Sea kayak touring Yellowstone

Buffalo Bill Reservoir and State Park

buffalo bill reservoir
The Absaroka Range looms large over Buffalo Bill Reservoir

The mountains of the Absaroka Range dominate the scenery that surrounds Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Shoshone Canyon, the location of the dam, is framed by Rattlesnake Mountain to the north and Cedar Mountain, also known as Spirit Mountain, to the south. Further west, along the north shoreline, is Logan Mountain. The north and south forks of the Shoshone River are divided by Sheep Mountain while prominent on the southern skyline is Carter Mountain.

The history of Buffalo Bill Reservoir, and "Cody Country" is rooted in the rich lore of the old West. Buffalo Bill State Park was named for Colonel William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, famous as a Wild West showman, promoter, and developer. He first came to the region in the 1870's as a guide for a survey expedition and spent the next 20 years guiding and sponsoring hunting parties in the area. Then Cody became his home base where he invested in it heavily and with his celebrity promoted it.

In 1895, Cody began to establish the town that now bears his name. Buffalo Bill made the area now occupied by the Shoshone Project, famous in the early days of the West. 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.

Bill Cody possessed a broad, comprehensive, and inventive vision for his community. Buffalo Bill imagined a utopian western metropolis where old west values and emergent modern technology and prosperity would coexist in a new city. He hustled, lobbied, and wheeled, and dealed anyone who could help him achieve his goal. He organized financing to dig three canals to irrigate the land using the Shoshone River.

Buffalo Bill Reservior
A winter morning at Buffalo Bill Reservoir

When his initial efforts to raise the two million dollars necessary for its completion of the Shoshone Project, failed, Colonel Cody persuaded his friend, President Teddy Roosevelt, to establish the Bureau of Reclamation and to build the Shoshone Dam and Reservoir, later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir.

Work began on the dam in 1905. When completed in 1910 it was the highest dam in the world at 325 feet. Buffalo Bill State Park was established in 1957 and provided recreational areas and facilities along the original shoreline. The main historic site is Buffalo Bill Dam, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a major engineering achievement.

Fishing open year-round. Wyoming State fishing license required. Fish species includes rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, and cutthroat trout. Good access via shoreline roads and three boat ramps provides access to the reservoir. Water surface covers approximately 8,000 acres. Somebody has introduced walleye into Buffalo Bill Reservoir and the Game and Fish Department are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the apprehension of the person or persons who "bucketed" the fish in. One of the major concerns about this illegal walleye introduction is that the fish will add to the struggles of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the North and South Fork Shoshone Rivers. Walleye are large ambush predators, not native to Wyoming that subsists on other fish

There also is excellent blue-ribbon quality fishing available on Shoshone River above and below reservoir. Available services include developed campsites and RV sites with dump stations, drinking water, tables, restrooms, windscreens, primitive campsites, and a new visitor center.

wake boarding on Buffalo Bill reservoir
Water skiing and wake boarding are popular on Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

Other activities include watchable wildlife, water skiing, wind surfing, canoeing, big game, and waterfowl hunting in season with Wyoming State license.

There are two developed campgrounds at Buffalo Bill State Park. North Shore Bay Campground (35 sites: 32 pull through sites and three designated tent sites) is located approx. 9 miles west of Cody on US Highway 14-16-20 North Fork Highway. North Fork Campground (62 SITES: 56 pull through sites and three designated tent sites) is located approx. 14 miles west of Cody on (North Fork Highway). Campsites have pull-through parking (except designated tent sites), table and grills. Hookups are not available, but water hydrants and restrooms are convenient to all sites. Roads and parking areas are paved. Campsites are available on a "first come, first served" only. Reservations cannot be made. Trout Creek Group Camping Area is located within North Fork Campground. This area provides a large shelter with tables and grill, an area for tents, and enough parking space for a group of trailers, RV's etc. The group camping area is available on a reserved use basis only. The shelter use fee of $35, plus the $35, damage deposit is required besides the park entrance and camping fees.

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Wyoming Landscape Collection by Daryl L. Hunter
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