A place called Cody, Wyoming

While planning our route through Wyoming we initially intended to revisit the Grand Tetons and Jackson.  But even many months ahead the RV parks were fully booked on the dates we wanted.  Since we’d already visited those places several years ago, we changed our plans and headed instead to Cody.  It was a good move, as it turns out Cody is a gateway for several scenic drives.

But let’s talk wild west first!

Cody, Wyoming

Main Street, Cody

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It seems Cody is the center of all things wild – wildlife, wild west and wild experiences as envisioned by the man who named the town after himself.  William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was the most well-known man in the world during the early 1900’s, and he made this area famous during his life.  He and his companions were the first to perceive the possibilities of turning the sagebrush flats of Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin into a land of agricultural abundance through irrigation.

Cody, Wyoming

Art around town

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We began our visit by taking the narrated Cody Trolley Tour to learn about the town’s colorful and entertaining western history.  Then we immersed ourselves in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a complex of five impressive museums under one roof.  The center has an amazing collection of all things western, and we quickly realized why our tickets were good for two days there.

Draper Natural History Museum

A mosaic tile map depicts the greater Yellowstone area at the Draper Natural History Museum

Buffalo Bill Museum

The Buffalo Bill Museum told stories of the life and legend of Buffalo Bill and the west he loved

Cody Firearms Museum

The Cody Firearms Museum has the largest collection of rare firearms in the U.S.  A gun buff could easily spend a full day just in this huge museum!

Cody Firearms Museum

Steve was excited to see the actual gun James Arness used in the Gunsmoke TV series

Plains Indian Museum

The Plains Indian Museum tells the story of Native American culture and heritage

Whitney Western Art Museum

Artwork of the beauty and myths of the west are displayed at the Whitney Western Art Museum

The Old Trail Town

The Old Trail Town is a collection of historic western buildings and artifacts dating from 1879–1901.  It’s displayed at the place Buffalo Bill and his associates chose as the first town site for Cody City in 1895.  These buildings were meticulously disassembled from the surrounding area and moved here for re-assembly.

Hole in the Wall Gang Cabin

Hole in the Wall Gang cabin built in 1883 – a famous hideout for Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and other outlaws

Old Town Trail

Cody Historic Mural

We first heard stories about the Mormon pioneers at Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, where we saw the ruts their wagons made on their way to Utah from the east coast.  We learned of another group that first settled in Bluff, Utah, and their harrowing experience while descending the 2,000’ Hole in the Rock to the Colorado River during their journey.  These were some very tough people!

Cody Mural

Here in Cody, artist Edward T. Grigware painted a circular mural depicting highlights of the Mormon Church’s early history, and the story of a people blazing trails to avoid persecution. What surprised us is that Mr. Grigware was not a member of the Mormon Church.  It took him eleven months to paint his concept after studying the history for a year.

Cody Mural

The journey of the Mormon pioneers is illustrated in a circular mural

The presentation was like a diorama with a voice describing highlighted sections of the mural.  We reacted when a photo of Chimney Rock in Nebraska and the Hole in the Rock were highlighted, as we’re familiar with those places.

Cody Mural Historic Site

Another room described the colonization of Mormon settlers at Bighorn Basin in 1900

It was a mini education about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and although it was very interesting, we didn’t convert!

Cody is Rodeo

You’ve heard the term, “This isn’t my first rodeo?”  Well, this was our first and we had a blast!  A stay in Cody isn’t complete without experiencing a night at the rodeo.  Every night from June through August is Rodeo Night, and we were lucky to be here for the one-night-only Extreme Bull Riding event. It was two hours of fun watching crazy cowboys trying to stay on top of 1,900-pound bulls.   What a way to make a living!

Cody rodeo

Having a chat with a real cowboy

Codeo Rodeo

Cowgirls running their horses in formations

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These bulls were mean!

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Codeo Rodeo

And down he goes!

Cody Rodeo

Cody Nite Rodeo

That one is more my size!

Buffalo Bill Dam

Just six miles west of Cody is Buffalo Bill Dam, which at the time of completion in 1910 was the tallest dam in the world at 325′.  It’s an engineering marvel, one of the first concrete arch dams built in the United States and the one that Hoover Dam was modeled after.  It was built to irrigate thousands of acres in the area, which was one of Buffalo Bill Cody’s visions in the early 1900’s.

Buffalo Bill Dam

The dam’s upstream face shows the additional height added in 1985, and accumulated debris

Buffalo Bill Dam

Downstream face of the dam and the visitor center at the other end

Buffalo Bill Reservoir

Buffalo Bill Reservoir

From the video shown at the Visitor Center we learned about the horrendous conditions that the various contractors had to face.  Three contractors came and went over the course of construction mostly due to labor disputes, and the final cost was twice the original estimate.  Most of the construction work was done during winter months, as the Shoshone River flooded every spring.  That meant the men were working in sub-zero temperatures during most of the project.

Shoshone Canyon

Looking down Shoshone Canyon and the old highway to Yellowstone

The guide on our trolley tour mentioned that we could walk to the dam through Shoshone Canyon via the old road to Yellowstone.  So after reading the displays and exhibits at the Visitor Center we drove down to the road and then walked back toward the dam.  It was a good 2-mile test for my leg, and we enjoyed seeing the dam from the top and bottom perspectives.

Shoshone Canyon

Up there is one of the three tunnels the current highway cuts through Rattlesnake Mountain

It was a pleasant walk along the floor of the canyon with the sound of the Shoshone River rushing next to us.  Pink granite rocks exposed by the river are said to be 2.7 billions years old, and they’re beautiful.

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Shoshone Canyon

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Only one flower picture this time…

Shoshone River

Shoshone River cutting through Rattlesnake Mountain created the gorge

An additional 25′ was added at the crest of the dam, making its height 350′ and increasing the reservoir storage capacity to 260,000 acre-feet.

Buffalo Bill Dam

Looking up from the bottom

Shoshone Canyon

Buffalo Bill Cody would smile at what his little town has become.  It’s a cool western tourist town that is not overrun nor frenetic, and somehow manages to retain a hometown feel.

And with that we’re ready to explore some of the scenic drives that begin in Cody.

 

Next up:  Cody – the gateway to wild and scenic drives