Friday, October 9, 2020

Buffalo Bill Dam near Cody boasts spectacular views, history

The Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center offers a sweeping view of the reservoir.
Writer-photographer Rick Cosgriffe takes his camera for a
walk on the dam, with its fine views and interesting history. 



IF YOUR travels take you through Cody, Wyoming, and into the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park, you'll be near one of the world's great man made wonders.
Don't pass it by.  
You have an opportunity to visit Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center, just 40 miles from Yellowstone and a scenic six-mile drive from Cody. So you can visit it going either direction.
The impressive concrete arch-gravity dam on the Shoshone River is a much visited Wyoming site, known internationally as a remarkable engineering experiment.
Named after the famous Wild West figure, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, founder of the nearby town, the dam's visitor center provides a sweeping view of the reservoir formed by its construction.
Rivers and streams running the reservoir deposit fallen trees which collect beneath the viewing area. 
A walkway from the Visitor Center takes one over the dam.
the time of its construction as Shoshone Dam, it was renamed in 1946 to honor Cody, whose celebrity, dreams and generosity actually made the dam possible. The showman was among visionaries and investors who formed the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company, dreaming of turning the arid area into farmland.
But even after acquiring water rights from the Shoshone River to irrigate 60,000 acres, the project proved cost prohibitive.  So Wyoming's State Board of Land Commissioners asked the Federal Government for help.  
Scrub land near the dam shows how arid the region is.
The dam made farming in the nearby valleys possible.
Then Bill Cody stepped saved the day. In early 1904, Cody transferred his water rights to the Secretary of the Interior and in July of that year, exploratory drilling began for Shoshone Dam.  
Thirty-six years after completion, in 1946, it was renamed Buffalo Bill Dam in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Cody, the man who made it possible.
THE DAM changed the face and future of Wyoming and was the key to opening 90,000 acres in the northwestern corner of the state. 
Wyoming's parched prairie gave way to irrigated farm land. So dry and forbidding was this part of the state prior to the dam that it was one of the last regions in the United States to be settled. 
It wasn’t until the 1890s, with dreams of irrigating the region and turning it into productive farmland, that a wave of people began to settle there.
That surge in the population coincided with Wyoming's statehood, July 10, 1890.
A series of photos and commentary details
the construction of the dam.
Those facts, and more about the Dam's sometimes troubled history are detailed in the Visitor Center.  Most of us aren't aware that there were deaths during the perilous project. 
BECAUSE THERE was no steel reinforcement used to build the dam, construction crews went through a huge amount of dynamite. Over the six years of construction, seven workers died in accidents -- from blast injuries and falls. It's worth spending an hour with the handsome displays in the Visitor Center to realize the human sacrifice.
The 350 feet high structure was designed by engineer Daniel Webster Cole and built over a six-year period between 1905 and 1910, originally 325 feet, enlarged in the 1980s. 
Today, the dam attracts plenty of tourists as well as local fishermen, even in the winter.
Golden eagles may be viewed around the dam. This one was
 injured on the road and brought to the Buffalo Bill
Center's rescued bird habitat.

Ice fishing has become popular here;  most of these intrepid fishermen pursue trout. The reservoir  contains both warm and cold water fish species including cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat rainbow hybrids, brown trout, lake trout, walleye and perch.
If you've got the time, picnic tables with pretty views are set about the grounds and there's a small boat ramp. Swimming and bird and wildlife viewing are another attraction. We were thrilled to see both golden and bald eagles on our recent visit.

Cookie and Keller, with Yorkie Nick stand on the
lawn of the Museum of the Rockies by "Big Mike."

UP NEXT: Bozeman, Montana, is a college town, haven for nature lovers, with enough cosmopolitan attractions to to draw visitors from all over the world.  It's also a museum and foodie haven.  After being closed for several months, the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman is open again, and showcasing wonderful exhibits. The Gallatin County Museum is a charming diversion, too. Find out more about this fast-growing town, a gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at nature, travel, the arts, family and more. Share the links you like from


  1. This dam really is an engineering marble the tunnels on the approach from the Cody side show the remarkable feat.

  2. Wonderful that you find ways to travel with all the restrictions and complications of Covid. Thanks so much.

  3. San Francisco FellasOctober 14, 2020 at 11:16 AM

    We love our Montana-Wyoming roat trips. Lovely stories and photos on Cody, Tetons and Yellowstone.

  4. It's always fun to read your pieces and now with Covid they take on new meaning with the tips on which hotels to look for, considering hygiene, and places where we can be outdoors in good fresh air. Many thanks!