Vacations can be hard on a budget – that’s why I’m so glad we live in a place where your vacation dollar can go a LONG way! There are a ton of free things to do here in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country, so I thought I’d highlight a few in this installment of my Top 11 List!
1. The Buffalo Bill Dam was an incredible feat of engineering when it was constructed in 1910. At the time, it was the tallest concrete dam in the world, and the Hoover Dam outside of Las Vegas was actually modeled after this structure! The visitor center is free to the public (donations are always appreciated, though), and presents the history of the area as well as the construction of the dam itself. It’s open 8 am to 8 pm from May through September.
2. The only thing that you have to pay for is a license to experience one of the best recreational activities in this area – fishing! The various rivers and lakes in the region are full of all sorts of species of trout, and while most fishing spots are “catch-and-keep”, there are a few that are “catch-and-release” only. Be sure to check the Wyoming Game and Fish regulations before you drop your line in the water.
3. Hiking is a favorite pastime for so many of the locals here, and they’re glad to share their favorite hiking trails with visitors! From the walking trails along the Shoshone River right in Cody to the top of Heart Mountain, there are so many day hikes that it would take years to get to them all. The folks at the Shoshone National Forest office in Cody would be glad to get you headed in the right direction, no matter what distance or how strenuous of a hike you’re looking to take.
4. The museums in the tiny ranching town of Meeteetse and the agriculture center of the area, Powell, are full of stories and artifacts detailing the colorful history of the area. The Meeteetse Museum features the photography of Charles Belden, and has turned its historic bank building into an exhibit, as well. And the Homesteader Museum in Powell celebrates the homesteading families and rural life in the early 1900s. There are also several free historical exhibits in Cody – Tecumseh’s Miniature Village, the Cody Mural Visitor Center, and the Dug-Up Gun Museum all have fantastic artifacts that highlight the historical events that shaped the west.
5. The rich history of this region wasn’t just limited to the wild west – World War II brought an unexpected notoriety to this area, as it was the site of the Heart Mountain Internment Camp between Cody and Powell. The Camp was the residence for 11,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans who were rounded up by the federal government after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. An interpretive walking tour at the site details the history of the camp and its residents. A new learning center is in the process of being constructed, and will open to the public in August of this year.
6. Cody is the home to the official Wyoming State Veteran’s Memorial Park. A group of Korean War veterans and other hard-working supporters have made what was a simple memorial to the local soldiers who died in the Vietnam War into an extensive park at the southeast entrance to the community. The park features monuments to the veterans and the fallen from the Vietnam, Korean and second World wars.
7. The City of Cody is noted for its extensive and beautifully well-kept park system! The Cody Parks and Recreation department maintains nearly 300 acres of park land and almost 9 miles of trails for use by residents and visitors alike. Some parks have tennis courts; one has a climbing wall; there’s even a well-designed skate park, in addition to picnic shelters, horseshoe pits and of course, playground equipment!
8. If you love western art, but don’t necessarily want to pay an entrance fee to one of the local museums to view it, just stroll through downtown Cody and you’ll see some of the finest art that the area has to offer. From photography to oil to watercolors to sculptures, the various art galleries would be glad to show off the talented western artists whose work hangs on their walls. And don’t forget about the Cody Country Art League, which is housed in the same building as the Cody Visitor Center – it features professional and amateur artists who all have ties to the community.
9. Adventure-seekers have found Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country to be one of the best playgrounds in the country! From ice-climbing and cross-country skiing in the winter to mountain biking, kayaking, and rock climbing in the summer, there are incredible experiences just waiting to be had in the mountain ranges surrounding the area.
10. If you thought that all horses were domesticated in this day and age, wait until you take in the McCullough Peaks wild horse range! This herd of wild horses lives just east of Cody and can be seen almost any time. There are an estimated 450 animals in the herd, and if you’re willing to pay just a bit, there are guides in the area who have really gotten to know the individual horses and would be glad to introduce you…
11. … but if your favorite type of horse happens to have four wheels and is gasoline-powered, all you have to pay for is a tank of gas and you’ve got one of the most frugal ways to enjoy this region. There are five fantastic scenic loops that all begin and end here in Cody, and offer everything from wildlife viewing to incredible vistas that go on forever!
There it is – at least, everything that I could fit into 11 categories! If you’re looking for a memorable vacation that won’t drain your bank account, stop out and see us here in Yellowstone Country… you’ll be glad you did!
Stretchin’ a buck in Buffalo Bill’s Country,
Corrie N. Cody