After Devil’s Tower, I met up with my good friend and fellow photographer, John Sperry, who was joining me for the following week or so of my travels. We’d chosen Buffalo, Wyoming as our meeting place based on its proximity to our mutual locations and planned destination. We lucked out with a gorgeous campsite at the Buffalo KOA. A spacious site with a stream bubbling by about 100 feet behind us with fallen trees surrounding a fire pit. The campground was very busy. We’d grabbed the last site and the rest were filled with motorcyclists in town for a convention. Despite the business, it was clean and comfortable and friendly. And the campground may have had the fanciest bathrooms I’ve ever seen in such a place, more likely to be found in a deluxe cabin than where we were. The campground hosts were very helpful and friendly— I highly recommend this campground if you need a place to stay in Buffalo.
After a lovely nights rest in preperation for our adventures, we headed North, armed with walkie talkies John furnished for ease of communication through the spotty cell reception of mountains and forests. We had an eventual destination in mind, but left our day open to wandering and exploring where we would.
One of my favorite stops was Fort Phil Kearny in Banner, Wyoming along the Bozeman Trail. I hadn’t heard of the site before we saw the sign and decided to check it out.
The visitor center, which was manned by an informative and lovely woman named Star, has a lot of information for such a small place. There is a very detailed model of the original fort and the surrounding area, a short movie giving the history (mostly from the Army’s point of view) and a nice selection of artifacts and information. There’s also a gift shop with local trinkets and history books. Outside there is a small recreated section of the fort that, after having seen the smaller model inside, gave scope to what had been there.
The Army built the fort in 1866 to protect travelers along the Bozeman trail. It was built in the middle of the Lakota Sioux’s hunting grounds and in violation of a previous treaty stating that the land was theirs. For two years the Sioux Indians defended their land against the soldiers and travelers trespassing on their hunting grounds. In the bloodiest battle (at both this location and during the Indian Wars in general until Custer’s Last Stand), the Sioux defeated an entire command of 80 soldiers. The Army abandoned the fort, which was then burned to the ground by the victors. It was one of the few instances where the native americans persevered and successfully forced the Army to abandon a region they’d occupied.
Fort Phil Kearny is definitely worth a stop should you be nearby. The history alone is worth the stop, but the location is beautiful as well.