Fort Robinson has served many functions over its lifetime. Once a military outpost during the Indian wars, it is now a state park.
Fort Robinson is located in the Pine Ridge region of the Nebraska panhandle.
The fort is one of the most popular parks in the state. It has more than 22,000 acres of scenery. People can rent cabins or rooms in a refurbished soldier’s quarters. You can also camp in the park.
The park offers stage coach rides and wagon rides. Guests can hike, fish, swim and boat. You can even take a horseback ride along a trail.
The state park offers a view of bison and longhorns.
Fort Robinson opened as a camp in 1873, after the Red Cloud Indian Agency was moved to the area by the government. The agency was the federal office dedicated to working with the Lakota and Dakota (Sioux) Indians in the area.
It was originally called Camp Robinson, in honor of Lt. Levi Robinson, who was killed during a confrontation between the Army and Native Americans. It became Fort Robinson in 1878.
Fort Robinson was the site of the “killing” of Crazy Horse, the Lakota tribal leader who was revered by Native Americans. The military said he was killed while resisting arrest. Natives have questioned how he died almost from the day it happened in 1877.
A monument honoring Crazy Horse is located near the site of his death.
As the wars on the plains faded, Fort Robinson’s role changed, as well. In 1885, it became home to a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers (African-American cavalry members).
Later in the 1900s, the role of Fort Robinson evolved even more. In 1919, the fort’s role was reassigned as a quartermaster remount depot. Horses and mules were trained here.
During World War II, Fort Robinson served as a Prisoner of War camp for the Allies. German POWs were sent here.
Following the war, in the late 1940s, the military closed the base. The state started taking it over in 1955. It was eventually turned over to the state in 1970.
The fort area was quite busy during our visit. Wagon rides and tours were going on. People flocked to the information wagon for help with schedules and directions.
We visited the fort’s museum, which has a fantastic collection of military uniforms and equipment, as well as Native American items. The museum is small, but it offers an informative look into the history of Fort Robinson.
The drive through the park is spectacular. The buttes are quite prominent along the skyline. A few miles south of the park on the main highway, you get a glimpse of the tall trees along the hills and buttes.
Fort Robinson State Park would be a great area to spend a long weekend or even a week, taking in the sites, nature and surrounding communities, such as Crawford. You can even make a jaunt into South Dakota. It’s about a 2-hour drive to Rapid City, with Mount Rushmore available for a visit.
We enjoyed the couple of hours we spent at Fort Robinson. We may have to go back for a full vacation there.