Indian Rock Park is an awesome place to enjoy a hike, climb a few rocks, take in a bird’s eye view of Salina, Kansas, and reflect on the 1857 Great Plains Native American battle between Native American tribes from eastern and western Kansas. Indian Rock Park is a municipal park in Salina, Kansas, named in honor of the battle fought at the park’s location as the tribes struggled to determine who would maintain hunting grounds around Salina. There are 35 acres available for hiking and exploring with an improved road, a small pond, prairie grass, and a view overlooking Salina and the Smoky Hill River. There are rest rooms, a lodge which must be reserved, and two shelters available on a first come/first served basis.
The park is the site of a battle between two eastern Kansas
tribes, the Delaware and Pottawatomie, and three western Kansas tribes, the Cheyenne,
Sioux, and Arapahoe. These Native American tribes had an on-going dispute over
hunting lands in Kansas. The Delaware and Pottawatomie Tribes, known
collectively as the eastern tribes, were friendly towards the white settlers. They
claimed the land west of Salina towards what is now Ellsworth, Kansas, as their
hunting ground. The Cheyenne, Sioux, and
Arapahoe, known collectively as the western tribes, were not friendly to white
settlers or the eastern tribes. They believed that the same lands around Salina
all the way to the Rocky Mountains were their hunting grounds.
The eastern tribes
were on a big hunt in the disputed hunting land, about 20 miles west of Salina,
when the western tribes attacked them near Spring Creek. The western tribes pushed the eastern tribes
back towards the east in a running fight towards Dry Creek just west of Salina.
The tribes engaged in battle again at Dry Creek until the eastern tribes retreated
to a hill east of the Saline River - what we now known as Indian Rock Park.
The eastern tribes knew that they needed reinforcements.
They sent a runner to the Kansa Tribe at Council Grove – about 65-miles away. The
runner reached the Kansa Tribe, and the Kansa reinforcements came within two
days bringing rifles with them. The
western tribes attacked the reinforced and well-armed eastern tribes. They were
killed in considerable numbers and retreated westward giving the eastern tribes
a significant victory. The battle also ended the western tribes’ hunting ground
claim and the inter-tribal conflict. The eastern tribes’ victory ended the
strife between the Native American tribes, bringing peace to the region, and
making it possible for U.S. residents and European immigrants to settle in the Salina area.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the land surrounding the
battle area was the site of the Salina Brick and Tile Company. A small pond
remains at the location from the company’s rock and gravel extractions. The
company deeded the land to the Saline County Historical Society in 1922. The
Society, in turn, deeded the land to the City of Salina that same year with the
provision that it be perpetually cared for as historical site honoring the 1857
Native American battle fought at Indian Rock. It is now part of the Salina Park