Site where two members of the 7th Cavalry fell on June 25, 1876 fighting in the Battle of Little Bighorn

Mother Nature had given us a stern warning—the beautiful days of early fall were being replaced with the first snow storms of the year. After receiving a foot of snow in the Black Hills, we had a reprieve as daytime temperatures quickly rebound into the 60s. But next time we likely wouldn’t be so lucky. It was time to move on while the coast was clear. Our original plan had been to head south toward New Mexico from the Black Hills, but we decided to return home for a visit and to take care of some personal matters before continuing south for the winter.

Campsite at Connor Battlefield in Ranchester, Wyoming

Departing the Black Hills, we spent our first two nights at Connor Battlefield Historic Site in Ranchester, Wyoming. The Battle of Tongue River took place there in 1865 between U.S. cavalry and Chief Black Bear’s Arapahoe village. Today, the historical site is co-managed by Wyoming State Parks and the town of Ranchester. There are 20 dry camping sites (2 ADA accessible) along an oxbow of the Tongue River at the base of the Bighorn Mountains. All sites are first-come, first-serve. Cost was $18 per night for nonresident. While the Campendium reviews for Conner were mixed, we loved it and would stay again. Some reviewers complained that the restrooms were filthy. We used our own private facilities, so this was a non-issue for us. There was also a complaint about train noise at night. We could hear the train a few times, but did not feel the noise was at all disruptive. To the contrary, we found the area quiet and peaceful. Several of the locals came through on their daily walks and they were very friendly and welcoming.

View from our campsite at Connor Battlfield

We stayed at Connor Battlefield two nights and used the layover day to venture north into Montana for a visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. This National Park Unit memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. In 1876, 700 men of the US Army’s 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. George Custer, attacked the combined forces of the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho which numbered an estimated 1,100 to 2,500 warriors. The battle was an overwhelming victory for the tribes. Five of the 7th Cavalry’s twelve companies were annihilated and Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. The total U.S. casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded. For a detailed account of the battle, click here for a nice summary on the National Park Service’s website.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument map

Our visit to Little Bighorn fell on a cold and blustery mid-October day which deterred us from spending as much time on the battlefield as we had planned. But we saw most of what the park has to offer including the museum at the visitor center, Custer National Cemetery, Last Stand Hill, the Indian Memorial, Battlefield Road, and the Reno-Benteen Battlefield. I found the park much more emotionally moving than I had anticipated and I look forward to a return visit under better weather conditions. The most striking part of the battlefield was seeing all of the red and white stone markers scattered across the hillsides. The white marble markers were placed in 1890 to mark the original soldier gravesites. In 1999, red granite markers were finally erected to mark known warrior casualty sites. Seeing so many markers made me acutely aware of how many lives were lost.

In 1879, the Little Bighorn Battlefield was designated a national cemetery
In national cemeteries, all rest as equals. At Custer National Cemetery, Brevet Brigadier General Marcus Reno is buried directly beside Private Dale Hepler, conferring to each soldier an equal honor in death regardless of their military rank or socioeconomic status in life.
Marble markers show where the 7th Cavalry members fell on Last Stand Hill. Custer’s marker can be seen at center in black. His brother’s body was found beside him.
Until recently, no memorial had honored the Native Americans who fought to defend their homeland and way of life. In 1991, U. S. Congress ordered the construction of the Indian Memorial. Each tribe had input and the resulting product tells a moving story of peace and unity.
A few of the granite inscriptions on the open circle walls of the Indian Memorial

Continuing our journey home, we crossed into Montana on a cold and dreary morning. Our travels that day included a lot of wide open views as we made our way west along I-90. Our home for that night was Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. We had enjoyed our two nights there back in September and decided it would work great for the last night of our Fall 2021 travels. The campground had been busy back in September, but not so now. We saw more deer than fellow campers during this stay—our kind of crowd. The following day, we enjoyed beautiful weather and fall colors in Western Montana and Central Idaho on the final day of our journey. It was a great seven weeks on the road, but it felt good to be back in our sticks and bricks home that night.

Final night at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
We got an early start on our final morning. Next stop, home!

By the Numbers

That wraps up our Fall 2021 Adventures. As always, I like to provide some travel stats and costs. I hope you find them entertaining and useful in your own travels.

Trips Stats:

  • Nights out: 49
  • Nights dry camping (no hookups): 31
  • Nights in free sites: 4
  • Coldest night: 20 degrees on October 15th near Hill City, South Dakota
  • Warmest day: 96 degrees on September 9th in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming
  • Total miles driven: 3,899
  • Miles towing RV: 2,000
  • States visited: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, & South Dakota
  • # of trails hiked: 25
  • # of kayak adventure days: 3
  • # of ebike adventure days: 5
  • Favorite hikes/activities: kayaking in Bighorn Canyon and hiking the Cathedral Spires and Black Elk Peak trails in Custer State Park
  • # of photos taken: 3,466
  • National Park Units visited: Bighorn Canyon NRA, Devils Tower NM, Wind Cave NP, Jewel Cave NM, Mount Rushmore NM, Badlands NP, Little Bighorn Battlefield NM

Travel Related Costs

Diesel + DEF$1,062
Meals Out$493
Dump Fees$5
Misc. Sightseeing$186

The Adventure Continues

Be sure to join us next time for the start of our Winter 2021-2022 adventures! And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase, you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!

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