OverviewCheyenne Outbreak of 1879. This incident led to the name for the buttes. The 1964 film classic, “Cheyenne Autumn”, starring Richard Widmark, Jimmy Stewart, and Edward G. Robinson, spotlighted the event, which had been largely forgotten since the late 1800’s. While Hollywood put their own spin on the story, the actual events stirs thoughts of desperate Native Americans seeking refuge in the rugged terrain of the Cheyenne Buttes area.
Escaping from an Oklahoma reservation late in 1878, about 350 Cheyenne traveled north in an attempt to reach their traditional homelands in Montana. Because of hunger, a group of nearly 150 led by Chief Dull Knife, split from the rest and came to Fort Robinson to seek out their friend, Sioux Chief Red Cloud. Instead of finding him there, they met only soldiers and were eventually imprisoned in an unheated barracks building.
On the evening of January 9, 1879, they managed to break out, only to get into a running gun battle with soldiers, along the White River. The Cheyenne were able to complete their escape by fleeing into the very rugged area of what would later be named ”Cheyenne Buttes”. Some of the natives were captured twelve days later, after another battle northwest of there, near Antelope Creek. Chief Dull Knife and his family managed to escape again, eventually re-joining his fellow Cheyenne. The Cheyenne Outbreak led to the deaths of 64 natives and 11 soldiers – truly a somber chapter in the history of Fort Robinson.
Getting ThereNebraska Trails Interactive Map.
Most people reach the Cheyenne Buttes Trailheads by driving out Smiley Canyon Road and accessing the eastern trailhead from the road. It's about 2 1/2 miles past the White River, and there is a small parking lot there. It's not more than a mile to the summit, and you can either return the way you came up, or hike the rest of the loop, which will require you to walk 2 tenths of a mile back down the road from the west trailhead to the east trailhead where you started at.
The land to the south, down to the White River, is owned by Chief Dull Knife College. At the southwest boundary of the state park, lies the Peterson Wildlife Management Area. Buffalo are often in the large east pasture, which winds around to the south side. The buffalo pastures are off limits to all traffic, including hikers and climbers. So any climbing around the cliffs must be done on the buttes side of the fence.
Camping, Lodging, and Resource Links
Fort Robinson Tour
Camping is allowed only in designated areas. Fort Robinson Area Information Links:
Fort Robinson State Park Information
Visit Crawford & Fort Robinson
City of Crawford
Crawford Area Information