Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana!

July 2018 – The Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming have given us many special moments recently. We traversed the beautiful Bighorn Scenic Byway this past spring and spent part of last summer nestled alongside the Bighorn Mountains in the charming town of Buffalo, Wyoming.

In Buffalo we not only enjoyed a festival for the Longmire TV show but also took part in an unusual celebration of the Basque sheep herders who settled the area over a century ago.

During our time in this area the word “Bighorns,” in our minds, had become synonymous with “Mountains in Wyoming.” So, it was a huge surprise when I opened a Montana travel magazine a few weeks ago and saw a stunning photo of sheer canyon walls plunging down to a winding river with the caption: Bighorn Canyon. This we had to see!

Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming

Bighorn Canyon.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is managed by the National Park Service, and there are two districts, the South District which is accessed from Lovell, Wyoming, and the North District which is accessed near St. Xavier, Montana.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

The drive into Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area from Lovell, Wyoming, is very scenic.

The two districts are connected by the wonderfully twisting Bighorn River that snakes its way between the canyon walls for miles and miles in both Montana and Wyoming.

However, the Bighorn National Recreation Area is not contiguous for visitors unless you travel on the Bighorn River by boat. The dirt road connecting the South and North Districts crosses through the Crow Indian Reservation which is private property.

So, we decided we would check out the South District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area since it is not too far from Cody, Wyoming, and then loop around to the North District and see the canyon from that angle.

Bighorn Canyon National Rec Area Scenic Drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

Bighorn Canyon Scenic Drive.

The shock to our senses after spending several weeks in the high elevations of the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Highway just outside Yellowstone National Park was incredible. Not only did we descend from cool summertime mountain temps in the low 70s to the baking heat of the desert in the mid-90s, but we went from lush greenery with wildflowers to a dusty crusty land full of red rocks.

Bighorn Canyon scenic drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Scenic drive by RV-min

Red rocks!

The most famous view on the southwest end of Bighorn Canyon is Devil’s Canyon Overlook just over the border on the Montana side. As we turned onto the road that heads out to this overlook we noticed a female bighorn sheep standing by the side of the road.

Bighorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

A bighorn sheep stops grazing to look at us.

BIghorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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After taking a few pics we noticed that there were several more bighorn sheep munching the grass by the side of the road. A mama and her sweet little lamb caught our eye.

Bighorn sheep at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming

Mama Bighorn (shedding her winter coat) and her baby.

We got out of the truck to have a closer look.

Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming

So cute!

We noticed two other little lambs close by. They were adorable!

Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Twice as cute!

Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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What a treat it was to see all these bighorn lambs right by the road!

Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Just a little ways further on the view suddenly opened up and we were looking at the fabulous sheer walls of the Devil’s Canyon Overlook. Wow!

Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

The view at Devil’s Canyon Overlook is very dramatic.

Devil's Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Horseshoe Bend RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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The towering canyon walls and the thin ribbon of water snaking between them reminded us a little of both Goosenecks State Park in Utah and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.

We had the place to ourselves and we ran around taking pics like mad.

Photographer Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

What a spot to take some pics!

Buddy trotted along the fence line, and he seemed to be enjoying the views too, although maybe he was just keeping an eye on the mice and other varmints that were scampering near the edge!

Puppy checks out view Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip-min

Puppy Chow checks out the view and the varmints!

The Devil’s Canyon Overlook is a big area and we walked along the edge peering into the canyon for a ways.

Horseshe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Backtracking a little into the Wyoming side of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, we found the Horseshoe Bend Marina and Campground. We loved seeing the boats tied up to the docks with the rich colors of the red rocks behind them.

Horseshoe Bend Marina Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

Horseshoe Bend Marina.

At dawn we ran down to the beach to catch the sunrise.

Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Sunrise on the Bighorn River.

Wild yellow daisies swayed to and fro by the water’s edge.

Daisies at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Daisies dancing at dawn.

The water in the Bighorn River reflected the sunrise beautifully.

Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Red rocks at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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The red rocks on the far shore took on a rich shade of burnt orange.

Sunrise Red rocks Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming-min

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The beach and shoreline were deserted except for the three of us, and we had a wonderful time together playing by the edge of the water and watching the day wake up.

Photographer and puppy Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Happily busy on the beach at sunrise!

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is most popular during the spring and fall when the temperatures are cool. But for visitors who stop by mid-summer, there are electric hookups at the marina campground at Horseshoe Bend, and the air conditioners of a handful of campers were happily purring away 24/7!

Horseshoe Bend Campground Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Camping at Horseshoe Bend Marina and campground.

We will be back again at a more comfortable time of year, and we plan to visit the North District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area when it’s cool too. Our visit this time was a brief but wonderful detour that took us out of the snow capped mountains and into red rock country, and it whetted our appetites for a return trip!

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12 thoughts on “Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana!

  1. Beautiful color in those photos. You guys really know how to bring out nature’s natural color and beauty. This canyon looks like it could develop into another Grand Canyon….in a few years.

    • Thanks, Pete. The overcast day brought out the colors of the canyon walls, and that orange light of sunrise really enhanced the red rocks. We’ll have to check back in a couple million years to see how Montana’s Grand Canyon is developing!!!…!

    • Thank you so much for reading and appreciating, Steve!! You would have loved these little guys, and your images of them would have been out of this world, I’m sure. We were thinking of you as we clicked the camera shutters (WWSD — What Would Steve Do?).

  2. Now THAT’S DRAMATIC SCENERY !!!!!! Such vivid colors in those powerful mountains….and those dear little big-horns-to-be…..

  3. The fact that you are still discovering new places really hits home how vast our beautiful country is! Thank you for sharing and inspiring us to continue to explore.

    • It is a fabulous and beautiful and huge country, and we are discovering new places all the time. We have traveled to only 27 states since we started full-timing, so we still have lots of new things to see! Thank YOU, Lisa, for appreciating our pics and stories.

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