Plan Your Visit
This country will surprise you, with its "plenty of air and plenty of room," this is a place where as the Oklahoma state song attests, "the wind comes sweepin' down the plain." The rolling hills of Elk City sandstone seem to go on forever.
Out here on the western plains of Oklahoma's storied Indian Territory, it's not hard to understand why the nomadic Plains Indians battled so fiercely to preserve their traditional way of life, nor why the settlers pushing into the country fought so hard to wrestle this land away from them.
In the northwest corner of Rodger Mills County, nestled in a bend of the Canadian River, the fabled Antelope Hills served as a landmark for Spanish conquistadors, Plains Indians, Texas Rangers, and immigrants making their way along the California Road. They also served - at one time - as the international boundary line between the United States and Mexico.
In 1868, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry left Camp Supply, Indian Territory, in a blinding snow storm, heading for these hills to begin the search for Cheyenne and Arapaho "hostiles" reported to be in their winter camps along the banks of the Washita River.
Today, Washita is a place of remembrance and reconciliation and has special significance for the Cheyenne people who regard it as hallowed ground. The visitor center is a building with a story to tell through its shape, its colors, and design. In the museum, you'll hear the Cheyenne language as Lenora Hart Holliman begins her story, "The morning was still and bitter cold..."
Do You Want to Plan a Visit to Washita Battlefield National Historic Site?
You can look forward to seeing:
Destiny at Dawn: Loss and Victory on the Washita (park film)
Before exploring the park we recommend watching the park's 27-minute film, in the park visitor center on Highway 47A just west of Cheyenne, Oklahoma. The film focuses on the engagement and the events that led to it. It is a great way to learn the history of the site!
The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site Visitor Center
After watching the film wander through the visitor center museum. Become immersed in the stories of that cold winter's day in November 1868. Stare out the window at a breathtaking view of the Washita River valley. Browse through the books in our Western National Parks Association Bookstore.
Downstairs you will find the park headquarters and offices of the U.S. Forest Service's Black Kettle National Grassland.
Explore the Trails
There are two walks for our visitors to enjoy at Washita.
1) The Dust and Fire Trail - this is a .4 mile paved walk around the visitor center. Created by the U.S. Forest Service the Dust and Fire trail examines life on the plains after the land run, wildlife, flora, fauna, and even has a working wind mill! Don't forget while spending time on the trail to take a moment to look at the Native Garden.
2) At the site - Want to visit the location of the fight along the Washita? Drive 1/2 mile west of the visitor center on HWY 47A to the park overlook and trailhead. The 1.5 mile trail is self guided. The trail itself is an unimproved, currently not handicapped accessible, walk down to the site of Black Kettle's village.
A small electric vehicle, Global Electric Machine (GEM), is available for access to the site if needed. Please ask at the front desk for the use of the GEM.
Between Memorial and Labor Day there are regularly scheduled ranger guided talks and walks available for visitors. After Labor Day, tours can be arranged depending on staffing.
There are also many other wonderful Things to Do in the Area!
The Metcalfe Museum, the Roll One-Room School, the Pioneer Museum, and the Cheyenne City Park to mention a few ideas.
Did You Know?
The distant hills north of Washita Battlefield are called the Horseshoe Hills. These hills were formed as a result of erosion of the softer surrounding material about 250 million years ago, leaving the harder Doxey Shale behind.