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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We got out of the truck to have a closer look.
We noticed two other little lambs close by. They were adorable!
What a treat it was to see all these bighorn lambs right by the road!
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!
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.
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!
The Devil’s Canyon Overlook is a big area and we walked along the edge peering into the canyon for a ways.
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.
At dawn we ran down to the beach to catch the sunrise.
Wild yellow daisies swayed to and fro by the water’s edge.
The water in the Bighorn River reflected the sunrise beautifully.
The red rocks on the far shore took on a rich shade of burnt orange.
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.
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!
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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More info about Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana:
More blog posts about curvy rivers carving fabulous canyon walls:
- Horseshoe Bend Overlook in Arizona – Breathtaking!
- Goosenecks State Park and Valley of the Gods in Utah – Sweeping Views!
Other blog posts with bighorn sheep:
- Badlands National Park – Rugged Beauty on a South Dakota RV Trip
- Canadian Rockies – Big Mountains & Bighorn Sheep!
- Flaming Gorge Utah – Fiery canyons, a cool river, and nearly tame bighorn sheep
Special places where desert meets water:
- Bryce Canyon National Park – “Mossy Cave” – Mystery Waterfall!
- Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake
- Fall Color in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert near Roosevelt Lake
- Fall Colors and Wildlife on the Sonoran Desert Rivers in Arizona
- Lake Pleasant & Canyon Lake – Waterfront Camping in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert
- Phoenix on the Wing – Waterbirds of Arizona!
- Rivers of Phoenix – Oases in the Desert!
- Roosevelt Lake – Lakeside Camping in AZ
- Roosevelt Lake, AZ – Desert Oasis
- Sand Hollow State Park, Utah – An Oasis in the Desert!
- Waterfront Dining in Arizona – Scorpion Bay & River’s Edge Cantina
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