Chief Plenty Coups was considered the last traditional chief of the Crow Nation and helped bridge the gap between white settlers and the Native American people. When he was younger, he was a man of war and lived in a teepee. While he grew older and settled down, he became a peacemaker, and built a log home, took up farming, and even opened a general store. At his and his wife’s request (Strike’s the Iron), this became the site for Chief Plenty Coups State Park, which can be toured to this day. Come see for yourself and learn about the extraordinary life of Chief Plenty Coups, while visiting his humble homestead.
Ultimate Guide to Chief Plenty Coups State Park in Pryor, Montana
It’s neat to actually visit places where history comes alive, instead of simply reading about it in a textbook. This site was deeded to Chief Plenty Coups, during the federal Indian Allotment Act.
Chief Plenty Coup State Park is located on a Crow Indian reservation, about 40 minutes south of Billings, Montana. The drive from Billings is on the Crow Reservation and just beautiful. There are wildlife and lots of farmland with the famous Montana open land that goes on forever!
There are over 195 acres to be explored, so be sure to plan to stay at least an hour to walk the trail and the visitor center.
The park itself is disabled accessibility and comes with fire rings, grills and picnic tables, perfect for spending the afternoon. The cost is only $5 per vehicle load and is pet-friendly. There is no camping within this state park.
When is Chief Plenty Coups State Park open?
During the summer they are open 7 days a week from 10 am until 5 pm. During the Winter they are closed Mondy and Tuesday and open Wednesday – Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm.
The park is also closed all federal and state holidays (including December 24th and 31st) except Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.
The park is very pet-friendly and when I arrived I was greate by the park dog, Muttly. I was told by the park ranger she showed up one day and just never left. She hunts many of the vermis on the property (I actually saw her pounce on something in the grass!) and she has perfected her puppy dog eyes to get scraps of food from anyone in the picnic area.
She was a great walking buddy until I went into the house, she was mad she couldn’t come in too! She joined me again later around the gravesite. Then when I left the visitor center she was there laying down and walked me to my car. Such a sweetheart and I love how pet-friendly Montana in general is!
On the way to the house, there is a short walkway that has some info and crosses a point in the Bozeman trail. The Bozeman Trail connected Montana to the Oregon Trail. It is now a Historic Trail.
There are 3 buildings on his home site. The first I wanted to check out was the teepee since Crow Nation is known at the teepee capital of the world. Even though he had the house he still liked to use the teepee as a lodge all year long.
The smaller building was the general store that he built to copy that of the white man once he settled on the property. He sold the food that was grown on his land here.
The home that sits on the site itself, was very well designed and has been preserved wonderfully. There are also many artifacts and a great wealth of information that you will discover.
You can wander from room to room and while it’s a bit bare inside you will learn how Chief Plenty Coups helped the crow nation adapt and adopt the white man’s way of life.
One room that caught my attention was his Honors Room on the 2nd story at the back of the house. This is where he would display all his photos, weapons, letters and other keepsakes. The wall would have been covered with the wallpaper and medicine bundles.
Chief Plenty Coups and the Crow people (named Apsalookee) were always very friendly with the mountain men and fur traders and they translated to the government when they came to the area. Chief Plenty Coups continued that tradition and even bridged the gap.
The location of the home is important too. One day Cheif Plenty Coups had a vision his home would be built where water ran through a tree. The stream in front of the house runs through a cottonwood tree just like in the Chief vision. I have also been told that the cottonwood tree is past the normal life span of a cottonwood tree.
During his time as chief Plenty Coups visited DC and saw Mount Vernon and how it had been left as a place for the public to visit and decided that what he wanted for his home as well.
There is a 3/4 a mile trail around part of the property as well or you can take a small trail and cut right from the home to the gravesite. Which is what I did.
Plenty Coups died on March 3, 1932 at the age of 84. He received a high honored funeral by the Helena Bishop and many high officials traveled through horrible weather conditions just to attend.
Over his life, Plenty Coups had 2 wives, both buried here. His wife, Kills Together, isn’t mentioned much in the info I’ve found online but they do talk about her at the park.
After Kills Together passed on he married Strikes the Iron. She and Plenty Coups were the ones who made the choice to leave their home as a public park.
Across from the visitors center and next to the gravesite is a public day area. There is a playground for the kids that I think as some great views of the hills around the property.
Enjoy a picnic area with some picnic tables and charcoal grills. There is lots of open space for outdoor activities and it’s a great place to spend a day outside.
Make sure to stop by the visitor center as well. There is a little picnic area in front along with an interactive board of info and a statue of Chief Plenty Coups all outside.
Inside the visitor center, they have all sorts of exhibits with artifacts from the Crow people. This included medicine bags like the ones in the honors room, one of the headdresses Plenty Coups would have worn more.
They had a replica of the inside of the teepee on the property that was called the Ashe Lodge and had more info on it along with being a bit interactive for kids.
They had quite a few hands on activities for kids teaching them about the Crow people. This included hide scraping, horse design, activity boxes and more.
The whole inside of the visitors center had the feel of an inside of a teepee and thy would play traditional Native American music. The rangers were amazing at answering questions about the park and even the area.
He truly was a remarkable leader and man that fought to keep homesteading to continue on Crow land. Be sure to check out the gift shop, that has native jewelry and books as well.
Make sure you check out the Chief Planty Coups State Park website for their events schedule as they do a lot of events like the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Day and many educational activities for kids!
Even if you’ve never learned about Chief Plenty Coups in school, you won’t want to miss such a rare treat during your stay in Montana. This National Historic Landmark will give you a deeper appreciation of his life and sacrifices.
While visiting make sure to check out the smal town of Pryor Montana less than a mile from the state park. There is a great little cafe there you can always grab food from and bring to the park for an outside lunch!
If you’ve visited the Chief Plenty Coups State Park before? Let us know about your visit in the comments below!
- 8 Tips For Planning an RV Road Trip You Need to Know! - April 8, 2020
- 48 National Monuments & National Park Virtual Tours - March 31, 2020
- 6 Must Know Yellowstone National Park Vacation Hacks - March 24, 2020