Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Ever Been to Nebraska? Me neither.

Sunday August 3, 2014
Fort Robinson State Park
Crawford, Nebraska



Saturday Afternoon

Yesterday’s post was about our morning with the mammoths on Saturday before we left Allen Ranch.  It was so long that I didn’t mention our moving on to Nebraska.  So that’s the start of this post.

We’re making our way to Denver to see my dad and my brother and SIL.  We could go through Wyoming, or we could go through Nebraska.  Since we’ve been to Wyoming and like it, we thought we’d check out Nebraska.  I mapped us from Allen Ranch to Denver and picked out two stops.   Fort Robinson is the first one.




Since it was only a 70 mile trip we decided to skip dealing with our “just a tad too small” dolly and drive separately.  We left after our Morning with the Mammoths on Friday at about 2:00 since Allen’s Ranch seems to have neither a check in nor a check out time.   David headed down the road with this cool car following him. 





We took US 385 where we ran into some pretty narrow bridge repair stretches. The big tractor trailers and David just slid right through there. Made me want to close my eyes but I was driving Ruby behind him so instead I took a picture



                       Empty roads in Nebraska




It appears no one drives on US 385 except of course Nebraskans headed for Sturgis. <grin>



After about 47 miles we turned east on Route 20.  Other than a couple of bridge reconstructions, 385 was a very nice road but US 20 is one of those roads with seams.  If you drive an RV, you know what I mean.  Bumpitty bumpity bumpity bump.  For 25 miles, I thought it would drive me crazy.  Glad I wasn’t in the RV listening to the dishes and everything else rattle.





We see when we arrive that Fort Robinson State Park is a large area set within the Cheyenne Buttes. It is described as Nebraska’s premier park with more than 22,000 acres of Pine Ridge scenery.  David catches this sight in his rear view mirror as we come down the park’s main road.   Poor Winnona, she’s being passed by a two horse wagon.








We arrive in time for their 4:00 check in time and pull into our FHU site which in my experience is pretty rare in state parks.

The park has three campgrounds all located down a lovely aspen lined lane.   One has  just electric for $20, one is for tents only $13 and one has  FHUs $26.  All three are very nice.   They also have a horse campground and newly remodeled horse barns for the horses. 

Prices are without taxes or the $5 a day park pass.  We ended up paying a total of about $35 a night for the two nights we were here including everything.  That’s high for us but it was worth it to be right here in the park.  You have to pay the $5 charge to visit it anyway.   I don’t really care to drive the car all over to see things if I don’t have to and around here there aren’t many choices of places to stay. 

I would recommend all three campgrounds as lovely and quiet.  There is a long distance train but it wasn’t a problem. I think the fact that they have a totally separate campground for tents is wonderful.






Skies were threatening rain as we got set up.  I biked over to the information center to learn what I could about what to do and when and where.  They don’t really have a visitor center but boy do they have a lot going on here and all of it is bikeable.  More about that later.  By the time I got around to taking the Duckie view, the rain had begun.










This afternoon thundershower proves to be a daily occurrence the entire time we are in Nebraska.






I think I’ve said before that I’m not much for Forts but after a very interesting time at Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor Michigan, I decided to give Fort Robinson a try. I’d heard it had a nice campground and was it right on our way.  A state park of 22,000 acres with a campground.  Sounded good to me.

Fort Robinson has had a long history from its authorization in 1874 to its decommission more than 70 years later.  In 1874, it was authorized as a Military “camp” at the Red Cloud Indian Agency on the White River.  It’s a long story to understand what this meant so I’m just going to say that it was established to deal with “the Indian situation”.    T

he Native Americans, whose land was stolen in my opinion,  were none too happy and were considered “hostile”.  They had been confined to reservations and their “rations” were distributed from the Red Cloud Agency with its not so honorable Indian Affairs Agent.


