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Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford, Nebraska


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My first visit to Fort Robinson, Nebraska was in 1965.  I was 15 years old and invited to go 'Fossil Hunting' in the Badlands of Western Nebraska.  My friends had a pop up camper and drove from Independence, Missouri to Fort Robinson.


Although since the 1980's the Ranchers I met and knew in the Badlands have died and their ranches have changed hands several times.  In the 1960's to early 1980's there were not many fossil collectors coming to this sparsely populated panhandle of west Nebraska.


I knew the local Ranchers, each by name. I was given free roaming rights for many years. Even the Mayor of Crawford, also an avid artifact and fossil collector invited me to stay at their home when I came as a 16 year old... with a 1956 VW.  For an independent teenager who loved collecting fossils... wouldn't it been even more wonderful in a 23 foot Oliver!!!!!


Sioux County and Dawes County, Nebraska.


These are the same age as the Badlands National Monument of western South Dakota.  Give or take a million years... 35,000,000 year old white clay and ash deposits. The area was humid, meandering rivers and a wide variety of animals. Saber Toothed cats, Rhinos, Horse, Deer, Rabbit, Mice, Moles, Tortoise, Pond Turtles, Birds, Snakes, Lizards and on.  Their remains are still washing out of these same Badlands.


The only areas that you can actually hunt these fossils is by paying a Ranch to collect.  I suspect that today all of the major Ranches have leased collecting to professional dealers.  BUT... Toadstool Park is open to those who want to wander these Badlands, but prohibit your picking anything up that is washing out.


The main attraction for most is Fort Robinson State Park.  They have wonderful tent and RV Trailer sites at reasonable prices.  www.outdoornebraska.org has the details and when facilities open and close for the Season.  A very nice restaurant.  Melodrama in the Summers... making pottery, painting classes. For kids... turn them loose and they have unlimited recreation options.  This is a 'destination campsite' with everything... yet reasonable prices!


Fort Robinson's attractions are an Olympic swimming pool, Horse back rides into the bluffs, a very intact Cavalry Fort where Crazy Horse was murdered in 1877 and a monument marks the spot... right next to the camping areas.  Tennis.  A museum.  The Black Hills are close enough where you can leave your trailer and drive to see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument, among other things worth visiting... like Deadwood and Lead.  A busy 'day trip'!


There is some National Grassland camping to the north and west of Toadstool.  The gate will say 'Please Close Gate'.  These areas are leased to ranchers for grazing, but they are Public Lands.  You would be camped right in the middle of these Badlands.  Wandering around them is a lot of fun.


Can an Oliver do all of this?  Your Oliver can do all of this and MORE...  You are about 50 miles east of the Wyoming border and your camping trip can extend all the way to... Yellowstone Park and, beyond.


I am including some photographs taken June 1, 2006.  Just so you have a sense of what the area is like.






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Great post about a place I love and return to every year or so. I grew up in Nebraska and love the Sandhills and the area of Northern Nebraska from Valentine west to the area around Chadron and Crawford, Nebraska. There are many places worth visiting and things to do. Canoeing the Niobrara River east of Valentine, the Peppermill Steakhouse in Valentine, Merritt Reservoir south of Valentine (great campgrounds and the annual Nebraska Star Party in July), The Bowring Ranch State Historical Park near Merriman, Nebraska, the Museum of the Fur Trade east of Chadron, NE, the Marie Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State College, The Prairie Club, a world-class golf course near Valentine, NE, etc. The Sandhills are dotted with lakes, clear running rivers like the Niobrara, the Loup and the Dismal. There are very large cattle ranches, not many people, beautiful skies and lots of opportunities for Oliver owners to enjoy a unique area. If you have an interest in visiting this area, contact me for more information and I may join you there!












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Ann and I had a wonderful camping experience there on our way back from Yellowstone with our Grandson in June. The Park is all that you said it is, and left us very enthusiastic about returning and spending more time there. Thank you reminding us.

