Saturday, July 29, 2023

Buffalo Bill Dam by Zina Abbott

While visiting the fantastic Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, and the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, a must-see stop on the highway between the two is the Buffalo Bill Dam and its attached visitors’ center just west of Cody.

William F. Cody and George W.T. Beck (above, also with sheep rancher, Henry J. Fulton) officially became business partners in 1895 with the founding of Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company, later known as Shoshone Irrigation Company. they also founded the town of Cody. Buffalo Bill served as president of the new company with Beck as general manager. This company planned to irrigate more than 400,000 acres along the Stinking Water River, today’s Shoshone River.

Construction of what was the known as the Shoshone Dam, six miles west of Cody, Wyoming, was the key that opened about 90,000 acres in northwestern Wyoming to irrigated farming. So dry and forbidding was this part of the state that it was one of the last regions in the United States to be settled. It wasn’t until the 1890s, with dreams of irrigating the region and turning it into productive farmland, that a significant number of people began to settle there.

Shoshone Canyon is a gorge cut through the Rattlesnake Mountains, a northwest trending uplift in the earth’s crust that rises 3,700 above the surrounding terrain.

D.W. Cole with wife and three daughters

In early 1904, Buffalo Bill transferred his water rights to the Secretary of the Interior, and that July exploratory drilling began for Shoshone Dam. The structure was designed by engineer Daniel Webster Cole, who stayed near the dam site during construction, which took place between 1905 and 1910.

Starting in July 1904 and continuing for ten months, work began with drilling for geologic investigation. At the same time, construction of an access road up the narrow canyon from Cody began.

The chosen contractor for the dam itself was Prendergast & Clarkson of Chicago, which started work in September 1905. The company built a camp for workers. It also started on a diversion dam designed to divert the river into a wooden flume, through a tunnel, and out through another flume to rejoin the river bed. Two men were killed in the construction of the tunnel.

A June 1906 flood destroyed the flume. The delay caused the Bureau of Reclamation to suspend the contractor's contract and to call upon the contractor's bonding company, U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Company to ensure the completion of the work. Little work was done until March 1907. Another flood in July damaged the diversion dam again.

Working conditions were harsh, leading to the first strike in Wyoming's history in November, in which workers demanded and received three dollars a day from U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Company.

In March 1908, the bonding company delegated responsibility for the work to two new contractors, Locher and Grant Smith and Company. Work progressed more quickly, with the first concrete pours in April. 

Spring floods set the project back once again, causing concrete work to be suspended. Concrete work started again in March 1909, and despite more spring flooding that suspended work from July to September, work moved quickly. Another threatened strike was broken when Italian laborers were replaced with Bulgarian workers. Final concrete was poured in January 1910, with a final cost of $1.4 million. Seven construction workers were killed on the project.

When completed in 1910, Shoshone Dam, one of the first concrete arch dams built in the United States, was considered an engineering marvel. The concrete structure measures 108 feet (33 m) deep at the base, tapering to 10 feet (3.0 m) at the crest, with a volume of 82,900 cubic yards (63,400 m3) of concrete. The dam was part of the Shoshone Project, which comprised a system of tunnels, canals, diversion dams, and Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

Artist rendition showing relative height as compared to U.S. Capitol

At 325 feet high, the Shoshone Dam also was the highest dam in the world, surpassing New York’s Croton Dam. During construction, a certain competitive spirit existed to exceed Croton Dam’s height, as noted in this photograph. 

Courtesy Buffalo Bill Dam Visitors Center

The height of the rival dam was written on the side of Shoshone Dam.

It is anchored into Pre-Cambrian granite rock on either side.

The spillway is an uncontrolled overflow weir on the south side, 298 feet (91 m) wide, dropping through a tunnel in the left abutment.

