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New maps plot recreation opportunities in unique Pryor Mountain range

Pryor Mountains
Posted at 6:21 PM, Jul 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-06 10:58:02-04

PRYOR MOUNTAINS — A new set of maps illuminates a unique Montana mountain range that dramatically changes landscapes in a matter of miles.

On a map, the Pryor Mountains look like a footprint across Montana, Wyoming and the Crow Nation. On the ground, they show off red rock desert, sagebrush, and sub-alpine meadows.

A new set of maps released in mid-May by Wild Montana and Cairn Cartographics detail the Pryors in a significant way.

“We wanted to create a comprehensive map that highlighted the hiking, biking, and equestrian aspects of the Pryors that could be used for anyone to come down and experience this landscape," said Ian Davidson, field organizer for Wild Montana.

To make the maps, Cairn Cartographics came out toe the Pryors and used GIS to create and compile data. Wild Montana and the four agencies that manage the land double-checked their accuracy and gave a stamp of approval. The maps are now available online at the Base Camp in Billings, and the Sylvan Peak Mountain Shop in Red Lodge.

"There's no place in Montana like the Pryor Mountains," said Rita Harding, a longtime member of Wild Montana. “Rugged limestone canyons, red rock desert, lush cottonwood creek corridors, high grassland plateaus, forests, and ice caves make the Pryors a unique biodiversity hotspot as well as a paradise for quiet recreation and an area of great spiritual and cultural significance for the Apsáalooke (Crow) people.”

“We were able to create this topographic map that helps to highlight not only recreational opportunities where the roads are through the Pryors and some of the unique history of this mountain range," Davidson said.

The maps serve as a new key into mountains that have a human history of thousands of years as the homelands of the Apsaalooke people.

“This being part of the historic homelands of the Crow people and that history can be seen through the petroglyphs, pictographs, and tipi rings throughout the mountains here," Davidson said.

The mapping effort also serves as a sign of new inspiration for recreation in Eastern Montana.

"It's truly a unique experience to be able to recreate out here," Davidson said.