Yellowtail Dam – Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Yellowtail Dam in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

Even though Kathy & I had considered Wyoming and Montana to be “visited” in terms of our 50 state quest, we knew that we had short-changed both states on our previous visit.  Since we needed to traverse both of those states on our way to the west coast, we decided to rectify that shortfall with a few more stops.  Bighorn Canyon National Recreation fit that bill, as it straddles the border between both states.

Yellowtail Dam in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

The southern end of the park lies in northern Wyoming, and was the subject of my previous post.  There are more places that we didn’t get to due to time constraints, and we spent the better part of a day on the northern end of the park, in southern Montana.

The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.
The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.
The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.
The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.

Yellowtail Dam is another one of those places that you can’t really appreciate until you have seen it.  I’ve not been to Hoover Dam or Glen Canyon Dam, but this is certainly the biggest dam I’ve ever seen!  An exchange I had on Instagram with Paul Maxim describes the relative size of some of the “famous” dams in the US:

Yellowtail is 525 ft. tall and 1480 ft. wide. Glen Canyon is 710 ft. tall and 1560 ft. wide. So Glen Canyon is bigger (185 ft. taller). But the only dam in the U. S. bigger than Glen Canyon is Hoover Dam, which is 726 ft. tall. All of them, of course, are big. We’ve got nothing in the east that comes close!

The park is surrounded by Crow Indian land, and there are several references to Crow history throughout the park, including the remains of a medicine wheel that we didn’t get to.

Exhibit describing the role of the medicine wheel in Crow Indian culture and history.
Exhibit describing the role of the medicine wheel in Crow Indian culture and history.
Exhibit describing the role of the medicine wheel in Crow Indian culture and history.

It is rugged and scenic territory, and with all the red rock and lack of trees, far different from what we see in the east, or even in other parts of Wyoming and Montana.  Another example of how unique but also how uniquely beautiful the different parts of our country can be.

Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

2 thoughts on “Yellowtail Dam – Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area”

  1. Wow! Great series and I can see the beauty in it. Yet, nothing can compare to actually seeing it, letting it sink in, calling to our inner presence. As an ex-motorcyclist, the roads look inviting.

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