Grayson and Ann Cook

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The campground is very close to the highway. Is there very much traffic noise? I'm guessing it is not a very busy route.


I love old (maintained) military bases. This looks like a good one. There are a number of these near Seattle that are great (Fort Casey State Park being my big favorite) but they date from 1900 so they do not have that neat "old west" flavor.


Here is the campground there, with the bluffs, fortification, parade ground and big guns to the rear....


Ft Casey SP campground


Can someone recommend other similar _intact_ historic fort/ army base/ military installations in the west half of the country that also offer camping? I don't mean just a museum or battleship, but intact bases. Is there a website listing these spots?




John Davies


Spokane WA



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Wikipedia U. S. Route 20-  Plan a 2017 Oliver Adventure.  Make NO reservations.  Make NO plans other than if a place catches your interest... make those Custer Decisions that are immediate and totally... well, unplanned.  YOU and your family will find this an adventure of a lifetime.


"The '0' (zero) in an east-west United States Highway indicates that Highway 20 is a coast to coast route.  It spans 3,365 miles and is the longest road in the United States."


If you are adventuress and want to see the RURAL USA in its finest representation.... US Highway 20 is it.  This is the very unknown 'Gateway to Yellowstone Park.


Make detours to the Black Hills from Fort Robinson, Nebraska.


Make detours to Northeast Wyoming to Devil's Tower, around the Black Hills to Sturgis, South Dakota before, during or after the Bike Rally.  Caverns.  Hot Springs.  Mount Rushmore.  Crazy Horse Monument.  Gold Mines.


The Buffalo Bill Museum at Cody, Wyoming and stay to the west at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir where you can camp... very reasonably.


Make detours to Montana... The Custer Battlefield aka Battle of the Little Big Horn aka Custer's Last Stand.  Headwaters of the Missouri River.  The Yellowstone River and camp along the sandy beaches.  Butte and its HUGE open pit copper mine that is 'green and blue' water sloshing around in it.  Pan sapphires near Phillipsburg, Montana for a small fee.  The Wisdom River south of Wisdom Montana and Boondocking in the National Forest...


Idaho... my goodness.  Just looking into the canyon cut by the Columbia River, Snake River... should be enough.  The giant Potato Heads of Idaho... may be observed.  Rank up there with the Easter Island Moai Statues.  Well... not exactly as giant Potato Heads have not yet been discovered in Idaho... but you can look for them.


Your Oliver should not be gathering dust from being parked.  Take two weeks and be spontaneous.  This is suppose to be an Adventure... not a RV Park $35 to $75 experience.  Learn how to fill your fresh water tank on the road.  Find dump stations.  Visit each State's Welcome centers... and many have FREE dump stations or can point the direction to where they can be found.


Do not follow the 99% of RV's and Trailers doing the same old stuff.  Oliver's and their owners are... SPECIAL.  A minority among true Boondocking capable Travel Trailers and should be used as one.  Any fool can make reservations and camp with a hundred other trailers.  Be proud of your Oliver and you will... once you get the hang of Base Camping and being spontaneous.


If you can go six days Base Camped at minimal cost and relax at a full service RV Park... the money saved is WHY you have an outfitted trailer to begin with.  Unless I am unique among trailer owners... which I hope not.


Highway 66....?  Not even close to a US Highway 20, which most is two lane and rural once in Nebraska.  Although Highway 66 is more developed until you get into the Southwestern US... Highway 20 hits the small towns whose occupants are actually 'happy to see you'.

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Highway 20 is a great route! I know the route in Nebraska very well. I can also recommend highway 2 through the Sandhills of Nebraska. In addition to Fort Robinson on Highway 2 in NE, don't miss the Peppermill Steakhouse in Valentine, canoeing the Niobrara River east of Valentine, the Museum of the Fur Trade near Chadron, NE, the Mari Sandoz (Old Jules, Son of a Gambling Man, Crazy Horse) in Chadron, the Bowring Ranch State Historical Park near Merriman, NE and many more interesting places.


