Description: If you are Interested in American History, other than just the west, don’t miss the Heart Mountain World War II Japanese Internment Camp and its wonderful Interpretive Learning Center. Located between Cody and Powell, the Interpretive Learning Center is housed in a bleak-looking replica of three barracks sitting side by side. This was one of 10 relocation camps where many Japanese were forced to live during World War II. Nearly 14,000 Japanese people were imprisoned at the Heart Mountain Camp from 1942 to 1945. The worst part about this is that these were not Japanese prisoner of war, these were people who were living in our country, had their homes and businesses in this country, and two thirds of them were even American Citizens. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in World War II, these people were forced to leave their homes and were interned in camps. The Heart Mountain Camp became the third largest city in the state of Wyoming. The Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center was completed in 2011 to educate the public about this tragic rounding up of Japanese Americans along our Pacific Coast and Arizona, due to unfounded fears that they were a threat to our country. These people were only given a few days to dispose of, or secure their land, homes, and possessions before being moved to relocation interment camps located in a number of western states. They could only take what they could carry. No pets were allowed, so beloved family pets had to be left behind. These camps became cities, complete with their own schools and hospitals. But these were not normal cities, as they were behind barbed wire with guard towers (photo 3), and the homes were nothing more than one room inside wooden barracks. Despite this, more than 750 young men and women who were incarcerated during World War II at the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp left to serve in the U.S. armed forces, fighting and dying the same as other young Americans. A few others refused to be drafted into the army unless the rights of the interned Japanese people were returned to them. These men were tried, and sent to jail, with a a sentence of three years for resisting the draft. Most were released after two years, and the resisters received a pardon in 1947. In the spring of 2007, this Relocation Camp was designated as a National Historic Landmark. The visitor learning center preserves both the oral and written histories of those who were forced to live here through video clips, photographs, life sized cutouts, and a recreation of two barrack rooms (photo 2) . You will begin your visit with a short film, All We Could Carry in which former internees give firsthand accounts of what it was like to be forced to leave their homes and relocate to the Heart Mountain Camp, taking only a few personal items with them.
From the learning center’s parking lot, take a right turn and follow the road to an area where there are a few remaining buildings, and a short self-guided walking tour with interpretive signs to tell you about what buildings were once here, and their location. (See photo 4)
This Center is often missed by tourists, but it is an important reminder of a shameful part of our past, and a reminder that we must never let anything like this happen again. The center is located about 14 miles east of Cody along US 14A. It is on the left just off of Road 19 as you drive toward Powell. Watch for the small brown historic sign located by the turn-off for this historic site. PhoThe Center, designed to look like the barracks can easily be seen along the highway.
Photo 5 shows the Hospital Complex, which contained 150 beds. 566 babies were born in this hospital.
We spent a night at Shoshone Lodge on our way to Cody in order to fulfil one of our holiday objectives: riding in Wyoming! At Shoshone it’s possible to stay just one night, and to book a ride by the hour, which suited our modest ambitions perfectly.
The prices here are very reasonable. We paid $25 per person for an hour’s ride that was actually well over that length. Longer rides are charged as follows:
2 Hour Ride......................................$45/person
Lunch or Dinner Ride........................$65/person
Tenderfoot Day Ride........................$100/person
Sourdough Day Ride........................$145/person
Day Ride in Yellowstone Park (first 2 persons)..$165/person
additional persons - $115/person
Overnight Wilderness Pack Trips.... $295/person
But we are very inexperienced riders so the shortest trip seemed the best option. We felt well looked-after by George the wrangler, and loved the experience of viewing the wonderful scenery around the lodge from the saddle. Our horses too took good care of us, though mine, Gilmour, nearly slipped at one point while Chris’s Strawberry was more interested at times in eating than sightseeing! I have to confess that we were well into the ride (probably just after that slip!) before it occurred to me that we should perhaps have asked if we could borrow hard hats, by which time it was far too late; so I don’t know whether they’re available for those who are more sensible than we were and think to ask for them.
The road from Yellowstone to Cody is known as the Buffalo Bill Cody Highway and is rightly considered one of the most scenic routes in the USA. The road follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River through the Wapiti Valley, with the Absaroka Mountains rising to the southwest. The route is known for its abundant wildlife, astonishing rock formations, and recreational opportunities. The rock formations along the roadside are at their most fantastic near the small town of Wapiti, 21 miles from Cody. A pull-out on the north side of the road at the area known as the Holy City offers great photo possibilities if you can spot it – we drove past as it’s not signposted but luckily were able to turn round and retrace our steps. It was still fairly early when we were there (about 9.00 AM) so there were relatively few people and the light was wonderful.
Nearer Cody you’ll pass the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and Dam in a dramatic setting in Shoshone Canyon. Work began on the dam in 1905 and when completed in 1910, it was the highest dam in the world at 325 feet. We didn’t stop here but apparently you can fish, picnic and camp in the adjacent state park. It looked a great setting for any of these activities.
