Southeast from Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, MT on U.S. Highway 212
The infamous 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn influenced the history of the Black Hills region in many ways. With the defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry detachment by a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, the Black Hills was literally in the center of the controversy as a part of the Great Sioux Reservation. The battle forced the Sioux, the Cavalry, and other civilians on both sides to further hostilities against each other—resulting in the U.S. Government ‘s annexation of the Black Hills a part of Dakota Territory in 1877.
The drive across southeastern Montana, a narrow corner of Wyoming, and northwest South Dakota from the Little Bighorn Monument to Belle Fourche has a variety of scenery. Prairie grasslands and pine-covered hills are visible when passing through Busby and Lame Deer on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. The closer that the Highway gets to Broadus, the wider the landscape seems as you traverse the “Powder River Country” in Powder River and Carter Counties. Once again, the lands rise up to meet the Black Hills range as you approach the Black Hills from the northwest.
South Dakota: 511
Southbound from Bowman, ND on U.S. Highway 85
As U.S. Highway 85 passes through the high plains of southern North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota a variety of wildlife is in evidence. You are most likely to see herds of pronghorn antelope, whitetail and blacktail deer, coyotes, prairie dogs, and several species of hawks and eagles. The western part of the area is known as the “jump off country”; due to its rugged buttes that are rumored to have been used as buffalo jumps by Native American tribes in centuries past. Several units of the Custer National Forest are also located in the area. A side trip east of Buffalo on State Highway 20 will take you to the site of the 1876 Slim Buttes battle. This battle was one of the first skirmishes between the U.S. Cavalry and a band of Brule’ Sioux after Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn several hundred miles to the west.
As Highway 85 continues south from Buffalo, a number of other buttes dot the horizon in this land now dominated by ranching operations; Crow Buttes near Redig commemorate a battle between the Sioux and the Crow tribes, Haystack Buttes farther south that resemble their namesake, and Two Top Butte that is close to another famous location—the geographic center of the Nation. From this point, the Black Hills begin to loom larger on the south and western horizon as you near Belle Fourche.