Over 999,000 readers this year!

New trails, recreation updates mulled for Buffalo Bill State Park

State, feds seek public comment on draft plans for state park near Cody, which attracts water sports enthusiasts and others.

A sailboat and camping trailers are seen at Buffalo Bill Reservoir and State Park. (Wyoming State Parks)

by Katie Klingsporn, WyoFile

New trails, restrooms, picnic areas and improved fishing access could be in store at Buffalo Bill State Park near Cody. 

Wyoming State Parks and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have released draft plans that will guide the future development of the park, which encircles an 8,000-acre reservoir. The agencies are seeking comment now on an integrated resource management plan and environmental assessment that have been in the works for more than a year. 

The plan outlines potential recreation improvements and other management actions at the park, which the agencies collaborate to oversee. 

The park is dotted with campgrounds, fishing sites and boat ramps, and its visitor center perches atop a concrete dam that has impounded the Shoshone River for more than a century. It received 148,624 visits in 2023 — 9% above its five-year average, according to Wyoming State Parks. 

The draft documents offer two alternatives for the park. The first proposes no action, so the 36-year-old master plan for the park would remain in place. 

The second proposes a slate of improvements, including recreation facility developments and an updated management framework for the dam and reservoir. That plan involves nearly 12 miles of new trail as well as updates and expansion of primitive and group camping, restrooms, parking areas and playgrounds.

History 

Crews completed construction of the Buffalo Bill Dam in 1910, and much of the area was designated a state park in 1957. 

Buffalo Bill offers fishing, camping and water sports at the reservoir. Along with three boat ramps, the park features nine day-use areas, two group shelters, 11 picnic shelters and more than 100 campsites in three campgrounds. Users can also rent Shreve Lodge, which holds up to 200 people. 

People peer over a rail at the Buffalo Bill Dam visitor center. (Wyoming State Parks)

A combination of factors prompted the Buffalo Bill update, Nick Neylon, deputy director of Wyoming’s Outdoor Recreation Office and Division of State Parks, previously told WyoFile. Usage is growing and diversifying and it’s time for an update, he said. The last master plan for the park was completed in 1988. 

Local resistance to proposed expansion also played a role. Amid a pandemic-fueled visitation spike, Wyoming State Parks used federal stimulus money to expand camping facilities at Buffalo Bill. Part of its plan proposed adding 40 campsites to an area abutting a residential neighborhood — which residents strongly opposed. 

The agency withdrew that part of the plan, but Neylon said staff thought it was a good time to consider future management guidance and collect public input. The department and Bureau of Reclamation began master planning outreach efforts in spring 2023. 

Master planning has caused contention for Wyoming State Parks in recent history. A 2016 master plan of Hot Springs State Park envisioned that park as a “premiere [sic] destination” with updates and renovations at facilities. When the state recently selected a new operator for the Star Plunge aquatic facility as part of the larger effort, many decried the decision. 

In Fremont County, opposition mobilized after Sinks Canyon State Park released a 2020 master plan that called for, among other amenities, a via ferrata to be built on a cliff face where peregrine falcons historically nested. The state later abandoned that project. 

Get involved 

The comment deadline is June 10. Comments can be submitted through an online portal. 

State parks will also host open houses for the public to learn more and provide written comments. They are scheduled for the following dates:

  • May 28, 4-7 p.m. Shreve Lodge in Cody.
  • May 29, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Cody Library.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.


Back

Related