The Cheyenne River, also known as Chyone, which refers to the Cheyenne people who once lived in the region, is a tributary of the Missouri River. In Lakota, it’s called ‘Wakpá Wašté’ (Good River). It is about 295 miles (475 km) long and drains an area of 24,240 square miles. It runs through eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota, and includes the Black Hills upland region. In fact, 60% of the drainage basin is located in South Dakota.
The Angostura Dam is located on the Cheyenne River near Hot Springs, SD. This project was finished in 1949. Via man-made reservoirs, the Cheyenne River is connected with the Missouri at Lake Oahe, a man-made reservoir.
Historical Marker Inscription
The Cheyenne River drainage system has been the locus of human activity for thousands of years. Native Americans used the corridor in search of wild game and wild plants resources. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1875, miners, gamblers, freighters and road agents were among those following the Cheyenne-Deadwood road through this area. Stage coaches carried gold to the railroad in Cheyenne and brought passengers back. Robbers’ Roost, a creek crossing a few miles north of Mule Creek Junction, was a favorite spot for hold-ups. General George Crook and his men camped nearby on the Cheyenne River in June 1876 during the Powder River Campaign while Custer waged his battle at the Little Big Horn.
In the 1870s and 80’s thousands of cattle came, later followed by thousands of sheep – most of them trailed from Cheyenne. Ranches were built up in the late 1870s and 1880s. A few of them remain in the same family today. The Cheyenne River and its tributaries have water sources for pioneers, livestock, wildlife, and the irrigation of alfalfa fields.
Today most of the sheep are gone. Longhorn cattle were replaced by Herefords, and later by mostly Angus cattle. The short nutritious grasses of the area feed some of the best beef animals in the world. Calves are moved from these prairies in the fall to become beef for this nation and the world. Hunters come from throughout America to harvest the pronghorn antelope and mule deer made abundant by the rancher’s development of water and pasture.
Mule Creek Junction Rest Area, Wyoming, Highway 18 and 85 – 45 miles from Lusk, Wyoming
N 43° 22.730, W 104° 13.257