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Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyoming

Travel Stage: After Billings, MT on our way to Yellowstone
Date Range: July 19-21, 2016
Summary: After some research, we decide to head for the East Entrance to Yellowstone. We head for Cody, Wyoming and cross our fingers we can get into Buffalo Bill Cody State Park for some relief from the heat in the beautiful cool Reservoir created from the Shoshone River and the Buffalo Bill Dam.  

After making the decision to use the East Entrance to get into Yellowstone National Park, we headed for Cody, WY, one of those idealistic western towns with a Wild West themed downtown and a resident rodeo show. The town is named for the famous Buffalo Bill Cody – you may have heard of him.  

Who is Buffalo Bill Cody?

Buffalo Bill Cody was an Army scout, Pony Express rider, ranch hand, wagon train driver, buffalo hunter, fur trapper, gold prospector, and showman who performed in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” in 1883, and took his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and Europe.

​In 1895, Cody was instrumental in the founding of the town of Cody in northwestern Wyoming. Today the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is at the center of the community and commemorates the traditions of Western life as well as educates about the surrounding landscape. Cody first passed through the region in the 1870s. He was so impressed by the development possibilities from irrigation, rich soil, grand scenery, hunting, and proximity to Yellowstone Park that he returned in the mid-1890s to start a town. He was very influential in the area, and was arguably the “most recognizable celebrity on Earth.”

Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir

We made it to the Buffalo Bill State Park Campground early in the day to increase our chances of getting a spot. We came to find out that we weren’t the only ones that were using Buffalo Bill as a launch point to get to Yellowstone, and people would rise at the crack of dawn to make the nearly 50 mile drive to the entrance gate, and then another 30+ miles to try to get into one of the Yellowstone campgrounds. ​We, however, were in no rush to leave the cool sight of the water!

  ​We found a fantastic site with a path right down to the reservoir’s edge, and there we camped ourselves for 2 days of fabulous fun in the sun.  

  ​The Buffalo Bill Reservoir was created by damming the North Fork of the Shoshone River. The dam that holds it back was known at the time of its construction as Shoshone Dam but was renamed in 1946 to honor Cody. Buffalo Bill was instrumental in persuading Congress to irrigate the Bighorn Basin and turn it from a semi-arid sagebrush-covered plain to productive agricultural land. He owned much of the land that was filled in by the reservoir that resulted from the dam. 

The Buffalo Bill Dam was built between 1905 and 1910 after several failed attempts by various construction and engineering con. It was one of the earliest projects of the newly created Bureau of Reclamation (of which we saw quite a few projects to “make the desert bloom”). Summer floods destroyed many flumes built to divert the river during construction and made construction during the summer nearly impossible. This meant working during the winter, when working conditions were harsh and caused multiple strikes. By some miracle the dam was completed, and at the time was the tallest dam in the world.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Cody is also home to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a beautiful center with five museums and a research library featuring art and artifacts of the American West. We didn’t see all the exhibits, but we did attend a free public talk given by Dan Tyers, the Forest Service GYE Grizzly Bear Management Coordinator for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team about the Grizzly Bear Management Program in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 

Find out more about the talk and Grizzly Bears!

Following the talk, there were drinks and appetizers, and there we met a few locals who gave us the scoop on a cool rock climbing spot just down the road. That road has a few tunnels that we drove through a number of times, and in between the tunnels there was a place called the Island.

Rock Climbing “The Island”

Apparently, the area used to be a city park of sorts, and you could park your car and stroll around the large rock formation that stands in the center of the area – an island rock if you will. Now the area is guard-railed off, and grass grows up cracks in the asphalt.

We parked our truck alongside the road and had to walk along the edge of the road through one of the tunnels to get to the Island. Once there, we found many climbing routes with anchors. While we don’t have all the necessary climbing gear for long climbs, we had sufficient equipment to climb up 30-40feet on several of the routes.

We are used to rock gyms with top ropes for belaying, so anchoring was a bit of a new thing for us. It was great to have some easy routes to get started on! We hope to do a lot more rock climbing while we are out west.

Top 10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in the Summer

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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