Tensleep Creek in Wyoming

North American Treasures: Bighorn National Recreation Area

The United States offers no shortage of public lands where adventurous recreationists can get a glimpse of beautiful natural scenes and abundant wildlife. One such area accessible to the public is the Bighorn National Recreation Area. It’s near the border of Wyoming and Montana. In 1961, the US Bureau of Reclamation began construction on the Yellowtail Dam. A 1,480 ft long concrete arch dam regulates the Bighorn River’s flow for irrigation and hydroelectric power. Damming the river created the now 60-mile long Bighorn Lake. A popular boating destination, that serves as the northern border of Bighorn National Recreation Area.

The Recreation Area contains roughly 120,000 acres of land. Visitors can boat, fish, ice fish, hike, and camp. In addition, there are four historic ranches located throughout the area.

  • L Slash Heart Ranch
  • Mason-Lovell Ranch
  • Cedarville Ranch
  • Ewing-Snell Ranch

Ageless Beauty and Historic Intrigue

For thousands of years, prehistoric indigenous peoples occupied, traversed, and hunted these lands. Within Bighorn National, Recreation Area lies an ancient passage called “Bad Pass Trail.” Named by fur trappers and traders, the trail was notoriously rugged. 

Ancient people groups likely following paths made by the migrating game. Used this trail to travel south in the Winter to reach caves where they took shelter. They would head northward to vast hunting grounds when springtime came. Unlike other Bighorn National Recreation Area trails. Bad Pass Trail is considered a cultural site for Native Americans. And is off-limits to travelers in vehicles or on foot.

Sullivan’s Knob Trail is a modern walking path that is accessible to visitors. This trail takes hikers right up to the canyon rim. This section of the trail is famous for a spot where one can shout across the canyon. And hear a “triple echo” in response.

There are two visitor centers located within the recreational area. The Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center is open to the public, from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. To the south, the Cal S. Taggart Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center is located in Lovell, Wyoming. The Yellowtail Dam itself is a beloved sightseeing destination. Below the dam is Afterbay Lake, an area perfect for trout fishing and wildlife viewing.

Have you had a chance to visit Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area?

How does it stack up to the other magnificent natural destinations this continent has to offer?

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