Yellowstone National Park----OK, I know that most people coming through Cody are on their way to, or from Yellowstone. But, hey, this IS a Cody page! I include this in my Out of the Way section because although we are the East Gate Community, you still have to drive 50 miles to the park gate. But don’t despair, this is an interesting and beautiful 50 miles. First you pass through our tunnels, now you are in our beautiful Wapiti (an Indian word for elk) Valley. This valley, which follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River, will take you into the Shoshone National Forest, where the road continues along the river through mountain and valley vistas. If you have the time, the road to Yellowstone has some pull-offs with signs giving you interesting information about the area. Do not, however, make Cody your base for visiting Yellowstone! Cody is a great place to plan into your trip. Stay a full day or more, but then move to Yellowstone. I have seen it said on a number of web pages that we are the East Gateway community to Yellowstone, and it is an optional place to stay for a Yellowstone trip. NO--too many miles of National Forest between Cody and the park. It is fine for locals to take day trips to the park, but for tourists to stay in Cody to travel to Yellowstone over a number of days is a BAD idea!
When in Yellowstone, don't just go to Old Faithful and leave. There is SO much more to see.. One thing that is fun, is to take the Old Faithful Lodge historic tour, which is quite interesting. If you don't want to do this, at least go in and look around. It is the most outstanding log structure I have ever seen. Besides the Old Faithful geyser basin, Norris, the hottest geyser basin in the park is nice. The Canyon area and it's falls is a not to be missed area! Artists Point is my favorite view of the falls, and a must see, although Lookout Point is also a very nice view of the Lower Falls. Inspiration Point will give you a wonderful view of the canyon. You can also hike down to the base of the lower falls along the Uncle Tom's trail. It's quite a down/up walk with lots of stairs, but if you are up to it, it is a nice one. We took our son on Uncle Tom’s when he was about 8, and his tongue was hanging out by the time we got down there----and he still had to go up. If you have time visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area and Tower Falls. For wildlife check out Lamar Valley on the northeast side of the park, and Haden Valley on the east side.
My second photo is of a walkway in the Old Faithful Area. My third photo is of Sapphire Pool in Biscuit Basin.
For more detailed information on Yellowstone, and additional things to do, including a few short videos, visit my comprehensive Yellowstone pages at http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/3d935/dc5a0
This scenic drive is a 60-mile run(one way) from Shell, Wyoming to Dayton along U.S. 14. I would only recommend this drive in late spring through early fall, as it can be very slippery in other times of the year, and the pass occasionally closes in the winter. This drive takes you through a beautiful gorge, over the broad back of the Big Horn Mountains, and across meadows to the Tongue River on the east side. Shell Creek canyon area on the western side of the Big Horns runs for about a mile through a narrow gap where you will see cliffs of various colors rising hundreds of feet from the swift running water. You will then continue through Shell Canyon. Be sure to stop at the Shell Falls Interpretive Site. There is a shelf-guided nature trail here that hugs the rim of a granite-lined canyon overlooking the falls. As you reach Granite Pass you will be at an elevation of 9,033 feet and you will see vast, grassy meadows where if you are lucky you may see elk and deer. (If you wish to take the U.S.14A detour --I think this will take you about an hour-- you can drive to the Medicine Wheel. This is an ancient stone circle sacred to the Indians. From here you must return to U.S. 14 to continue the drive. ) Continuing along U.S. 14 you will leave the high alpine meadows and descend along a series of switchbacks through a lodge pole pine forest. As you begin traveling through the Little Tongue River Canyon pull over at the turnout for Fallen City. This is a steep field of huge limestone chunks that tumbled from the ridgeline across the canyon. Now continue toward Dayton, stopping at the Sand Turn Pull out where you will see a sign identifying Buffalo Tongue Rock, one of the sedimentary rock layers that tilted as the Big Horns grew. If you are planning on returning to Cody, you may wish to turn around here, otherwise continue onto Dayton.
My other two photos are of the Shell Canyon Waterfalls.
There are a number of beautiful mountain drives around Cody. The drive into Sunlight Basin (the Chief Joseph Highway) is especially nice. Drive about 20 miles north of Cody on highway 120. The road traveling through the basin is highway 296. It passes over Dead Indian Pass, which features one of the most outstanding vistas in the state. The spectacular Sunlight Creek Bridge is the highest in the state, stop and walk out to look down into the canyon. At one time there use to be a sign on this bridge stating No Fishing Allowed From Bridge. Looking at the river far below, you will have to laugh at the ridiculousness of this sign! It was so funny, that I missed it when the sign was finally removed. From here you will follow the road to the Beartooth Highway. At this intersection you have a choice of two scenic paths back to Cody. You can turn west and go through the scenic Montana communities of Cook City and Silver Gate and enter Yellowstone through the northeast gate. Travel through the park and exit at the east gate and back to Cody. Or you can go up the Beartooth highway with it's many small lakes to the pass and on down into Red Lodge, Montana. CBS television's Charles Kurault has called this 'America's most scenic highway.' You will wonder why this area isn't a National Monument or Park. I consider it one of Cody's best kept secrets. From Red Lodge it is an hour’s drive back to Cody. Both loops are favorites of locals, but I love the one over the Beartooths the best. You can pack a picnic, or eat in one of the above mentioned small communities.