In response to an earlier question about the proximity of the highway to the campground at Fort Robinson State Park, I can respond. I camped there about a month ago. There are two separate camping areas: Soldier Creek and Red Cloud. I camped in the Red Cloud area which is more distant from the highway.



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  • 10 months later...

Highway 20 goes through the southern edge of Fort Robinson.  Traffic?  There are more people shopping at your local WalMart daily, than vehicles driving through the Fort in a month!  An Indian Pow Wow is held every year which brings many Sioux and Cheyenne to the west of the Fort.  Could get the kids a bit concerned, as these are real Indians but there for the celebrations.


Fort Laramie, Wyoming is another Indian Fort from the 19th Century with ruins.  Laramie, Wyoming has what is left of Fort Saunders on the south side of town.  Homes are built around the ruins.  The fort's dump is on the east side of the road and in the 1970's you could find 1860's pottery ink bowls and bottles!


If you like crowds and the main street of tourist vendor's... this is not for you.  Wide open country where the climate can change every 24 hours.  July is the hottest.  Before and afterwards... your guess of climate changes quickly when traveling above 4,500 feet elevation.


Follow the Oregon Trail through Wyoming.  Open camping on BLM are to be found everywhere.  The Oregon, Mormon, Pony Express is marked with easy to find monuments.  "You are not only playing Frontiersman... You ARE living it!"




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I love old (maintained) military bases. This looks like a good one. There are a number of these near Seattle that are great (Fort Casey State Park being my big favorite) but they date from 1900 so they do not have that neat “old west” flavor.


Here is the campground there, with the bluffs, fortification, parade ground and big guns to the rear….


Ft Casey SP campground


Can someone recommend other similar _intact_ historic fort/ army base/ military installations in the west half of the country that also offer camping? I don’t mean just a museum or battleship, but intact bases. Is there a website listing these spots?




John Davies


Spokane WA




I'm wondering, too.

Anyone know of a list of these spots?

Or, should we begin one?


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You might be led to believe that I really found Fort Robinson, Nebraska a vacation destination for adults and especially the youngsters with sugar highs from the TWO ice cream diners in Crawford!  Two... and they are both generous with their mountain sized scoops!  Turn them loose in the Badlands around Toadstool Park and let them burn it off.


Your children, when adults, will also take their families.  Our two daughters do and did.


An Olympic indoor swimming pool with a high and low dive.  I chickened out on the High Dive.  It looks higher up when looking down... trust me, but try it.  You can also swim out to a shallow pool that is outdoors.  This is Big City Oliver Camping...  The water is from the local aquifer and they should charge you for filling your fresh water tank.  They include SHOWERS, as well at the campsite.


College actors do melodrama during the High Season.  They are very good.


Where Crazy Horse was killed at the fort is now marked.  I found two Indian Head pennies there when I was 16 years old.  The gophers dig them up and toss the dirt into a pile...


Craft school where the kids can make...well, some kind of art in water color and maybe fired clay.  Check it out.


A fine restaurant at the Fort is excellent.  Tennis courts.  Golf in Crawford.  Agate, Nebraska has the Cook Ranch where Red Cloud and Sioux Indians would gather.  The wonderful Agate Fossil Beds with a Indian museum with Sioux and Cheyenne leather clothing and accessories on display.  As nice as Cody, Wyoming's Buffalo Bill Museum... but collected by the Cooks from the Indians themselves!


If I missed something... please make a post to complete this Thread.  When you are sitting outside your Oliver... at sunset, you can imagine how the soldiers felt when the Indians were on the war path.




Oh... the fort was a POW camp for Germans in WW2.  Many stayed in the area after the war.  Cannot blame them at all.  Above all... have fun.  My last breath will not be 'Rosebud' the sled, but... Fort Robinson.

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