The number of animals in this region is just phenomenal. Coming from the Midwest, I grew up watching deer and squirrels. That’s about it. But here in Buffalo Bill’s country, the different varieties of animals to view are just astounding! So I decided to put together my Top 11 list of places to watch for many of these amazing creatures.
1. Elk – the Sunlight Basin northwest of Cody is a popular place for herds of elk to gather. Drive north of Cody on Highway 120, go about 16 miles, then turn west onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The Sunlight Basin road will take you past some beautiful ranches and into the valley where the elk feed. It’s a gorgeous drive, and the opportunity to view these animals in their natural habitat is worth going the distance!
2. Bison – without a doubt, Yellowstone National Park is THE place to get your fill of these wild and wooly critters. They literally own the roads in Yellowstone – anyone who’s been there recently will be able to tell you that the bison traffic jams rival any big city traffic snarls… but there’s a heck of a lot less road rage here!
3. Big Horn Sheep – the highway that follows the South Fork of the Shoshone River leads to a beautiful mountain valley that is home to herds of big horn sheep. In the fall, the sheep are feeding in the low country before the hard winter kicks in, and in the spring, the sheep babies can be found frolicking on the ranchland in the valley.
4. Mountain Goats – Clark’s Fork Canyon just northwest of Cody on Highway 120 is one of the few places in this region where you can spot these elusive rock dwellers. I haven’t figured out how they can actually climb from one precipitous rock face to another – they’re incredible!
5. Moose – east of Cody across the Big Horn Basin are the awesome Big Horn Mountains, home to black bear, deer, and the massive moose! Highway 14A, from Lovell across to Sheridan, is a great place to spot these enormous creatures. They’ve also been frequently seen in the Wood River Valley southwest of Meeteetse.
6. Wild Horses – two wild mustang herds call Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country home: the McCullough Peaks area just east of Cody in the Big Horn Basin; and the Pryor Mountains northeast of the Big Horn Basin. The Pryor Mountain Mustang Center is an educational center dedicated to preserving the legacy of these beautiful wild animals.
7. Wolves – the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park is prime viewing for all sorts of animals, but it’s one of the best bets for spotting wolves. The wolf population is thriving in Yellowstone after the animal’s re-introduction in the 1990s. The Lamar Valley is in the northeast corner of Yellowstone Park, between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City, Montana.
8. Mule Deer – believe it or not, if you’re looking to get up close and personal with a mule deer, go no farther than downtown Cody! Dozens of deer roam around the community – and it’s either a curse or a blessing, depending on who you talk to… they love to munch in residents’ gardens!
9. Bears – as you travel closer to Yellowstone National Park on Highway 14-16-20, the odds of seeing a grizzly or black bear grow greater! Bear are regularly seen on the stretch of highway from about ten miles outside Yellow stone until the entrance to the Park, so keep your camera at the ready, but don’t get too close! Remember, bears are dangerous creatures that move faster than you think they can…
10. Antelope – … although pronghorns are actually the fastest land animals in North America. But here in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country, they’re pretty content to move a little slower and graze in the lush grass of the Wapiti Valley about 20 miles west of Cody on the Yellowstone Highway.
11. Waterfowl – Beck Lake and Alkali Lake on the east side of Cody aren’t just beautiful City parks; they’re also prime waterfowl habitat. There’s a viewing area that was constructed a few years back by a local service organization that provides a fantastic place to sit and watch the ducks, geese, loons and other birds that use these lakes as a resting point along their migration routes.
There you are – Corrie N. Cody’s Top 11 list of the best wildlife watching places in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country! Next time you plan a trip this direction, take this list along to build your itinerary… and don’t forget your camera!
Until next time, I’ll be watching the wildlife in Buffalo Bill’s Country!
Corrie N. Cody