Located in the Northwest corner of Kansas in Cheyenne County, the Arikaree Breaks are a rugged area of canyons and badlands that stand in stark contrast to the surrounding high plains. They extend from Rawlins County in the east through the northern part of Cheyenne County and on into Colorado.
The Arikaree Breaks were a finalist in the Eight Wonders of Kansas contest due to their distinct terrain and ecosystem. Encompassing an area approximately 36 miles long and two to three miles wide, the unique and rugged scenery of this area of Kansas along with its historical significance makes it a “must see” adventure for anyone interested in exploring Kansas.
Named after the Arikaree River, the Arikaree Breaks is an area covered with a type of soil that was deposited by winds thousands of years ago known as Losess soil. Highly susceptible to erosion the Losess soil in this area has highly eroded over the years in the areas of the Arikaree River and South Fork of the Republican River and created the network of badlands and canyons known as the Airkaree Breaks.
Home to some sixteen native plants that are listed as being “rare” in Kansas along with two species of sage that are not found in any other part of Kansas, the Areikaree Breaks are a unique ecosystem. Average precipitation in this part of Kansas is less than twenty inches per year. The short native grasses and ample yucca plants that cover the hills add to the rugged and desolate look of this scenic part of Kansas.
While the land is privately owned and used by local ranchers to raise livestock there is a self-guided auto tour that allows one ample opportunity to see and enjoy this rugged area of Kansas. As one explores this area you will find roads that are very low maintenance and caution should be used if there has been any rain recently.
The self-guided auto tour will take you by the Cherry Creek Encampment as well as other sites associated with the Sand Creek Massacre as well as the Battle of Julesburg. There are also several scenic overlooks along the self-guide tour route.
Points of interest along the auto tour include:
- Cherry Creek Encampment--location where the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians fled after the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado. As many as 3,000 Inidans camped near here and held a war council and later left the camp to raid Julesburg, Colorado in January1865.
- Cheyenne Indian Prayer site—located just north of the South Fork of the Republican River. This site was also used as a camp for the 5th Calvary just before the Battle of Summit Springs in July 1860.
- G.A.R. Cemetery—established in 1889 the east side of the cemetery was used for the burial of Grand Army of the Republic Members and family while the west side was used for local citizens and families.
- Spring Creek—the first of four spring fed creeks on the auto tour and a popular homestead area for the early settlers.
- Plum Creek—another spring feed creek known for the wild plums that grow along its banks.
- Cleveland Run Creek—another spring fed creek and homestead site used by early settlers to the area.
- Hackberry Creek—the site of several Indian encampments.
- Horse Thief Cave—one of several caves in the area this cave was a popular hiding spot for stolen horses around 1878. Today the back part of the cave has collapsed so that all that remains is the former entrance which is now a natural bridge.
- Devils Gap—this steep sided canyon is a local landmark and legend. It is on the route the Indians used after leaving their camp at Cherry Creek to reach Julesburg which they attacked on January 7, 1865.
- Three Corners—this is where the States of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska meet. It is on private land but is accessible to the public.