A trip out west is not complete without gleaning valuable advice from cowboys like, “never squat with spurs on,” and, “talk slowly, think quickly.” Our third stop on the trip was at the former home of one of the most famous cowboys, Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
Buffalo Bill Cody is credited with founding the town of Cody, Wyoming. At one point in time, he owned much of the land right outside of Cody, which is now Buffalo Bill State Park and home to the infamous Buffalo Bill Dam. The landscape in Wyoming is much different than our farmland in Ohio.
The Absaroka Mountains surround the turquoise waters of Buffalo Bill Reservoir, created by the damming of the Shoshone River. Like much of the alkaline plains of the western U.S., the land surrounding the reservoir is dotted with sagebrush.
With a stroke of luck, we were camping at Buffalo Bill State Park on the opening day of the fishing season. There are many excellent fishing spots in the North Fork Shoshone River drainage area and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir area. My oldest son began his normal pre-fishing routine of calling bait shops and asking locals about the best bait and flys.
As far as scenery goes, it doesn’t get much better than fishing in the Shoshone River, surrounded by granite boulders and sagebrush. As a new fly fisherman, he was very happy to catch a large cutthroat trout. Camping allowed him to cook it and eat it, just like in an old western. After cleaning it, he cooked it on the open fire. His sisters couldn’t handle watching him eat it with the head still on.
A stay at the park wouldn’t be complete without a dam tour. At 325 feet tall, the Buffalo Bill Dam was the tallest in the world when construction was complete in 1910. It was an engineering marvel at the time of completion. It is a concrete arch-gravity dam anchored into the granite on both sides.
Over the years, renovations were made to the dam, raising the crest 25 feet and adding a power plant. A visitor’s center was also added to the north end of the dam crest.
We walked out onto the walkway over the crest of the dam. My stomach immediately did a flip-flop. Facing east, there is a dramatic drop looking down the concrete dam at the Shoshone River. I preferred the view to the west, a sweeping panoramic view of the mountains and reservoir.
A theme of our entire two-week trip out west was scorching heat. Along the reservoir, in the shade, a cool breeze cooled us off. However, swimming is not recommended in the reservoir or Shoshone River, due to swift currents and frigid waters.
Our kids still wanted to swim, so the search began for a swimming hole in Cody. With a population of just under 10,000 residents, Cody has an impressive park system. There are over 20 parks in the city and almost 9 miles of trails and pathways. We decided that Beck Lake Park was going to be our destination.
We took our bikes to explore the trails and mountain bike park. The mountain bike park was drastically different from any park my kids have ever visited. There were novice and pro jumps along with a variety of hills and walls. We were able to tackle the novice jumps with extreme caution.
After working up a sweat on the bikes, we transitioned to swimming in one of the two reservoirs at the park. Floating docks made jumping and diving fun for the kids and adults as well.
The park is not just for recreational use, it is a habitat for nesting and an area of escape for 80 species of waterfowl and songbirds. A waterfowl viewing area brings visitors closer to wildlife without any disruption of the natural habitat.
The culminating event of our time in Cody was watching a professional rodeo at the Cody Stampede. With the arena situated at the base of the foothills, the view is spectacular as the sun sets behind the majestic Absaroka Mountains.
We were not disappointed in the least with the bull riding, barrel racing and bucking broncos. Now my son wants to be a bull rider, and my girls think horses should be the main form of transportation into town. Our trip to Cody was a magical look into what life is like in a western town.
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