Visitors to completed dam about 1910

 The dam ended up costing $929,658 to build, a tremendous sum in those days. Immediately after completion the dam suffered from leakage through the outlet works, leading to low water elevations that exposed mudflats, which soon produced dense blowing dust. Corrective work to valves took until 1915.                   

Problems with the right abutment's outlet works led to their abandonment in 1959. They were sealed in 1961.

The reservoir began to lose capacity immediately as a result of the Shoshone's heavy silt load, and the material deposited at the head of the reservoir continued to blow when the reservoir was drawn down. Work continued on silt dikes and reforestation into the 1950s, but the reservoir's capacity is reduced from initial projections.

1926 visitors to Shoshone Dam

In spite of these difficulties, along with completion of the Panama Canal, Buffalo Bill Dam was considered an American triumph. Both construction projects were featured at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. To represent the dam project, the U.S. Reclamation Service, barely a dozen years old, erected an exhibit featuring an idyllic forty-acre irrigated farmstead set in a desert valley rimmed by beautiful mountains—part of Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin.


The Buffalo Bill Dam was considered a significant enough structure that it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the first five years of the register’s creation.

Today, the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and Dam irrigates more than 93,000 acres, where principal crops are beans, alfalfa, oats, barley, and sugar beets.

Again, I encourage all who visit either Cody, Wyoming, or Yellowstone National Park to take the time to visit this landmark dam, one of the earliest of its kind. 

My most recent release is Eleanor, part of The Switchboard Sisterhood. Although set in 1925 Anchorage, Alaska, like the Buffalo Bill Dam, it tells of moving into modern technology. to find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE.







Buffalo Bill Dam Visitors Center


Sunday, July 23, 2023

Creating with Canva

Having fun with Canva Designs as I make a new author website! Have you ever used Canva? If the answer is no, you should check it out. It’s so simple to use that even I am figuring it out. This is fantastic considering that anyone that knows me well, would proclaim I am not tech savv at all. Yet, I have always been artistic in one way or another. So this is fun to me. First I am going to show you some of the flyers i’ve been making then my self-made website. So, without further adue here goes and you will see the progression I have made in just two weeks.
Some of these need more work and I wil up date them soon now that I am feeling more confidant. Now I am going to show you some from my new website.
I hope you enjoyed sharing in my adventure with Canva! Here is the link to my new author website. Please join me next month and until then I hope the rest of your summer is filled with fun and laughter.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Sam Houston



Sam Houston, a towering figure in American history, was a man of many achievements and had an unwavering commitment to the principles of liberty and justice. Born on March 2, 1793, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, Houston's early life was marked by hardship and resilience. He experienced the loss of his father at a young age, which instilled in him a sense of self-reliance and determination. 

Houston's journey unfolded with remarkable twists and turns. From his service in the War of 1812 and the Creek War, where he distinguished himself as a military leader, to his pivotal role in the Texas Revolution, Houston exhibited bravery and strategic brilliance. As the Major General of the Texian forces, he led his troops to victory in the decisive Battle of San Jacinto, securing Texian independence from Mexico. Houston's leadership and tactical genius during the battle demonstrated his ability to inspire and unite disparate factions under a common cause. 

Beyond his military accomplishments, Sam Houston left an indelible mark on the political landscape. As the first president of the Republic of Texas, he navigated the challenges of nation-building and sought to establish a stable government. Houston's commitment to diplomacy and his efforts to secure recognition for the fledgling nation demonstrated his keen understanding of the importance of international relations. Moreover, his unwavering opposition to secession and his stance against the Confederacy during the Civil War showcased his dedication to preserving the Union and upholding the ideals of unity and freedom. 

Sam Houston's legacy extends far beyond his lifetime. His contributions to the Texas Revolution, his leadership during the formative years of the Republic of Texas, and his enduring commitment to the principles of democracy and justice make him an iconic figure in American history. Houston's name is synonymous with courage, resilience, and the spirit of independence. He serves as a testament to the power of an individual's determination to shape the destiny of a nation.