Part 23: Cody, WY to Billings, MT


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The Trip

We left Lost Ranch at Cody and headed north to the Big Horn Canyon to see what was there.  This area of Wyoming is part of the so-called overthrust belt and the Big Horn Mountains are the result of these tectonic actions.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

The face of the Big Horn Mountains are rugged.  Deep canyons have been carved due to erosion in the uplift.

We traveled many miles of dirt roads to reach a remote spot on the shores of the reservoir formed behind Yellowtail Dam on the Big Horn River.  The warping of the bedding is clearly visible on the right of the photo.

The shore of the reservoir was composed of river cobbles and glacial debris.  The sweep of the uplift that created the Big Horn Mountains is clearly visible.

We were all by ourselves and made good use of the isolation.  Until the wind came.  Early in the afternoon, it was calm.  At about 5pm we suffered 50mph winds and actually repositioned the truck to face into the wind.  The wind was strong enough that we were both concerned about the possibility of the truck being blown over.  Rather than run the risk, we repositioned with our nose into the wind.  The winds lasted to about sundown and then it became calm again.

Next morning, we headed north into the Big Horn Canyon and came upon an overlook that provided an awesome view of the canyon.

The waters of the Big Horn river carved the canyon as the area around it suffered the uplift.  The area was essentially flat resulting in many oxbows in the river which were propagated as the uplift progressed.

The river held its path as the uplift slowly progressed, carving a deep canyon into the underlying strata.

The crest of the uplift anticline is visible in the center of the photo above.

There were huge faults that resulted from the uplift leaving large cliffs with hoodoos.

Some of the limestone formations resulted in huge palisades and ramparts.

We elected not to travel on the dirt roads into the Crow Nation and turned south instead.  The uplift and faulting resulted in a huge hogback structure.

We traveled east over Big Horn Lake and into the Big Horn Mountains.

The sweep of the uplift is clearly visible above.

At first, we thought that the scar on the mountain was a mine, but later discovered that it was the road cut.  Highway 14A is very steep and rises from the valley at 3400 feet to almost 9000 feet at the crest.

The grade is steep and therefore slow going up and scary going down.

The uplifted beds resulted in "flat irons" similar in structure to those in the Boulder, CO area.

A look back down the canyon from the upper reaches tells the story.

The folding and flat irons were clearly visible from a view point.

The upper reaches of the road passed through areas that got plenty of rain.

Near the crest, we spotted this radar station above timberline.

The upper meadows near treeline were lush with grass and wild flowers.

We chose a dirt road and headed back into the more remote sections to find a camping spot.

There were a lot of trailers that were parked in open areas, but they were unoccupied.  We guessed that they were brought up early in the season and left there as weekend base camps by folks that lived "close".  We found a nice meadow and setup camp.

The high ridges close to our camp still had snow.

Kathleen made chicken noodle casserole and it was great.  Next morning we continued east on highway 14A and descended the Big Horn range on the east side.  The eastern access was just as gnarly and steep as the west but the road gave us great views of the valley below.

The eastern flanks of the Big Horns showed the underlying bedding.

Though a bit fuzzy from motion blur, the warping of the beds is clearly visible.

We went to the Little Big Horn battle ground and memorial.  The surrounding area was rolling grasslands and provided a perfect area for the slaughter that unfolded.

The sign says: "This area was occupied by Troops A, B, D, G, H, K and M of the 7th Cavalry and the pack train when they were besieged by the Sioux Indians June 25th and 26th 1876".  This was the location of General Custer's "Last Stand" where the Indians killed them all.  Despite the lack of courts in the area, Custer got Siouxed anyway.

The rolling grasslands would have provided little cover against an attack.  The outcome was inevitable.

The U.S. Cavalry used natives as scouts to help improve communications with the various tribes, but here they were treated as enemies.

There was a small placard that stated that the location of the headstone was approximate and that the actual site of the body was in the valley below near the creek.

We motored on to Billings, MT where we passed a significant oil refinery.  Above, dangerous light gasses are torched.

This was a great segment to the trip.  We had several nice remote camps with great scenery.  We went swimming in the lake before the winds reached gale force and the water was nice.

Next, we head to Billings, MT for a re-supply and some shopping before continuing west.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2014, all rights reserved.
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