windmill by sign to Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

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I broke up my road trip from Texas to Colorado into two days.  As a result, I had a chance to visit Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site which was sort of on the way.  The site is located 23 miles East of Eads.

Of all the times I’ve driven from Texas to Colorado and back, I’ve rarely even taken Highway 287, so the drive was relatively new to me.  I veered off the highway near Eads and followed many dirt roads as I made my way to the Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site.

As I weaved along the roads through the plains, I hoped my GPS was right, as I was in the middle of nowhere.  I had some degree of confidence since the Sand Creek Massacre site is a National Historic Site.

Eventually, I arrived at a gate with a road to two buildings, a large shed and a simple house structure.  It was far from the fancy entrances and visitor centers seen at the National Parks.  In fact, due to COVID, the “visitor center” was closed, though the site remained open from 9am to 4pm Thursday to Monday.

Visitor parking is located next to a picnic area which features a 33 star flag and a handful of signs explaining the history of the Sand Creek Massacre.  The flag is the same type of flag that flew above the Indian Reservation which indicated the chiefs village of Cheyenne and Arapaho was peaceful.

Sand Creek Massacre History

Unfortunately for these Indians, the US Calvary of 700 volunteer troops commanded by Col. John Chivington ignored the flag.  On the fateful morning of November 29, 1864, the Calvary attacked killing most women, children, and elderly who tried escaping up the Sand Creek dry creek bed.

sand creek massacre national historic site

230 Cheyenne and Arapaho, including 13 Council and four Soldier chiefs were murdered during the eight hour fight.  The following day, the soldiers scalped and mutilated the dead, looted and burned the village, and brought home human war trophies.

During this savage attack, two company commanders, Capt. Silas Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer ordered their men to stand down.  They also provided written accounts of the atrocities.  While the US Government took responsibility for the massacre, little was done for the Native Americans.

When the letters resurfaced in 2000, Congress voted to commemorate the site to honor the victims of this terrible event.  The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was finally established and dedicated on April 28, 2007.

Monument Trail and Bluff Trail

As I mentioned above, there is a picnic area near the parking area and headquarters.  From here, visitors may follow the well maintained, half-mile Monument Trail to Monument Hill.  The hill overlooks the plains and sand creek marked by the trees which follow a line to the Northwest.

Monument Hill includes covered benches, pit toilets, and another parking area for those who don’t want to make the round-trip mile walk from the visitor center.

Monument Hill

A 1.5 mile Bluff Trail extends along the bluff parallel to Sand Creek which runs on the below plains.  The trail includes interpretive signs that explain the Calvary attack, and the attempted escape of the Indians. 

Sand creek massacre national historic site

The site is considered sacred to the Cheyenne and Arapaho who repatriate remains of the massacre found in museums and private collections.  They also complete an annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run from the site to the steps of the Colorado State Capitol, 181 miles away.  As a result, please pay attention to the “silence & respect” signs posted along the path.

Be Prepared

Also note that there is no protection from the weather on the trails. Based on the “look before you sit” sign with a picture of a rattle snake on the side of the benches, it is likely rather warm in the summer. 

look before you sit at sand creek massacre national historic site

On the flip side, it can be freezing cold in the winter like it was when I visited an hour before a snowstorm hit.  The wind chill had to be in the teens.  Consequently, my dog Annie and I were the only two on the trail.  At least she had fun running around.

Admittedly, I was surprised to find another couple at the picnic area reading the signs when I returned, but they didn’t look like they were going to venture to Monument Hill or beyond.

While visiting the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, I had to mentally put myself into the situation to really appreciate the barren landscape.  I thought of buffaloes on the plains and teepees by the creek with ponies grazing nearby as the cavalry approached along the ridge.

It is hard to believe anyone would want to live in this area.  Sadly, the Indians were forced there as part of US Treaties and then brutally murdered.  It makes me sick just writing about this tragic Sand Creek Massacre.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

8 thoughts on “Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

  1. There were so many atrocities over time across the globe. These monuments and memorials are not just to honour those who were wronged, but also to keep in our consciousness that these events occurred. Most of us thing that this cannot happen during our modern and enlightened times…Thanks for this post!

    1. Agreed. Reminding us of our history is important. It’s a shame in the USA statues are being torn down and names and schools, etc are being changed. We need to remember so it doesn’t happen again!

    1. Thx for reading. I ended up picking a remarkably cold day for a visit. It was hard to imagine anyone living there. And sickening to think people were murdered there for no reason.

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