USA, WY: The Legend of Buffalo BillCody, in the northwestern corner of Wyoming was founded in 1895 and named after the legendary Pony Express rider, soldier in the Kansas Cavalry, scout, buffalo hunter and Wild West actor and showman, Col. William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody.
AUTHOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER: © Shane Boocock 2014
William Cody was America’s ideal man: a courtly, chivalrous, self-made fellow who could shoot a gun and charm a crowd. Yet as Annie Oakley put it, “He was the simplest of men, as comfortable with cowboys as with kings.”
Cody, in the northwestern corner of Wyoming was founded in 1895 and named after the legendary Pony Express rider, soldier in the Kansas Cavalry, scout, buffalo hunter and Wild West actor and showman, Col. William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody. In that same year he acquired the TE Ranch, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of town and later expanded it to over 4,000 acres. Besides the town itself, there’s not much that isn’t named after the great frontiersman, from state parks and dude ranches to western outfitters and even liquor stores.
Surrounding the Cody region is the immense Shoshone National Forest, an area of vast unadulterated wilderness and America’s first designated National Forest. Deep in this wilderness was where Col. William F. Cody’s Monaco Hunting Camp was once located. It was here that he held his last big game hunt in September 1913, during which Albert, Prince of Monaco accompanied him – hence the name.
On our first night in town we made our way to the famous Cody Stampede Rodeo – the only summer rodeo in America to operate seven nights a week. It was a balmy evening and the local cowgirls were decked out in rhinestone outfits with chaps over jeans, while the cowboys in the stalls waiting to take their turn wore oversized gleaming belt buckles and of course obligatory Stetson cowboy hats. A typical rodeo consists of seven main events: bareback riding, tie down roping, team roping, bull riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and barrel racing. Each is broken down into two categories: timed and rough stock. Timed events include roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing with each rider competing against the clock. The remaining rough stock events are both judged and scored.
The Annual Cody Stampede is held over four days surrounding 4th July celebrations and includes the town’s major rodeo event of the year with many top-notch USA professional rodeo competitors, town street parades, fireworks and plenty of family entertainment.
The next night we ended up smack dab on Main Street at an authentic Cody landmark, the Irma Hotel. It was built by Buffalo Bill Cody as a luxury hotel and opened in 1902, named by Buffalo Bill for his daughter Irma. Here guests can still stay in Buffalo Bill’s private suite. It’s a place to step back in time, where faded photographs and memorabilia remind visitors of a bygone era. It was also the home of the huge carved French-made Victorian cherrywood back bar which was presented as a gift to the handsome showman after a Wild West Show command performance for Queen Victoria in 1900.
A definitive must-see attraction in Cody that we also visited was the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The five-museum complex is split up into different centers: 1. ‘The Buffalo Bill Museum’ is where you can learn all about William F. Cody, his Wild West show and the west he knew and loved. 2. ‘The Draper Museum of Natural History’ is where you’ll follow interactive trails that introduce the sights and sounds of nature in the Greater Yellowstone eco-system. 3. ‘The Whitney Gallery of Western Art’ is the place to discover some of the most stunning masterpieces and sculptures of the American West. 4. ‘The Plains Indian Museum’ presents the nation’s finest collection of artifacts and art depicting what life was like for Plains Indians. 5. ‘The Cody Firearms Museum’ houses the world’s largest collection of American arms as well as European arms dating back to the 16th century, with over 5,000 original pieces on display, this is the place to research and learn all about the history of weapons.
Another seasoned attraction that draws visitors to Cody is ‘Old Trail Town.’ It’s a collection of rare original historic buildings and furnishings dating from between 1879 to 1900 that have been relocated to form an old Wyoming western town. Included in the collection are the Hole in the Wall Cabin used by Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and the River Saloon, which was frequented by cowboys, outlaws and gold miners. Check out the bullet holes that are still in the saloon door.
Our trip to Cody was in a recreational vehicle but whether you are travelling by four wheels or riding a Harley Davidson motorbike, in summer there is a host of other attractions and activities worth stopping in off for. The most obvious is Yellowstone National Park, which is only a few hours away from Cody and worthy of at least a couple of days exploration. However by you choosing Cody as a base you’ll find many more options in which you can enjoy the region’s full potential. To help you get started just a few of the activities available in Cody.
Bike or Hike
Many locals know all the trails outside of town, so it’s well worthwhile asking where the best hiking and biking trails are located before setting off into no-man’s land. One of the best places is the area around Buffalo Bill State Park six miles out of town where you’ll find good lakeside hiking and biking trails. Many of the dude ranches also have superb hiking trails that venture across private lands.
Saddle Up Cowboy
For a truly western experience in true cowboy style, take the family on any number of wilderness horseback trail rides from short two-hour family-friendly trips or day-long backcountry expeditions to exciting overnight guided packhorse trips. Whatever your fancy you can expect so see sweeping vistas, and plenty of wildlife from your western saddle.
Hook, Line and Cast
Whether you like fly-fishing, baiting a hook or casting a spinner, fishing in Wyoming is a rite of passage for most locals and thousands of visitors. With deep blue lakes and an abundance of rivers there are plenty of options in the Cody region to snag a big fish. Most local outfitters and dude ranches offer a range of great trout fishing guide services.
Watch for Wildlife
Out in the wilderness is where you need to be in summer, and surrounding Cody are more than enough outdoor highlights waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re hiking, fly fishing or just taking a scenic tour expect to see black bears, moose, bison, bald eagles, osprey, elk, antelope, mountain sheep, coyotes and if you’re lucky maybe even a few beavers.
Must See Museum’s
On everyone’s must-do list is the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. However Cody also has the unusually named, Cody Dug Up Gun Museum, as well as the Draper Museum of Natural History. If the old west is where you want to dig deeper then don’t miss visiting the Museum of the Old West or Tecumseh’s Old West Village & Museum.
Drop in on a Dude Ranch
Dude Ranches thrived a century ago at the peak of America’s infatuation with the western frontier. Survivors in and around Cody include the Rimrock Ranch, the Bill Cody Ranch, the Crossed Sabres Ranch, the UXU Ranch and the Seven D Ranch. In all there are 15 dude or guest ranches in the region that offer superior cabin accommodation, backcountry horse riding trips, guided fly-fishing tours or wilderness hiking options.
Shane Boocock travelled to the United States courtesy of Air Tahiti Nui with departures from Auckland on four scheduled flights a week to Los Angeles via Papeete.
El Monte RV is privately owned offering RV rentals from different city locations across the United States. They feature the largest number of RV models in the motorhome industry. El Monte RV can be contacted at www.elmonterv.com
Assistance with outfitters, campgrounds, resorts and attractions was courtesy of Rocky Mountains International. W: www.RMI-RealAmerica.com
Cody Stampede Rodeo
Buffalo Bill Historical Center
Dude Ranch Association of America
Old Trail Town
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