Did you know the term “Dude” actually originated here in Cody, Wyo.? No, it’s not from the surfer beaches of California or a junior high locker room.
Back when the park – we locals refer to Yellowstone as “the park” – was still a baby in the 1870s the people who made a living taking tourists around the thermal features came up with the term to describe any visitor from the East. The term quickly evolved to describe anyone who hired a guide to show them the West and our lifestyle.
Being proud Westerners, ranchers often hosted guests who wanted to stay for a week or two or three and experience the cowboy life. It did not take long, however, before enough people started visiting that it became prohibitively costly for the ranchers to shelter and feed these visitors.
The answer to this dilemma? Ranchers began reluctantly asking their guests to pay a fee to stay and help with chores around the property. The guests were more than happy to pay these fees, and a new segment of the hospitality industry was born.
The first “dude ranch” dates back to the 1880s and was the Custer Trail Ranch in the Dakota Badlands east of here. The ranch was run by Howard Eaton and his family which eventually moved operations to Wyoming where the Eaton Ranch is still in operation today. The Eatons ran horse-packing trips to Yellowstone National Park, and the Howard Eaton Trail runs roughly parallel to the Grand Loop inside the park and has been used by countless hikers, riders and cross country skiers through the years.
Cody has an even stronger tie to this industry as it has been the home of the Dude Ranchers Association since it was established in 1926.
Today we have several guest and dude ranches in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country, and many of our visitors would not consider staying anywhere else when they come for a visit.
The difference between the two?
Dude ranches require a minimum stay, usually four nights to a week, and all activities, meals and lodging are included in a fixed price which requires a deposit in advance. A guest ranch on the other hand offers the same type of lodging and activities, but travelers can stay just one night with meals and horseback riding optional. Lodging, meals and activities are priced separately and paid for at the end of the stay.
No matter what type of ranch experience travelers choose, they will be treated to an authentic and memorable Western experience. For a more information about dude ranches and guest ranches visit www.yellowstonecountry.org or www.duderanch.org/.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life, dude, in Cody, Wyo.