When struck, the rocks in a particular section of Butte, Montana, emit a musical ring. Rocks have been used as instruments for a very long time. In Africa, there were instruments called “rock gongs” made of rocks that could be hammered to make a melodic resonant sound. Some of the “Lithophones” or musical instruments made from rocks that were created in Vietnam date back approximately two thousand years.montana

Montana – Just such stones are found close to Butte

When lightly struck with a crescent wrench or mallet, the rocks in this unusual geologic formation chime melodically and are a part of the Boulder Batholith. They are located in a vast jumbled pile of boulders.

Though a conclusive scientific explanation has not yet been found, it is thought that the ringing is caused by a combination of the rock composition and how the connecting patterns have evolved as the rocks have been eroded away. Strangely, if a boulder is taken out of the pile, the bell stops ringing. Thousands of boulders in the formation produce sounds with slightly varying pitches and timbres, and theoretically, Butte’s Ringing boulders might create the basic ostinato for the “Music of the Spheres.”montana

Understand Before You Go

On BLM land just past the Pipestone trailhead, this unusual geological feature is situated about 18 miles east of Butte and north of Interstate 90. When struck with a hammer, the rocks in this distinctive geologic region resonate.

After leaving I-90 at Exit 241 (Pipestone), proceed for about three-fourths of a mile east on a gravel road that parallels the interstate before turning north on the same gravel road, crossing the railroad tracks, and continuing north for another two to three miles. Given that the final mile is on a steep, extremely unreliable road, a high-clearance 4WD vehicle is required.

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