burned just over a year before this picture was taken, little evidence of the fire remains. There is just a little charring on some of the nearby trees. One of the greatest things about Wind Cave National Park is the ability to wander off trail and explore as you will.
Visible Vegetation: Common Mullein, Little Bluestem, Western Wheatgrass, Cudweed Sagewort, Big Bluestem
Possible Animal Habitat:
Mammals: Elk, Porcupine, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Cottontail Rabbit, Striped Skunk, Common Raccoon, Coyote, Mountain Lion, Bobcat, Red Squirrel, Prairie Vole,
Birds: Mourning Dove, Red-headed Woodpecker, American Robin, Spotted Towhee, Western Meadowlark, Brewer’s Blackbird
Geology: These cliffs are Opeche Shale. It is unconsolidated red to maroon shale, mudstone and siltstone that has some lavender coloring near the top of the layer. It erodes easily and is 80 to 100 ft think.
Thematic Information: This red siltstone is involved in the mythologies of the Lakota and Cheyenne. The Minnalusa Formation is exposed in a ring around the Black Hills and these tribe’s stories claim that this was the location of “The Great Race.” The story goes that a long time ago bison ate humans. The creator organized a great race to decide who would have mastery over the other. The teams consisted of four-legged animals and two-legged animals. Every animal sent a representative. The two-legged side consisted of humans and birds. The soil in the race track is stained red from the blood of the exhausted animals that died during the race. In the end, a magpie that had been riding on the bison flew over the finish line first. So the two-legged creatures won dominance over the four-legged creatures and humans were giving the bow and arrow to hunt bison.
Recommended Student Activity:
Read The Great Race by Paul Goble.
Ask the students why the Native Americans revere the magpie.