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The History of Dude Ranches

April 24th, 2013 by Park County Travel Council | Be the first to comment!


porch on dude ranch

The things that happen in the back yard of Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country that you didn’t even know are astounding.

 The other day I came across a book called Dude Ranching, a Complete History by Lawrence R. Borne. While I have not received the book yet (an online company named after either a South American river or a society of strong women is supposed to send it my way), I did learn a few things.

 The term “dude” did not come from California to describe surfers. Rather, it was coined back in the 1870s by rangers from our own Yellowstone National Park to describe any visitor from the East. Over the course of the next few decades that term was applied specifically to people who hired guides in the West.

 Most of these guests came to hunt and to live the life of a Westerner, even if it only was for a few weeks at a time. They typically camped at night by a fire or pitched tents on the range.

 Not all of the dudes roughed it, however. Many of us here have heard the story of the time Buffalo Bill Cody guided a group of wealthy New Yorkers who weren’t the least bit interested in a dinner of beans by the campfire. No, these dudes brought their own French chefs as well as waiters who set up a dining tent each night, complete with tablecloths and fine china and silverware.

 Later, the dudes came out and were guests at cattle ranches where they often helped out or just enjoyed our famous Western hospitality. Many ranchers soon learned that there was good money charging Easterners to sleep in their bunkhouses and work their ranches.

 As the automobile became the preferred way to travel, dude ranches truly became popular. Today we tend to refer to them as guest ranches, and we certainly have our share in this area.

 In the East Yellowstone Valley on the road between Cody and the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park are 10 properties that make great bases for visiting Cody and Yellowstone National Park as well as destinations for enjoying fishing, horseback riding and simply getting away from the general public.

 Between Cody and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway are three more ranches.

 These guest ranches (stay one or more nights) and dude ranches (minimum stay is a week) offer spectacular scenery and plenty of privacy. Most are focused on horseback riding, and some other fun, family activities such as fishing or tubing down a creek.

 If the tubing is too tame, you can always try bringing your surfboard, dude.

 Until next time, I’m living the dream in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country! 

Corrie N. Cody

                                           cartoon cowgirl with braids


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