Challis Bison Kill Site
South of Challis, Idaho, near the junction of Alternate 93 with Highway 93
Archaeology Day 2010 photos
Bison bone and butchering tools were found at the base of the Challis Bison Kill cliff in 1970. The remains of an estimated 20-30 bison along with more than 100 projectile points and skinning tools were recovered during subsequent archaeological excavations. At that time, the site was described as a historic bison jump used once by mounted Shoshoni sometime in the mid-1800s, based on the presence of glass trade beads. Recent re-analyses of the Challis Bison Kill site’s material remains indicate that the bison kill may have taken place several hundred years earlier than originally thought, and the trade beads likely represent a subsequent, and unrelated, occupation of the site.
Archaeologists hypothesize that bison jumps have been in use in Idaho for 7,000 to 8,000 years. New analysis techniques allow researchers to ask new questions of the data and should provide a more complete understanding of bison procurement strategies and the ecology of the bison in central Idaho in late prehistoric times.
Special thanks to Dr. Ken Cannon, Director of Archaeological Services at Utah State University, and Molly Boeka Cannon, Director of the Geospatial Lab at Utah State University, for conducting the professional re-assessment of the site from 2004 through 2007. BLM Challenge Cost Share funds have provided support for the important and still-ongoing work associated with the Challis Bison Kill site.
For more information, visit the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. This park is managed by the BLM, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Salmon-Challis National Forest.