Fort Robinson State Park just west of Crawford, Nebraska is a place with a very diverse history. From its initial place as a military fort during the Indian Wars, to a K-9 training center in WWII, and present day state park, you will not find a lack of history at this vast park, spanning more than 22,000 acres of breathtaking landscape that is home to the park’s own herds of bison and longhorns. We camped here for three nights as the fourth stop on our 70 day road trip.
Fort Robinson History
In 1874, the military authorized the organization of a military camp at the site of the Red Cloud Agency in Northwest Nebraska. The camp was named Camp Robinson after a Lieutenant that had been killed by Indians. In May the camp was moved to where it is now, and was officially named Fort Robinson in 1878. From 1876-1890 it played a key roll in the Sioux Wars. On May 6, 1877, Crazy Horse surrendered here and on September 5th he died here, after being wounded while resisting imprisonment. There is a plaque here now in the location where he died.
The Cheyenne Outbreak is another key point in the history of Fort Robinson. In January 1879, a band of Cheyenne Indians being held as prisoners at the fort attacked and attempted to escape. A large number of them were killed, and all were eventually recaptured.
Other key points in the history of Fort Robinson include the stationing of the Buffalo Soldiers here in 1885, it’s use as a quartermaster remount depot in 1919, and its use as a K-9 training center and POW camp during WWII. In 1947, the army left Fort Robinson, and it was then used by the Department of Agriculture as a Beef Cattle Research Station, before officially being named a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
Today, you can walk the halls of a mix of original and recreated buildings that show what life was like when officers and soldiers roamed the grounds of this long lived military fort.
For Robinson Activities
Unfortunately, we were not aware when I booked our trip that the activities at Fort Robinson do not officially begin until Memorial Day Weekend, so we were just a bit too early for most of the fun activities this location has to offer. From bike rentals, to horseback riding, wagon rides, a pool and so much more, Fort Robinson is definitely an ideal family vacation destination during peak season. You can find a full list of peak season activities on the Fort Robinson website.
That said, we still found plenty of activities to keep us busy. Hiking is available, although there is no specific information on trails, and they are loosely marked at best with white triangles. We did enjoy a hike in the wilderness area up one of the paths the Jeep tours take up the mountains. This was a strenuous hike, but well worth the views. We also, took a hike out in the Red Cloud Butte trail, but this one was closed off by a locked gate and we had to get permission to climb the gate before entering.
Touring the fort is a fun-filled activity in itself. Several of the building are open for touring, including an officer’s home, a recreation of the Private’s barracks and the veterinary building for the horses.
A trip out the Smiley Canyon Scenic Drive takes you past the park’s bison herd and through some gorgeous land complete with stops that tell the history of the Cheyenne Outbreak. If you are a fan of geocaching, there are a ton of caches in the area, and you could spend a whole day hopping from one to another. We did!
The Soldier Creek Campground
The Soldier Creek Campground at Fort Robinson is conveniently located and has both standard sites with electricity and primitive sites as well. There is also a horse camping area located separately within the park too. Campsites are shady, and flush toilets, water and showers are available during the warmer months, but closed in Winter.
There is a small playground near the campground, and the boys enjoyed spending hours on it, we even found a geocache there. We made good use of the covered picnic area near the campground for cooking when it rained too. Each campsite comes complete with a fire pit and picnic table.
If you are looking for a family camping location in Northwest Nebraska, Fort Robinson State Park is the place to be. With a wide range of family friendly activities and programs after Memorial Day, it is a one stop vacation destination!