Buffalo Bill Reservoir, Wyoming, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Wyoming - Northwest -

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
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Wind Surfing
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Buffalo Bill Reservoir

  • Brown Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Buffalo Bill Reservoir Photo Gallery

Buffalo Bill Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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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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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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