Cody- The Man and the Place

September 21, 2020

One of the places we desire to visit is Yellowstone National Park. We were first to visit Cody, WY, then enter the park through the east entrance and stay several days in an RV Park in West Yellowstone. Alas, every RV Park in West Yellowstone is booked solid and Cody is has the closest availability to the park at 53 miles- and that’s just to the entrance station. Yellowstone is huge and takes several days just to get a good feel for the park and see the main sights. So this trip we’ll not visit Yellowstone. Darn!

Within a day’s drive of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument is another place of historical significance, the city of Cody Wyoming (9500 souls).

We head up I-90 through Billings MT (110,000 souls) then south on US 310 and stop in Fromberg MT which has a population of 438 souls. Downtown Fromberg looks like its on its last legs. The blacksmith’s shop looks busy and ever other shop looks quiet or closed.

Cody, The City

Cody lies in the Bighorn Basin surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides: the Absarokas on west, the Owl Creek Mountains to the south and the Bighorns to the east. The Shoshone River has cut a deep canyon at the edge of town, sort of a mini Grand Canyon. The Bighorn Basin was restricted from white settlement by treaties with the Indians in 1868. Ten years later, those restrictions were lifted and early settlers began to come into the basin. This made the area one of the last frontiers settled in the lower 48 states.

Excerpts from Wyoming History.com: William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was visiting Sheridan, Wyo., in 1894, when his son-in-law, Horace Boal, took him to the top of the Bighorn Mountains for a view to the west over the Bighorn Basin. On learning that a group of Sheridan businessmen was already interested in founding a town there, Cody eagerly joined the effort. He saw the beauty of the region, its proximity to a Yellowstone already attracting tourists, the abundance of game and fish, and land available for ranching and farming.

 In 1895, Cody, George T. Beck, Cody’s Wild West show partner Nate Salsbury, Harry Gerrans, Bronson Rumsey, Horace Alger, and George Bleistein founded the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company. In the fall of 1895, construction began on the Cody Canal, which would carry water from the south fork of the Shoshone River northeast to the town. In May 1896, Beck and surveyor Charles Hayden laid out the site of the present town.

To ensure the success of Cody the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was sold the majority of town lots, thus the railroad gained a vested interest in the town. The railroad line to Cody opened in 1901. By 1900 the town had a population of 300, the Irma Hotel, named after Buffalo Bill’s daughter was opened in 1902.

The Buffalo Reservoir was created with federal money by damming the narrow cut created by the Shosone River between Cedar and Rattlesnake mountains. The Shoshone Dam was completed in 1910 and renamed Buffalo Bill Dam in Cody’s honor in 1946 on the anniversary of his 100th birthday. Three highway tunnels are adjacent to the dam.US highways 20/14/16 follow Shoshone Canyon past the dam with the most westerly being Wyoming’s longest tunnel at 3202 feet.

Although oil and gas remain viable industry here it’s a popular stop for travelers on the way to and from Yellowstone just as Colonel Cody envisioned it, as well as a hunter’s and fishermen’s paradise. Irrigation has overcome the high desert climate enabling ranchers and farmers to succeed. Buffalo Bill’s legacy continues today at the Irma, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and numerous other businesses seeking to catch the eyes of tourists.

Cody, The Man

Excerpt from Wikipedia: William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American soldier, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father’s hometown in Toronto Township, Canada before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory. After his father’s death he became a rider for the Pony Express at age 15. During the Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872.

Cody returned to Army service in 1868. From his post in Fort Larned, he performed an exceptional feat of riding as a lone dispatch courier from Fort Larned to Fort Zarah (escaping capture), Fort Zarah to Fort Hays, Fort Hays to Fort Dodge, Fort Dodge to Fort Larned, and, finally, Fort Larned to Fort Hays, a total of 350 miles in 58 hours through hostile territory, covering the last 35 miles on foot. In response, General Philip Sheridan assigned him Chief of Scouts for the 5th Calvary Regiment

Buffalo Bill’s legend began to spread when he was only 23. Shortly thereafter he started performing in show that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe. For a more complete biography of Cody please refer to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Bill

Probably the largest tourist draw in Cody is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It’s actually five museums in one: Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indian Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, and the Cody Firearms Museum. If you think you can whiz right through all five museums and be on the road towards Yellowstone think again and look at your pass. It’s a two day pass! Example: The firearms museum includes 10,000 artifacts. It’s the most comprehensive firearms museum in the United States. We visit all but the Whitney Western Art Museum.

Buffalo Bill Museum
Plains Indians Museum

I believe I took 200 photos while touring the museums just so I’d have a log of the most interesting things I saw there. Hope you enjoy just a few of them that have been chosen worthy of this blog. (gads, more than a few- a lot!) Here’s a few more…………..

Natural History Museum

Firearms Museum

And last but not least we have the rare wave eating long tailed, floppy-eared Boxer Dog. Found only near lakes with wind driven waves the wave eater will race up and down the shore attempting eat/swallow every last drop of water that laps onto the shore. Burrrp…….

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