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The Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument With Kids

Visiting the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument with kids is a unique opportunity to share important American history with younger generations. While reading about history is helpful, actually being able to visit a site where important events occurred is a true treasure and brings much deeper understanding. So as part of our 3 month National Park road trip last summer, we decided that we wanted to visit the Battle of the Little Bighorn National Monument in southern Montana to learn more about one of the most famous battles between U.S Soldiers and Native Americans.It so happened that our visit to the Battle of the Little Bighorn National Monument took place in June which allowed us to imagine the atmosphere of the battle that took place here June 25-26 in 1876 between Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the soldiers of the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Calvary and the Lakota Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors led by Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The humidity and heat of the summer day allowed us to envision the discomfort the fighters must have been feeling as they prepared to fight. The beauty of the rolling hills and ridges dotted with gravestones of those who fought was especially poignant. Kids of any age will enjoy exploring the open areas, even if they are not able to fully understand the importance of the location.While we visited with teenagers, experiencing the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument with kids of any age is a great opportunity to help them learn about the important events that took place in our American past. Make sure to start your visit in the Visitor Center where there is a small museum of historical artifacts as well as a bookstore. We watched the 25 minute orientation video to help set the stage for the rest of our visit and we also picked up Junior Ranger packets so each of the kids could earn their Junior Ranger badge. We do the Junior Ranger Program at avery National Park Service site and our kids have learned so much because of it. And the free Junior Ranger badge souvenir is a nice bonus. Next stop was a Ranger Program where a Park Ranger told the narrative of the battle in the covered area behind the Visitor’s Center and also answered any questions visitors had.We then walked up the small hill to “Custer’s Last Stand”, where Custer and many of his men fell and his gravestone lies. The gravestones that dot the large surrounding area is a powerful reminder of the price of war. The nearby memorial also honors the Native Americans who died there with a beautiful metal sculpture. From there we took the steep 1/4 mile Deep Ravine Trail where fierce fighting took place during the battle, grave markers dot the area and exhibits help tell the story. We also walked through the National Cemetery where veterans as well as those stationed at frontier posts are buried. While this sounds like a lot of walking, all of these areas are close to the Visitor’s Center and quite easy to walk to. From there we took the 5 mile car tour which gives an overview of the important sites during the famous battle. As the road to the various battlefield sites meanders through private property, we also saw numerous horses out in the fields and we were all excited to see a small foal running with his mother too. The Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument is heavily visited and we saw kids of all ages walking around exploring. If visiting the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument with kids, stop by the front desk of the Visitor’s Center as the Park Rangers are always happy to help you make a plan to better enjoy your visit. The teenagers we were traveling with all enjoyed our time there and came away better understanding what they had previously only read and heard about. All in all, we spent about 4 hours at the National Monument which allowed us plenty of time to explore.To better put a visit to Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument with kids into context, there are several wonderful books that would be helpful. Older kids will appreciate Dee Brown’s bestselling book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as well as Nathaniel Philbrick’s The Last Stand. School age kids will enjoy the books about both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull from the Childhood of Famous Americans Series. Geared towards younger readers, Custer’s Last Battle is another good book about the battle that took place here.

If you visit The Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument with kids –

We very much enjoyed our visit to the Battle of Little Bighorn National monument when on our summer road trip. Since we were driving to the battlefield on our way from visiting Devil’s Tower National Monument about 4 hours away, we camped overnight at Middle Fork Campground in Bighorn National Forest which was quiet and restful and a convenient stop about half way along our route. Combining a visit to the battlefield with Devil’s Tower, Custer State Park and Badlands National Park would make for a wonderful road trip. If you have even more time, head to Yellowstone along the Beartooth Highway after visiting here. Happy Travels!

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