As I learned about this history of the fort I was shocked to find that this was the place where Crazy Horse was murdered.  If you’ve been following along with me as we’ve been moving through North and South Dakota you know that Crazy Horse has been showing up recently.  So it seemed sort of woo woo when I learned about the role that Fort Robinson played in the Indian Wars from 1876 to 1890 and in his death. 



The story of this time period is a long and conflicting one.  There have been books and books written about the Fort, the officers, the Indians, Crazy Horse, his death and the Cheyenne Outbreak which occurred here.  I knew very little about this and nothing about Fort Robinson at all before I came. I’ve learned quite a bit from all the information at the fort and since Crazy Horse seems to be following me I’m going to read a couple of biographies of him to see how the story differs depending on who is writing it.  The trick is to decide which ones to read..

This morning we take a bicycle spin around the park and decide that the best plan is one we’ve learned in previous places, take the tour.  In this case the tour is on the wagon that passed up Winnona.  The next tickets are for 11:00 which since the mornings are cool will allow us to beat the heat which is predicted to be 95 again today.



We get on board our wagon for the hour tour.  Cost is $7 a head.  Our guide Karen has been doing this tour for 22 years and she knows everything including minute details and the answers to any question you could ask.  She points out all the spots around the fort and in so doing gives us its history.






We begin passing along the edge of the fort proper where we see horses grazing.  After the Indian Wars most of the soldiers were deployed to the Mexican War.  In 1919 the Fort became the world’s largest quartermaster military remount depot.  The Quartermaster Corps is responsible for supplies, equipment and animals (horses, mules, dogs).  The fort became the animal processing center for the cavalry and artillery.  Here horses were received, examined, cared for and eventually issued to mounted units.  There was also a large veterinary clinic which now houses the Trailside Museum of Natural History.  This building and many around the Fort are shaded by very large old cottonwoods.  Beautiful trees.




During the second world war the fort was the site of the K-9 Corps training center and a German POW camp.  All of these roles are detailed with large metal signage around the park as well as in the Nebraska History Museum in what was the Post’s Headquarters.



We move along to the area which became the parade grounds but which was originally Camp Robinson before it was upgraded to a fort.  The three log buildings which we are viewing from the back have been recreated on the foundations of the originals.  The large building on the far end is the Calvary Barracks,  the middle building is the Adjunct’s Office which served as the first headquarters at Camp Robinson.  The far building which is to the left and out of this picture is the 1875 Guard House.  

Karen tells us the story of both Crazy Horse’s surrender and death as well as of the Cheyenne Outbreak of 1878-79.  I return later to these buildings and I’ll talk about those stories at that time.


Across the parade grounds opposite the log buildings she points out  the Officer’s Row.  These are the oldest buildings still standing at the fort.  Built in 1874-75 they had adobe brick walls and dirt floors.  Adobe didn’t do so well in Nebraska so they put wood frame siding over them.  They were double quarters for two officers front to back.  I returned after the tour to take the second picture.   These are among the many buildings at the Fort which you can rent for overnight.  I learn that this is a very popular place for family reunions because of the variety and size of the accommodations








As we ride along Karen tells us about another significant event in Fort Robinson’s history of which I was totally unaware.  In 1885 the first African American soldiers of the 9th Cavalry arrived.  They were called Buffalo Soldiers by the Native Americans as a sign of respect for their valor.  At that time the U.S. Army was totally segregated.  The Black troopers helped to build the new post during the 1887 expansion and were the first cavalrymen sent to the Pine Ridge Reservation during the “Ghost Dance Troubles” of the 1890’s which ultimately resulted in the massacre at Wounded Knee.   Lt John Alexander, the second African American graduate of West Point and Henry Plummer, the first Black chaplain in the regular army served here.  So did ten buffalo soldier Medal of Honor men.



On around the park, we can see the beautiful  Cheyenne Buttes named in connection with the Cheyenne Outbreak.  More on that later.   Our campsite has a wonderful view of the buttes which nearly surround the fort.







