Hell's Half Acre
Powder River, Wyoming
Update: Since this story was written the store and signage have closed and disappeared. The eerie, snake-infested gorge remains, fenced but visible.
Hell's Half Acre is a geologic oddity - a craggy horseshoe-shaped gorge that drops away from an otherwise flat plain where Highway 20 runs east. The 150-foot-deep gorge -- covering 320 acres total (despite its catchy name) as it spreads south -- is filled in one section with jagged rock spires, naturally sculpted into nightmarish chaos by an ancient offshoot of the Powder River. If you drive hundreds of miles in any direction you won't find anything like it.
Alien bug planet scenes for the movie Starship Troopers (1997) were filmed here. The crew spent weeks one summer hauling props down into the hole and shooting among the gnarled rock protrusions.
Hell's Half Acre Restaurant sits at the scenic overlook, advertised by a sign with a pointy-toed devil. The sign also promises you'll find a bar and souvenirs inside.
Unfortunately, all that remains of Starship Troopers is a curling movie poster taped to the soda refrigerator. A local at the counter perked up when we mentioned the Half Acre's moment of movie glory. "They hired some of the locals as extras," the restaurant owner noted, "though mostly as dead bodies."
If you go down into the canyon you can still find spent blank shells from the production, along with the occasional bone where buffalo ran off the cliffs.