Chronology of Bighorn Canyon History Part Two 1864-1968
Part Two 1864-1968
1864 - John Bozeman leads the first wagon train over the Bozeman Trail. The train travels from Fort Laramie to the goldfields of Virginia City. By 1865 Montana territory has a population of over 120,000 whites. Pressure is exerted on Congress to send the army to protect emigrants traveling the trail from attacks by the Sioux and Cheyenne.
1866 - The War Department constructs three forts to protect emigrant wagon trains on the Bozeman Trail. The northernmost post is Fort C.F. Smith. The fort sits on a commanding plateau, 300 yards from the Bighorn River and about one mile from the mouth of Bighorn Canyon. The fort’s first year is plagued by a lack of supplies, Indian attacks, and harsh winter conditions.
August 1, 1867 - The Hayfield Fight takes place. A small group of 25 soldiers and civilians cutting hay for Fort C.F. Smith is attacked by 800 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. They survive an all day siege before a relief column arrives from the fort three miles away. Casualties include two soldiers killed, two soldiers wounded, and one civilian wounded. Indian casualties are estimated at 25 killed and wounded.
April 29, 1868 - The Fort Laramie Treaty is signed, legalizing Indian possession of the region as far west as the 104th parallel. This is the first time that the United States fails to force the tribes into making concessions. The three forts guarding the Bozeman Trail are burned.
July 29, 1868 - Fort C.F. Smith is abandoned.
Fall 1869 - Fort Parker, the first Crow agency is constructed on Mission Creek, about 25 miles east of present day Livingston, Montana. The fort is used to distribute annuity payments and also encourage the Crow to take up farming. The agency is moved to Rosebud Creek in 1875, close to present day Absarokee. Finally in 1884 the agency is moved to Crow Agency, ten miles south of Hardin, Montana.
1876-77 - After the destruction of the 7th Calvary at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25th, 1876 the United States Army effectively hounds the Sioux and Cheyenne into retreating back to the reservations. The Crow effectively ally with the U.S. military during the conflict, serving as scouts and guides.
1891 - Congress ratifies the Agreement of March 3rd selling off 1.8 million acres of land from the western end of the Crow Reservation. From the proceeds of this sale, money is budgeted for capital improvements and irrigation projects on the reservation.
1892-1904 - The Bighorn Ditch is constructed by the Crow people. This irrigation system was designed to open 35,000 acres for irrigation. By 1906 the Crow have achieved self-sufficiency, either through farming, ranching, or skilled construction work.
1925 – A private group, known as the National Parks Association, recommends a large portion of the Pryor and Bighorn Mountain areas be set aside as a National Park. No action is taken.
1961-1967 - Construction of the Yellowtail Dam at the mouth of Bighorn Canyon takes place as part of the Missouri Basin project. The dam is constructed for flood control, power generation, irrigation and recreational purposes. The finished structure is 525 feet high, the 15th tallest dam in the United States. It creates a reservoir known as Bighorn Lake, 71 miles long.
October 15, 1966 -Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area was established by Public Law 89-664, “to provide for recreation use and enjoyment of Bighorn Lake and adjacent lands, and to preserve the scenic, scientific, and historic resources.”
April 1, 1967 - Bighorn Canyon NRA opens to the public.
October 31, 1968 - Bighorn Canyon NRA and Yellowtail Dam are dedicated.
Did You Know?
Long before the Bighorn River was tamed by the Yellowtail Dam, the roiling waters through the canyon were feared. During spring snowmelt, the water turned into a raging torrent, a combination of whirlpools, rapids, and eddies. Conversely, the river through the canyon had a reputation for being placid by late summer, when dry heat and lack of rainfall turned it into a sedate stream. More...