Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1896, Cody is the only Yellowstone National Park gateway that opens to two park entrances – east and northeast. Its location in a mountainous valley offers a rich array of outdoor adventures like blue-ribbon trout fishing, endless hiking, equestrian trails, rock climbing and scenic byways for road-tripping. The region also boasts wildlife such as elk, bison, bears, wolves, mosse, bighorn sheep, eagles, river otters and coyotes. Fall is the mating season for many of these animals, so it is common to see wildlife in action in the valleys and canyons.
This small town is a big destination in Yellowstone County for students of history. There is a variety of attractions that celebrate the larger-than-life personality and accomplishments of Buffalo Bill, from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West to the Old Trail Town and Museum of the West,
• 135th anniversary of the first Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill staged the first Wild West Show in Omaha, Neb. on May 19, 1883. With a proven knack for production and promotion, Cody persuaded top talents such as Annie Oakley to perform, and the show prospered. During 1899, for example, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was performed 341 times in 132 cities in 200 days. With tours throughout the U.S. and Europe, Buffalo Bill Cody became the most famous man in the world. A declining interest before World War I – due to popularity of motion pictures and sports as well as a general worldwide unease – eventually led to the show’s bankruptcy in 1913.
• 80th anniversary of the Cody Nite Rodeo.The event is the longest-running outdoor rodeo and only nightly rodeo in the world. Inspired by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the Cody Nite Rodeo – along with the five-day Cody Stampede, an annual July 4 rodeo-centric festival – has earned Cody the designation as “Rodeo Capital of the World.” Originally called the “Pup” rodeo, the nightly event was started by a one-time Wild West Show performer, Carly Darling, in 1938, 25 years after the final performance of the Wild West Show. Darling’s rodeo, like the Wild West Show, was intended to highlight the rough-and-tumble reputation of “Wild West,” a notion that was also perpetuated through films and books of the time. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children.
• 25th anniversary of the Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center. The Buffalo Bill Dam was the world’s tallest concrete dam when it was completed in 1910, and the visitor center, built in 1993, celebrates this architectural and historic marvel.
• 100th anniversary of National Park Service management of Yellowstone. The freshly minted National Park Service – a product of the Organic Act signed by President Woodrow Wilson – took over park operations from the U.S. Army in 1918.
If you are in the area during the fall season, here are six adventures that are must visit:
Hear an elk bugle in a valley that bears its name
Cody-based road-trippers enroute to the east entrance of Yellowstone will pass through Wapiti Valley. “Wapiti” is the Cree Indian word for elk, and these white-bottomed creatures from the deer family have obligingly continued to populate-and repopulate – their namesake valley. Like the instagramming humans who observe them, elk like to “share” their experiences by bugling about them. The shrill, ancient sound made by a male elk in rut reminds visitors that Yellowstone Country remains one of the wildest places in the world.
Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway
The Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway is a curious road-tripper’s dream route. Travelers pass a dilapidated, multi-story structure – often called the Crazy House – that was the inexplicable passion of an obsessive local builder who died when he fell from on of the rickety balconies on a windy day. Along the route, drivers will pass rock formations with descriptive names like “Chinese Wall” and points of interest, such as “Colter’s Hell.” Just outside the park entrance is Pahaksa Teppe, Buffalo Bill’s hunting lodge, where he entertained high – profile guests like the Prince of Monoco.
Fire an 1873 Winchester Rifle
The Cody Firearms Experience is an indoor shooting range with a selection of replicas of significant guns throughout history and a range of shooting packages. Just a short drive away is the Cody Firearms Museum, one of five museums under the roof of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The museum is undergoing a major transformation this year, and it has partnered with Navy Arms and Winchester Firearms to recreate 200 Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifles. A limited number are available for sale to benefit the museum.
See Paintings of Incarcerated Caucasian Woman at Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center.
Choosing to remain with her Japanese-American husband when he and 14,000 Americans of Japanese descent were incarcerated at this camp outside of Cody, Estelle Ishigo chronicled camp life in a series of sketches, drawing and watercolors. >More
Hole in the Wall Cabin
One of the 26 authentic frontier buildings in Cody’s Old Trail Town was used as a hideout by Butch Cassidy and the notorious Wild Bunch during their train and bank-robbing heyday. There was one bank in the region that was perfectly safe, though. Promising never to rob it, Butch Cassidy encouraged his friends to stash their cash at the Meeteetse Bank. Now part of the Weeteetse Museums, visitors can still view an original bank teller’s cage and other period artifacts.
Motor through Valleys of Plenty
In one long and visually stimulating day, travelers can pass through Yellowstone’s multiple wildlife-rich valleys including the park’s Hayden and Lamar Valleys, see a series of rugged mountain peaks; pass lakes, rivers and streams and see the waterfall that inspired the creation of the world’s first national park. By entering the park via the east entrance and exiting the northeast entrance to return to Cody, travelers can experience much of the 2.2 million – acre park’s most famous sights and landmarks all in one day.
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The area of Park County called “Cody/Yellowstone Country” was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Center of the West and thriving western culture host nearly 1 million visitors annually.