Buffalo Bill Reservoir, Wyoming, USA
Buffalo Bill Reservoir is a historic, 8,315-acre lake, six miles from the town of Cody, in Park County, Wyoming. Constructed between the years of 1905 and 1910 on the Shoshone River, the Shoshone Dam was one of the first high concrete dams built in the United States. At the time of its completion, it was the tallest dam in the world at 325 feet. The dam was renamed Buffalo Bill in 1946 after the famous Old West figure William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who founded the nearby town of Cody and who owned much of the land now covered by the reservoir. The dam is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was also named a National Civil Engineering Landmark. Although designed to bring irrigation and electricity to the sagebrush flats of Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, the reservoir also offers a variety of recreational activities.
The Shoshone Power Plant, located near the base of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir Dam, began operation with two hydroelectric units in 1922. A third hydroelectric unit was added 1931. In 1980, the plant was shut down due to deterioration of the units. Units 1 and 2 were left in place in decommissioned status, but unit 3 was removed and replaced with a new 3,000 kilowatt unit in 1991. Today two hydroelectric power plants are driven by water from the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Downstream from the Reservoir, the 5,000 kilowatt Heart Mountain Power Plant takes advantage of water released from the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Irrigation water for the power plant is distributed through a series of diversion dams and canals.
The original Buffalo Bill State Park was established in 1957 and provided recreational areas and facilities along the original Buffalo Bill Reservoir shoreline. In 1993, an eight-year project was completed which raised the height of the dam 25 feet and increased the reservoir’s storage capacity. The enlarged reservoir flooded most of the former recreation areas which have been relocated and rebuilt. Today the park is a fantastic place for outdoor pursuits and offers hiking, camping, bird watching, horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. The reservoir is also Wyoming’s premier wind surfing lake due to the strong canyon winds that blow across the water. Additional park services include developed campsites and RV sites with dump stations, drinking water, tables, restrooms, primitive campsites, and a visitor center. The park covers approximately 3,500 acres of land around the 42 miles of shoreline of the reservoir.
Fishing in Buffalo Bill Reservoir is excellent and open year round. Fish species include rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout and cutthroat trout. Several boat ramps provide access to the lake. Anglers can also enjoy fishing on the Shoshone River both above and below the reservoir.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the mountainous landscape that surrounds Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Shoshone Canyon, in which the dam and hydroelectric plant are located, is framed by Rattlesnake Mountain to the north, Cedar Mountain (also known as Spirit Mountain) to the south, and Sheep Mountain to the west. Further west, along the northern shoreline of the lake sits Logan Mountain. All are part of the Rocky Mountain Absaroka Range. Elevations vary from approximately 5,400 feet in the Buffalo Bill State Park area to over 10,000 feet in the Absarokas.
For those who do not enjoy camping, accommodations can be found in the charming town of Cody, just northeast of Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Cody offers a number of lodging options to include hotels, bed and breakfasts, cozy cabins, and dude ranches. Private real estate for rent or purchase can also be found in and around the area. Nearby attractions to Cody include the impressive 204 million-acre Shoshone National Forest, scenic drives along the Chief Joseph Highway, and Bighorn Canyon. Whitewater rafting and fly fishing are favorite pastimes on the Bighorn River and Shoshone River. Cody is also a great launching point for a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. Located on the western border of the Shoshone National Forest, Yellowstone hosts over 3 million visitors who come to enjoy the park’s fishing, camping, wildlife, geothermal features, and other natural wonders. During the winter months, visitors can explore ski areas and backcountry snowmobile trails.
The northern region of Wyoming is world famous for its spectacular mountain ranges. In addition to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, located just south of Yellowstone, is well known for its stunning beauty and abundance of outdoor activities. Other outdoor attractions in the area include Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area. These natural resources in conjunction with the Buffalo Bill Reservoir offer unparalleled opportunities for outdoor recreation and memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
Things to do at Buffalo Bill Reservoir
- Vacation Rentals
- Whitewater Rafting
- Wind Surfing
- Cabin Rentals
- Horseback Riding
- Wildlife Viewing
- State Park
- National Park
- National Forest
Fish species found at Buffalo Bill Reservoir
- Brown Trout
- Cutthroat Trout
- Lake Trout
- Rainbow Trout
Buffalo Bill Reservoir Photo Gallery
Buffalo Bill Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: Wyoming Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation
Surface Area: 8,315 acres
Shoreline Length: 42 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 5,394 feet
Water Volume: 623,557 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1910
Drainage Area: 1,504 sq. miles
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