We pass the Post Headquarters Building from 1905.  The Post Commander’s Office was located here along with other administrative offices.  The Nebraska State Historic Society opened a Fort Robinson Museum in June 1956.  We visit both the museum and its excellent bookstore at a later time.   There are two Teepees on the grounds representing the Fort’s original purpose as protection for the Red Cloud Indian Agency the site of which is located 2 miles down a dirt road in the park.





Also on the grounds are two triangular stone monuments. One to Lieutenant Robinson for whom the Fort was named. It is the policy of the military or was at the time to name a new installation after the man most recently killed in the line of duty in the area. Lt Robinson was a casualty of the Indian Wars.

The other monument is to Crazy Horse. As you can imagine this was done many many years after the events occurred. Still it is nice to see him honored for his devotion to his people.




IMG_5124It reads “A Great chief of heroic character.
He fought to the last to hold his native land for the Indian people.”


As we near the end of our tour we go by the Post Playhouse which was originally a supply building.  When they renovated the building for the playhouse, they found that someone had stockpiled “extra” supplies under the floorboards. Too funny! The box office manager comes out to invite us to a production although the one this afternoon is unfortunately sold out.  This is a repertory theater with 5 productions this summer in its 47th year.  I wish I had known.  I would have loved to attend some Nebraska live theater.   How convenient. 







Our last stop is now the park’s main building.  It was the 1909 Brick Barracks.  Of the fifteen enlisted men’s barracks of log, adobe, or fired brick, only this structure remains at Fort Robinson.

After Fort Robinson was abandoned by the military in 1947, the property was transferred to the USDA for its Beef Cattle Research  Station.  Because they did not have the staff to keep up so many buildings, they proceeded to demolish buildings.  This prompted efforts to preserve the fort as an historic site.  In 1955, the Nebraska State Historical Society began to acquire property on the fort; in 1956, they opened a museum on the site.

The fort was declared a National Landmark in 1960. The USDA closed its operation in 1971, transferring the property to the state of Nebraska.  But by that time, many of the historic buildings including those of the POW camp and the Red Cloud agency among others were lost. 

Today this Barracks is a hotel and restaurant serving 3 meals a day.  It is also the registration office for the campgrounds and for all of the buildings on the grounds which you can rent for a day, a week-end, a week or two or????



In front of the building is the “information booth”.  Here you can rent horses to ride the prairie and buttes if you didn’t bring your own.  You can sign up for a trail ride or a jeep tour to the buttes, the hike is 5 miles one way.     You can also sign up for a Hayrack Breakfast on a chuck wagon ride up into the Buttes, or a Chuckwagon buffalo Stew Cookout also in the buttes complete with campfire sing-alongs.  We signed up to do that but sadly they have a minimum of 20 people and they only got 10 sign ups for the day we were there.  Not too sad though since the daily afternoon thundershower complete with lightning would have cancelled it that day anyway.  You can also ride the stage coach.  It’s just amazing the variety of things to do here.

We depart our tour and thank our guide, our driver and our team of horses.  We’ve learned a great deal about the Fort.  There is clearly a lot to see and do here and we don’t have enough time.  What we manage to do is the stuff of another post.




  1. well you've certainly crammed a lot into a couple of days. . .well done!

  2. So excited for Nebraska and Oklahoma. Great to take the tours to get your feet wet! Missed that you had a dad and brother in Denver....neato!!!

  3. Nebraska is a state we haven't visited yet.

  4. Funny, I've never really heard much about Nebraska. I picture open spaces and lots of fields of corn. Crazy Horse has such an interesting story. What a great tour of the fort!

  5. Made it to Kansas, but we've never been to Nebraska either. Funny, but if someone asked me to name the first thing that comes to mind regarding Nebraska, I would say Johnny Carson!


  6. I've found that I come away feeling sad from every fort I have visited west of the Mississippi. (The forts in the east that I've been to were more from the Revolutionary War, which was more honorable than removing Indians from their land).

  7. I was born in Nebraska!

  8. Had to get my Google maps up for this spot! We've only visited Scotts Bluff in NE (which is another wonderful historic site from the Oregon Trail days). The park looks beautiful. I like these state parks out here with full hook ups. We are in one now and moving to another on Friday. Sure sounds like a lot of history in that area, something my husband would enjoy:)

  9. We've stayed over on the east side of NE twice now (just south of Omaha) in a city owned park. Had a wonderful time. We knew little about NE before staying there.

  10. We traveled that route a few years ago,however the museum was closed during our stay. Rt 20 had many city owned parks that were fantastic overnight stops at $5 or free.

  11. Wow...actually a lot to do there. Nebraska is a place I've never thought about having tourist activities. Sounds like Fort Robinson is one and some activities are popular. Interesting history and nice surroundings. Think you're glad you chose Nebraska instead of Wyoming this time :)

  12. When we visited, we were headed in another direction and decided to go there and surprise our friends. It was late when we arrived and hadn't eaten so did the buffet. I was pleased with it and it was so handy. I believe they have raised their rates since we were there and I don't remember paying for the park pass. I wish we would have taken the tour, you learn so much more. Even the museum tours would be better with a docent.
    We spent a month in Nebraska last year. Kearney has many interesting places and the cruise in is worth a stop. Valentine was fun and Nebraska City has a new windmill museum that is unique, We do a lot of western history so there's a lot of places we've visited there.

  13. A dark part of our history but an interesting one. I don't believe I have ever been to Nebraska either.

  14. What a lot of options for things to do ... and with different modes of travel that fit the period. We've only been through Nebraska ... hope to visit someday as a high school teacher I'm still in touch with lives there and it would be nice to see him and his wife again.

  15. Great tour! Sometimes the unlikely destinations are the most interesting. I love when that happens.

  16. Old historic buildings have never interested me much, but the stories behind them do.

  17. Nice looking campground. We spent two nights in Nebraska at Chadron State Park. It was great but aggravating that they charged another $4 each for the car and motorhome day use fees.

  18. The buffalo skull over our fireplace has the hand painted face of Red Cloud. A strong and caring leader who mistakenly believed that the soldiers he dealt with on behalf of his people were honorable (they may have been, with it being others who had a different agenda), the Chief ultimately surrendered the people and the land. It was a sad day when the Indian Agency took his name. Most countries have their "dark" past from a time very different from ours today, and we don't know that we would have acted any differently from our ancestors without the lessons of those actions already learned......we can only act differently now.
    Sorry :-).....mentioning Red Cloud and Crazy Horse always moves me. I'll have to remember to warn Bill when we visit this historic place :-))))). Thanks for all the great info - I read it twice!

  19. We have been to NEB. a few times and always fun some interesting historical stuff to do:)

  20. Nope... can't say that we have been to Nebraska, so thanks for taking us along:o)) Interesting place may have to put that on our TODOS list with Colorado!!!

  21. Sherry, I agree with you -- we stole land from the Native Americans -- along with many other atrocities committed against them. (And I'm really glad that you always take a stand for what you believe in by writing about it in your blog.) At least someone had the decency to create a monument to Crazy Horse at the fort. We've never been to Nebraska, but it certainly looks interesting.

  22. Never expected this kind of interest in Nebraska. What a great tour and I'm expecting more from your excellent guiding skills.

  23. Yep, been there several times, the first time in August 1973 when I crashed my motorcycle on a diesel fuel slick on ramp to I-80 in North Platte. No, I was not going to or coming from Sturgis (in case you were wondering). It was more of a "Then came Bronson" motorcycle trip around the country. Minor damage and a scratch on top of my helmet.

    Passed by a wagon and a team of horses! No wonder you have so much trouble getting ahead in the PDD driving club, you're driving too slow!!! :cD

  24. Interesting- I know nothing about Nebraska except that a friend from Pampered Pets moved there to go to Chadron University.

  25. We've been to NB but not with Betsy your stop sounds interesting. We've been to so many forts in the east and this one could be on Steve's list :)


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