My last photo was taken along the Beartooth Highway in August.
The Medicine Wheel, a National Historic Landmark, was mentioned as a side trip in my Off the Beaten Path tip, Scenic Drive Through the Big Horn Mountains. It is quite a drive from Cody, and you would want to pack a lunch and plan to spend the day. In this tip I will give you a more direct route for reaching the Medicine Wheel. For those of you passing over this mountain on your way to Cody, this would make a wonderful side stop, if you have the time. This sacred treasure for the American Indians is located in the Bighorn National Forest. This circle of stones is located at the top of a mountain at almost 10,000 feet above sea level, and you will walk one and a half miles from the parking lot along a graded road to the top of the mountain where the wheel is located. Although this road has been closed since 1993, if you are physically unable to make the walk, speak to the ranger located at the parking area. Exceptions are made, and some cars are allowed to drive to the wheel itself. The wheel is located above tree line and you will find the views along your walk magnificent as you look at distant, high peaks and the vastness of the National Forest below. Not only is this an artifact that is revered by the Indian People, but it is also a historic and archeological site. There are many legends about the origin of the Wheel, but scientists have not determined by who or why this was constructed. They do believe that it was probably built between 1,200 and 1,700 A.D. The most direct route to the Medicine Wheel from Cody is to take highway Alt 14 through Powell and Lovell. Just outside of Lovell you will see the Visitor’s Center for the Bighorn Canyon. If you stop here you may pick up a pamphlet giving you information about the wheel. Continuing on highway Alt 14 you will climb high into the Bighorn Mountains. You will see a sign on the road as you near the Medicine Wheel. If you get to Burgess Junction, you have missed it, but the sign is pretty easy to spot. See my Medicine Wheel Travelogue for additional views and information.
Here is a piece of information that most tourists do not know about the beautiful Yellowstone Lake. The “Cody Enterprise”Monday, November 4, 2002 newspaper ran an article that tells us: “A recent survey of the bottom of Yellowstone Lake has revealed hundreds of previously undocumented hot-water vents and explosion craters up to one-mile wide. The surveys revealed more than 250 hydrothermal vents. Only about 20 had been identified previously.” This new information makes the lake bottom one of the most geologically active areas in the park. The article goes on to state, “That 250 (figure) pertains to only about one-third of the lake.” It is believed that even more vents will be identified as the study continues. So Yellowstone Lake, even on its most peaceful days is never really at rest. Walk along its shores, enjoy a picnic, or rent a boat at Bridge Bay, but always respect the power of the lake, especially when boating. Violent storms can arise quickly, and the water temperature is deadly cold.
For more information on Yellowstone visit my detailed Yellowstone National Park, My Neighbor pages.
Drive the North Fork of the Shoshone River along U.S. 14/16/20. This is the highway that takes you from Cody to Yellowstone Park. 52 miles from the gate, this trip will take you about two hours if you plan to make stops along the way. After traveling through the tunnels, make a stop at the Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center and gaze down into Shoshone Canyon, which forms a gorge between Cedar and Rattlesnake Mountains. You will then continue along the highway through the Wapiti Valley, following the curves of the North Fork of the Shoshone River and along the shores of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. From here you will continue up the valley and enter the Shoshone National Forest. You will find a series of pull offs with interpretive signs giving you information about the surrounding area. Stop at the Wapiti Ranger Station and read the information there before continuing on your way. You will see a variety of formations as you drive toward Yellowstone, including the Holy City and Chimney Rock. Along the way you will see forest, cliffs, and narrow columns of rock rising through the trees. You may also spot bears, deer, elk, buffalo, or bighorn sheep, as well as a variety of birds.
Drive through Lovell, Wyoming to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (often called Yellowtail Reservoir by locals). This was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, following the construction of the Yellowtail Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation. This dam changed the Bighorn River into a magnificent lake tucked into a gorge with sheer canyon walls, some cliffs reaching over 2000 feet high. Bighorn Lake extends approximately 60 miles through Wyoming and Montana, 55 miles of which are held within spectacular Bighorn Canyon. The Recreation Area is about 70,000 acres in size, and traverses the northern Wyoming and southern Montana borders. Bighorn sheep frequent the area, as well as numerous wild horses found in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. There is a visitor center near Lovell, Wyoming where you should stop to obtain information. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is one of the lesser-known treasures in the United States. It contains breath-taking scenery, countless varieties of wildlife, and recreational opportunities, such as boating, fishing, ice fishing, camping, and hiking.
This is the road between Cody Wyoming and Red Lodge Montana. It is best driven on a motorcycle, but a car will do just fine. Absolutely stunning natural beauty. Great historical information about indians and the silly calvary. Very curvy, tight turns, but well worth the trip. Don't bypass this.