President Teddy Roosevelt called the stretch of highway between Cody, WY and the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park “the fifty most beautiful miles in America”.
The fifty miles referred to by President Roosevelt, located between Yellowstone and Cody, is known as East Yellowstone. East Yellowstone, also known as Wapiti Valley, begins at Yellowstone National Park’s East gate and stretches through Shoshone National Forest and Buffalo Bill State Park to Cody, Wyoming. The valley was shaped by the Shoshone River as it flowed out of Yellowstone National Park and is cradled by the strikingly beautiful volcanic rocks of the Absaroka Mountains.
Cody, Wyoming was established in 1896 by wild west showman, William F. Cody, famously known as “Buffalo Bill Cody” or the “The Scout”, along with a group of investors from Buffalo, New York, and George T. Beck and Holger Alger of Sheridan, Wyoming who formed the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company.
The founding fathers of Cody realized the potential for tourism. With Yellowstone National Park only fifty miles away and the town surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness, the city would lure tourists from all over the world. William F. Cody brought many dignitaries and heads of state to Cody to hunt during the off-season of the Wild West Show. The Cody country had abundant game and was developing into a sportsman’s paradise. Guiding and outfitting services flourished and guest and dude ranches began springing up to accommodate tourists brought in by the Burlington Railroad.
The Shoshone National Forest was named after the “Shoshone Indians”. Archeological evidence in the forest suggests the presence of Indian tribes in the area back at least 8,000 years. The forest provided an ample supply of game, wood and shelter and the mountainous regions were frequented by the Shoshone and Sioux Indians for spiritual healing and vision quests.
In the early 1800’s, the forest was visited by now famous mountain men such as John Colter and Jim Bridger. Colter is the first white man know to have been to both the Yellowstone region and the Shoshone Forest in the period between 1806 and 1808.
In 1903, the first Ranger Station built with Federal funds, Wapiti Ranger Station, was established 30 miles West of Cody. The Ranger Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wapiti Ranger District is bordered by the Bridger-Teton National Forest on the West, the Clark’s Fork Ranger District on the North and it’s South and Southeastern borders meet with the Wind River and Greybull Ranger districts. The name “Wapiti” comes from the Native American word for “elk”.
In 1904, Buffalo Bill Cody built the Pahaska Lodge to serve tourists visiting Yellowstone. The term “Pahaska” meaning “Long Hair” was a name given to Buffalo Bill Cody by Native Americans and popularized in dime novels which made Cody famous. Today, East Yellowstone has a wide variety of accommodations such as dude ranches, guest ranches, lodges, inns and historic, yet modern, log-cabin mountain resorts. Each property has different opportunities for recreations, scenery and amenities, however, each provides the same high standard of western hospitality that Cody had envisioned for this area.
To bolster the economy of the struggling new town, Buffalo Bill Cody persuaded his friend, President Teddy Roosevelt, to establish the Bureau of Reclamation and to build the Shoshone Dam and Reservoir which was completed in 1910, later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir. With the completion of this dam, the highest in the world at the time, the community was established soundly in the irrigation and electric power fields.