Medicine Hole now closed to public

A breathtaking view of the rolling plains below Medicine Hole awaited anyone who braved it to the top.

By BRYCE MARTIN | Pioneer Editor |

KILLDEER — A breathtaking view of the rolling plains below Medicine Hole awaited anyone who braved it to the top.

Those views, however, shall no longer be seen by the public.

In a surprising move, landowners Brian Benz and Craig Dvirnak of Killdeer announced that access to the Medicine Hole site at the Killdeer Mountains north of Killdeer was to now be restricted to public access.

“As a result of the disrespect shown to the landowners of the Killdeer Mountains by the actions, comments, activities and beliefs of those individuals and entities listed below, these properties are no longer open to the public,” Benz and Dvirnak said in a letter to the editor they submitted June 24 to the Pioneer’s sister publication, the Dunn County Herald. They cited those at fault to include the U.S. National Park Service, Tom Isern and the Center for Heritage Renewal, Killdeer Mountain Alliance, United Tribes of North Dakota and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

“The general public presumed, but never had, this right,” they wrote. “It was only because of the gracious generosity of the private landowners that the public enjoyed this privilege for so many years.”

A no trespassing sign now blocks access to the path leading to Medicine Hole.

As a popular attraction, located 10 miles north of Killdeer, Medicine Hole was responsible for bringing visitors from around the country to the unique historical spot each year.

The area opens a small entrance to a narrow, little-explored cave that extends down into one of the high, steep hills in the Killdeer Mountains. Medicine Hole got its name by emitting a smoky fog on cold mornings and visitors can still feel air currants rising from the “hole.”

Rock formations like Signet Rock, Three Old Maids and Eagle Rock add to the natural beauty of the steep, wooded hills.

The area is steeped in history and surrounded by mysterious lore.

According to information about the site, years ago people visiting the Medicine Hole would drop rocks down the shaft to hear their bouncing echoes as the rocks dropped down the deep, twisting passageways.

Over the years the passages became plugged.

The cave entrance was been dynamited twice – once to seal the hole and again to re-open it.  With that kind of activity, anyone trying to crawl down the passages will have to move huge amounts of rock in order to travel only a few hundred feet.

Nearly 50 years ago, a group exploring the hole managed to descend about 175 feet.  There they found three openings – all plugged from rocks thrown down from above. But from one opening, a strong, steady wind was blowing.

Now, because the actions noted by the landowners, this site of natural beauty and mystery is closed indefinitely.

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