Buffalo Bill State Park

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Buffalo Bill State Park
Wyoming State Park
named for: Buffalo Bill
Country United States
State Wyoming
County Park County
Location [1]
 - coordinates 44°30′04″N 109°11′02″W / 44.50111°N 109.18389°W / 44.50111; -109.18389Coordinates: 44°30′04″N 109°11′02″W / 44.50111°N 109.18389°W / 44.50111; -109.18389
 - elevation 5,371 ft (1,637 m) [1]
Founded 1957
Managed by Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources
Locator Red.svg
Location of Buffalo Bill State Park in Wyoming
Location of Buffalo Bill State Park in Wyoming
Website : Buffalo Bill State Park

Buffalo Bill State Park is a Wyoming state park in Park County, Wyoming, United States. The park surrounds a reservoir formed by the Buffalo Bill Dam on the Shoshone River. The park, reservoir and dam were named after William "Buffalo Bill" Cody who founded the nearby town of Cody and owned much of the land now occupied by the reservoir and park. Buffalo Bill State Park is open May 1 - September 30 with limited winter access. Recreational opportunities include camping, hiking, boating, fishing and picnicking.[2]


Buffalo Bill, William Cody, was one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, and mostly famous for the shows he organized with cowboy themes. He once owned some of the land that is now part of the state park bearing his name. He sold his property to the United States government prior to the construction of Buffalo Bill Dam.[3] Cody settled in the Shoshone Canyon area in the 1870s. He first came to the region as a guide for a survey expedition. Cody spent parts the next twenty years in the area serving as a hunting guide. Buffalo Bill worked to bring irrigation and agriculture development in Park County. He founded the nearby city of Cody in 1896.[3]

Construction on Buffalo Bill Dam, originally known as Shoshone Dam,[4] began in 1905. Upon completion, in 1910, the dam was the highest in the world standing at 325 feet (99 m).[3][4] The dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam[5] on the Shoshone River in the U.S. state of Wyoming. It dam was part of the Shoshone Project, one of the first projects overseen by the Bureau of Reclamation.[5]

Downstream face of the dam

In addition to providing water for irrigation and downstream flood control, Buffalo Bill Dam provides hydropower for a power plant. The first and second units of the power plant were constructed in 1922.[6] A third unit was built in 1931. Units one and two were decommissioned in 1980 and unit three was replaced in 1991.[6]

The park was established in 1957 and rebuilt in 1993 after an eight-year project to increase the height of the dam by 25 feet (7.6 m). The original park facilities were flooded when the dam was raised and the reservoir was deepened and widened. The project added 260,000 acre feet (320,000,000 m3) to the area of the lake.[7] A visitors center at the dam was opened upon completion of the heightening of the dam. Further modifications to the dam included an expansion of the underground spillway and addition of gates to the spillway for flow control.[7]


Buffalo Bill State Park is in Shoshone Canyon along the Shoshone River in northwestern Wyoming. The mountainous area is part of the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains.[3] The range is on the Montana-Wyoming border. They border the Beartooth Mountains to the north and the Wind River Range to the south. The mountains are named for the Absaroka Indians.[8] The name is derived from the Hidatsa name for the Crow people; it means "children of the large-beaked bird." [9]

A small wildfire in August 2008


Buffalo Bill State Park surrounds Buffalo Bill Reservoir which is the center of recreation at the park. Recreational activities at the park include fishing, boating, hiking, camping and picnicking.[3] The park is officially closed during the winter months, but limited recreation is available.[3]

The park, like most of the state parks in Wyoming, is a "reservoir park." This has traditionally limited recreation to the waters of the reservoirs including boating, fishing and swimming. Plans are in place to build additional hiking trails in several Wyoming state parks. The state requires that the newly built trails do not fundamentally alter the landscape of the park. Funding for the trails comes from several federal and state funds and private donations.[10]

The picnic facilities at the park were updated in 2007 by the Wyoming Conservation Corps. The corps also built fences at the park.[11] The picnic facilities are available to large groups with a reservation and unreserved tables and shelters are available on a first come-first served basis.[3]

Moon over camp at Buffalo Bill State Park


  1. ^ a b "Buffalo Bill Dam". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. June 5, 1979. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  2. ^ "Buffalo Bill State Park: Fees and Information". State of Wyoming. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Buffalo Bill State Park" (pdf). State of Wyoming. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  4. ^ a b "Buffalo Bill Dam Visitors Center - History". Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  5. ^ a b "Bureau of Reclamation - Buffalo Bill Dam Information". Retrieved 2010-06-05. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b "Shoshone Power Plant". Buffalo Dam Visitor Center. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  7. ^ a b "Buffalo Bill Dam Modification Project". Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  8. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States (PDF). p. 22. 
  9. ^ Aarstad, Rich, Ellie Arguimbau, Ellen Baumler, Charlene Porsild, and Brian Shovers. Montana Place Names from Alzada to Zortman. Montana Historical Society Press.
  10. ^ Korn, Marjorie (2009-03-17). "Wyo looks to expand trails at state parks". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2010-06-06. 
  11. ^ staff and wire reports (2007-07-05). "In brief". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2010-06-06.