Driving by, it’s easy to miss the Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center. Upon closer inspection, though, you’ll find a big parking lot with a shuttle and attentive staff who really want to put the Buffalo Bill Dam on the map.
The dam project was initially proposed by William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, founder of the nearby town of Cody, though the dam and the reservoir are located at the Wapiti Valley. Buffalo Bill wanted to tame the flooding river and use its flow to develop agriculture in the region.
Knowing that his cash reserves wouldn’t be enough to finance the project, he asked the federal government of the United States for help. Between 1905 and 1910, the Bureau of Reclamation built what was at the time the world’s biggest dam—a test of its engineers’ skills before they went on to build Hoover Dam.
The dam is located at the mouth of the Shoshone Canyon, and the first years of construction were filled with disastrous construction problems and working conditions so poor they prompted Wyoming’s first-ever strike. Seven workers died during the five years of construction.
A power plant was only added around the 1920s. In 1985, the dam underwent renovation works and its height increased 25 feet to improve the reservoir capacity. The visitor center was added at this time. The new section of the dam is easily visible from the observation platform.