Park Unit #391 To Be Added in June

Nancy Bandley who has contributed many park articles about Alaska on this website in the past, has sent me some great information about the National Park Service's newest park unit which will be open to the public beginning on June 1st. You can find more info about the new Sand Creek Massacre National Historic site on nps.gov/sand and on its Wikipedia entry. Nancy's description follows:

Sand Creek Massacre MonumentIn June, the 391st National Park site will join the now existing 390. It is Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site which will tell the story of 700 Colorado volunteer troops attacking a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho along the Big Sandy Creek on Nov 29 1864. At the end of that day, 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho lay dead mostly women, children and the elderly. The result, a controversial military commission and Congressional investigations. In Nov 2000, an act was signed making Sand Creek Massacre a National Historic Site , under the National Park Service. For 7 years, the site has been developed. First, locating the site in the southeast corner of Colorado. Then locating willing sellers from which to buy the property. So far, they have acquired just over 2,300 acres of the authorized 12,500 potential. Of course, the centerpiece is the property containing the site of the village and most of the running battle- extending over 5 miles. Now that the acquisition is finally accomplished, the development and archaeological digs can begin. The overseer of this is Alexa Roberts, PhD, the new superintendent of the newest 39lst park.

The journey to this park begins in the town of Eads, Colorado at the planning office located at 910 Wansted street, which is also State Highway 287. She shares the office with the agricultural people, who are important to this mainly farming community. Since the official dedication of this site is scheduled for the 28 April 2007- just a couple of weeks away, she is really busy. I have been following the development of this site for 7 years, so when I found myself visiting another park in the area- Bent's Old Fort- I took the side trip to see what I could see. Fortuitously, Dr. Roberts was about to leave her office for the actual site, which is currently closed to the public. She graciously allowed us to follow her. You proceed from Eads eastward on 287 to the junction with State Highway 96. Continue on it about 12 miles, through the town of Chivington. Then turn left on County Road 54 (CR54). This is a well maintained dirt road and actually has a green street sign CR54. Continue on this about 8 miles to the roads end, and turn right on CR W for about 1 and 1/2 mile to the entrance on left- just past the natural gas flowmeters on the right.

Currently, the road into the site is high centered dirt- the sheet metal building will eventually be replaced. The original house has been removed but the barn and corrals remain. The temporary modular building which will hold the Visitor Center is not yet in place between the two large cottonwood trees. We stood there for a picture.

Road to Sand Creek Massacre National Historic SiteThen Dr. Roberts offered to take us to the overview site. From here you can see the gently rolling hills for miles in each direction. There is a monument plaque put there by Colorado Historical Society. The first thing we notice are the pig tracks, apparently there are many large feral pigs ( not javelinas ) in the area. At the entrance gate, we saw deer track. As you look out over the valley, you can see the site of the former village and the line of cottonwood trees marks the former Sandy Creek and site of the running battle.

There is a great deal of work to be done here and will take years, as does any new national park site. Volumes of reports from the after action battle reports to the Congressional hearings reports. Newspapers, first hand reports, etc- there is no lack of paperwork documenting the information on this "battle". However, since eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable, everything needs to be checked and rechecked. There will be a cemetery area for any remains which are repatriated to the site from museums, three of which are already being conserved at Bents Old Fort, already repatriated from other museums, and any others that may be found in the future.

The official dedication of the site will occur later this month on the 28th beginning at 10AM MST, at the historic site. Between 1045AM and 1230PM various dignitaries from local, county, and Department of the Interior will speak. Present and conducting a Spiritual Healing Run will be Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members. The land which officially belonged to those tribes, but conveyed, as a trust, by them to the National Park Service for development as the Historic Site.