Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Overview

On November 29, 1864, in the middle of the Civil War, a tragedy played out on this spot where Chief Black Kettle and 700 other American Indians were peacefully spending the winter in accordance with the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise.  A surprise attack led by Colonel John Chivington killed between 165 and 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho, primarily women, children, and the elderly.  The site is held sacred by the Cheyenne and Arapaho, so is only viewable from an overlook above the cottonwood-lined creek.  It serves as an important reminder of the terrible acts people can undertake when they dehumanize their fellow men.

Highlights

Memorial, trail, overlook

Must-Do Activity

Authorized in 2000 upon the discovery of two grisly letters describing the gruesome event, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site opened to the public in 2007.  It is located in a remote section of the eastern Colorado plains, down a long dirt road, but it does have a small visitor center in a trailer staffed by the National Park Service (NPS).  Near the parking lot you will find posted the letters written by Captain Soule and Lieutenant Cramer, whose units refused to fire during the massacre.  Be warned that the description of the mutilation of the bodies is painful to read and not suitable for children.

Best Trail

There is a 0.8-mile self-guided walking trail with a few interpretive signs. There is also a 600-mile Sand Creek Massacre Trail designated on highways between here and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Instagram-worthy Photo

We took this photo from the overlook of the 1864 Cheyenne and Arapaho camp in November nearly 153 years after the massacre.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/sand/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The dirt access road is well maintained.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Oklahoma)

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado)

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

Explore More – Who was the Colorado Territorial Governor that authorized the 100-day volunteer cavalry to “kill and destroy” hostile American Indians?

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