| | |

Visit the Innovative Buffalo Bill Dam

On our trip our west, we had several days of driving between major destinations and our next stop was to the innovative Buffalo Bill Dam. The whole family looked and remarked that it was a wonderful Dam facility. (Yes, we went through quite a few ‘Dam’ jokes while we were there.)

The Buffalo Bill Dam is quite frankly a marvel of engineering. Especially impressive is that it was built in 1910, at the time the largest dam ever built. It provides power and irrigation across the region, and also produced a reservoir that is used today for recreation and sport. 

Where is the Buffalo Bill Dam?

Situated just east of Cody Wyoming on Route 14, the Dam is within the Buffalo Bill State Park.  The park circles the Buffalo Bill Reservoir which was created when the dam was put in place.

If you are driving from Yellowstone National Park, you will get a great view of the reservoir on the right before you see signs for the visitor center. It does seem out of place, seeing the amount of water in the lake as a stark difference from the brown desert terrain. 

Buffalo Bill State Park offers a host of recreational opportunities such as camping, boating and hiking around the lake.  We saw a lot of boaters out on the water when we drove by in mid-summer.

Google Map of Buffalo Bill Dam

Operational Details

  • Operating Days: May 1 – Sep 30
  • Operating Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 – 6pm and Weekends 9 – 5pm
  • Entrance Cost:  Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Tours: Public tours of the dam and powerplant are not offered

Dam History

There are some interesting facts that about the Buffalo Bill Dam that you should know:

  • It was the first major Dam facility built in the western United States.
  • Considered a concrete arch dam and originally named the Shoshone project. 
  • At the time of completion, in 1910, it was the also the tallest dam in the world standing 325 feet tall.
  • It irrigates over 93,000 acres of land supporting local agriculture.
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • About 25% of the dam’s structure is compose of hand placed rocks, or plum stones, some weighing as much as 200 pounds (90 kg).

There were numerous issues, funding complications, and delays during the construction process, so it is a feat in itself that it was finally completed.

There is a rather large parking lot that leads to the Buffalo Bill visitor center. Several information signs are in the parking lot to and introduce you to the site. We were fortunate that a very nice Dam volunteer was picking up visitors in a large golf cart. This was a special treat for the kids and best part is it is complimentary!


The visitor center is right next to the Dam, so you can walk out and get a great top-down view of it from the Visitor Center. The view is quick impressive and be warned, can cause some with a fear of heights some queasiness! Quick tip:  It can be super windy, so hang on to your hats! 

There are numerous exhibits that illustrate how the dam was built, the stories of the workers and the impact the construction has had on the Big Horn Basin. A recurring video gives the history of the dam construction, as well. You can also see numerous taxidermized animals that call the Canyon their home.

There is a gift shop, of course.  Be prepared to the inundated with all manner of ‘Dam’ jokes and puns when you peruse the shop. Apparently, they sell the best ‘Dam’ coffee mug.

Stamping Location

Even though this site is not a National Park Service site, it still had a cancellation stamp and a solid supply of National Park Passport stamp books. Being so close a State Park, it is not a surprise. Wyoming’s does have a State Park Passport program, which covers the state’s 12 parks, so keep that in mind if you are planning to visit the reservoir.

Old Dam Hike

If you have time, consider hiking along the old dam road for some amazing scenery and a completely different view of the Dam.

  • Length: 4.2Miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Elevation gain: 530 ft
  • Level: Easy

How long do you need for a visit?

  • Visitor Center Only: 1 hour should be enough to take in the exhibits, watch the video, and check out the Dam from the observation patio. 
  • Visitor Center and Hike: You should a lot at least 2 hours+ if you are also going to take in a hike down the old dam road.  The length of time will depend on how far you go on this out and back hike and how fast you hike.

A Great Option for a Quick Stop 

If you are looking for a brief stop to on your way to Cody, WY, stopping by the Buffalo Bill Dam is a great option. It is free, they have bathrooms and a gift shop as well, plus some pretty spectacular views!

As mentioned earlier, it has a great Dam visitor center and wonderful Dam volunteers who can give additional insight on this impressive Dam structure!

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *