Rio Blanco County Historical Society: Celebrate Milk Creek anniversary |

Rio Blanco County Historical Society: Celebrate Milk Creek anniversary

Jay Sullivan, Joy and Jonas Grant/For Craig Press
Soak up history over a picnic lunch at the site of the 1879 Battle of Milk Creek located just off Rio Blanco County Road 15.
Sasha Nelson

You are cordially invited to the 140th anniversary commemoration of the 1879 Battle at Milk Creek between the Utes and the U.S. Army.

This commemorative event — 11:30 a.m.. Saturday, Sept. 28 — is important because it helps us all understand our shared history, learn from it and use it as a stepping stone to a better future together. On June 29 of this year, 15 signs telling the story of what happened at Milk Creek were installed. The dedication of these signs lends substance to the thoughts of one Ute mother who said, “Gatherings at Milk Creek and the stories that are told here expose our children to their history. Some of them listen and learn. This has cultural value beyond measure.”

This event is open to all individuals who would like to attend.

We are looking forward to hearing from Utes from Ute Indian Tribe, Fort Duchesne, Utah; Southern Ute Tribe, Ignacio; Ute Mountain Ute, Towoac; and White Mesa Ute, Blanding, Utah; the American Legion Post 126; VFW; Southern Ute Honor Guards; Ute Mountain Honor Guards; and to the descendants of the Buffalo Soldiers who fought here are asked to participate. We are also extending invitations to dignitaries from the state of Colorado and Rio Blanco County.

Joe Sullivan, who was a board member of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society and Chairman of the Milk Creek Committee had big dreams for this site. Foremost among his wishes was the establishment of the Milk Creek Battlefield Park. On this site was the placement of monuments to the men, both U.S. Army soldiers and Ute warriors, who fought and died here. He worked for seven decades to build a place where men and women could gather together and share stories of the importance of our shared history. Joe died in 2017. He asked that his ashes be spread here so that he could, forever, be a part of the sharing that takes place here. Please come and share a thought in his memory. The Battlefield Park is dedicated to the memory of Joseph B. Sullivan and of Dr. David Steinman, M.D. who collaboratively advanced this noble commemorative effort.

One of our committee members was cutting grass in the battlefield park. A Vietnam-era soldier walked through the gate and up to the grass cutter. He held out his hand and said, “Thank you for your remembrance. All of the warriors who sacrificed here deeply appreciate that they are not forgotten.”

The monument to the Ute Warriors is of great significance. Building of the monument is a story that opens a gateway to recognition and forgiveness. We look forward to Robert Chapoose and his brother Ernie, who built the monument, sharing their story of its creation. It is also our challenge to tell them what their work in service to the people who come here means.

Please RSVP by Thursday, Sept. 26 if you plan to attend, either by email at or call 970 878-9982.

Parking is limited at the Milk Creek Battlefield site. Parking on the roadway is prohibited for safety. The Yellow Jacket Ranch, adjacent to the Battlefield Park has graciously offered the use of their property to park vehicles of attendees. Please follow directions of Sheriff’s deputies to authorized parking space.

Rio Blanco County Sheriff Anthony Mazzola and his staff, along w ith Rio Blanco Fire Protection District Chief Luke Pelloni and Emergency Medical Services, are coordinating traffic and parking arrangements and will provide public safety services for attendees.

Please indicate if you are handicapped and/or may require special assistance or transportation at the site.

Cell phone service is not available at this remote site. Public safety staff onsite have emergency communications contact with 911 first responder services if needed.

Please be prepared for your safety and comfort.

The revised address for the site is 15791 Rio Blanco County Road 15.

Traveling from Meeker, the journey to Milk Creek Battlefield Park begins at Watt’s Ranch Market on the east side of Meeker. Colorado Highway 13, as it runs through Meeker, is also known as Market Street. Travel east on Highway 13 approximately 3.2 miles toward Craig. Rio Blanco County Road 15 intersects Highway 13. Turn right. There is no left turn.

Look for the information sign pointing to Yellow Jacket Pass. You are now traveling toward Yellow Jacket Pass and the Milk Creek Battlefield Park. You will continue approximately 15 miles to the park. Park only in designated areas as directed by Sheriff’s deputies. Watch for parking directional signage.

From Craig, Colorado Highway 13 south toward Meeker. As you pass Hamilton, check your odometer. You are approximately 3.4 miles to Moffat County Road 45 where you will turn left. Look for the information sign Yellow Jacket Pass. There is no right turn. You will be headed south. In approximately nine miles, Moffat County Road 45 will become Rio Blanco County Road 15. In just a couple of miles, the Milk Creek Battlefield Park will be on your right on the north side of the road.

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