Since its construction in 1949, the log lodge at Camp Buffalo Bill has hosted Boy Scouts in summer and winter. Last week it hosted a crowd there to observe the camp’s birthday.
Local author Bob Richard was a scout back before the camp opened, later serving as a scout leader during the camp’s early years.
“I grew up there,” he said. “All three of my sons went through there too.”
The camp’s origins came in 1945 as the brainchild of Cody residents Glenn Nielson, Paul Stock and Tom Molesworth. Scouting in the Big Horn Basin was already well-established, but had never had a permanent home.
Nielson and Stock saw a group of boy scouts swimming in a quarry up the North Fork of the Shoshone. They decided to try and build a camp for the boys, both chipped in $5,000 for the project and Molesworth put in $2,500.
The Forest Service agreed to the construction in 1946, and locals pitched in to raise $60,000. Construction began in 1948, with scouts and locals donating labor.
The lumber came from dead and dry pine trees in the forest.
During its early years, the camp was managed by Frank and Frances Kinkade, a retired ranch couple who Richard remembers vividly.
“They were always there for everybody,” he said. “If scouts were ever cold, they would take them inside, warm them up, and then turn them out with everyone else.”
Frank was the camp manger and Frances was the cook. They were a fixture of the camp until Frank’s death in 1956.
Scouts were out at the camp during both summer and winter sessions. Richard can remember one particularly concerning winter in 1954.
“The temperatures got down to 45 or 47 below in Cody and our parents started getting worried,” he said. “They drove out to the camp and found us at a fairly comfortable 28 degrees. Granted we were sitting on five feet of snow.”
Over the years, the camp has seen a steady increase in scout traffic. In the 60s, attendance averaged around 200 per year. By the 90s, it was close to 1,000. Now, totals can soar close to 2,000 scouts in a summer.
Improvements over the years have helped to make the camp a thoroughly modern facility. It boasts 11 campsites, rifle and archery ranges and facilities for other scouting activities. Scouts can earn over 40 merit badges while at the camp.
Richard points to the incredible area that the camp sits in as a factor in its lasting draw.
“It’s the real outdoor experience,” he said. “You can’t get much closer to Yellowstone.”
The camp offers its facilities to boy and girl scout troops throughout the year, as well as being available to private groups for events.