Buffalo, Wyo. is steeped in the history of the Old West.
Teddy Roosevelt was a regular in Buffalo, Wyo., both before and after his presidency. You get a sense, looking around this sweet spot in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, that when the great man visited the north-central part of the state, he didn't have politics on his mind. The neighboring peaks, the trout stream running through town, and the trophy elk heads on saloon walls suggest other priorities.
Just as their counterparts did in Roosevelt's day, residents—there are about 4,600—eagerly steer out-of-towners toward the Occidental Hotel, founded in 1878, rebuilt in the early 1900s, and recently restored to a new luster. Owner Dawn Wexo has paired modern amenities with antique writing desks, bureaus, carpets, and tapestries. Roosevelt might have enjoyed watching Animal Planet on satellite TV in his room.
Several rooms offer views of Clear Creek, another point of town pride. Locals fly-fish for trout a few steps away from Main Street, partly just to show that they can. The aptly named creek, running cold and clean from the Bighorns, is lined with miles of public hiking trails that lure serious anglers as well as birdwatchers, pebble pitchers, and wanderers of all types.
Across the creek from the Occidental, two large antique stores attract bargain hunters and curiosity seekers. The bronze eagle at American Outback Antiques (asking price: $19,500) would appeal more to the latter. Main Street Rendezvous offers treasures ranging from a pair of beaded Apache moccasins (circa 1870) to an 18th-century French armoire. If you were hoping to buy a ceramic armadillo for under $10—sorry, you're too late.
Find elegant and whimsical objects by Margo Brown and other local artists at Margo's Pottery and Fine Crafts. 1 N. Main St., (877) 825-4354, www.margospottery.com
It's a short walk to another repository of the past, the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, opening for the season on April 21. Dioramas and rifles tell the story of bloody skirmishes between homesteaders and land-hungry cattle barons in the 1890s, unrest that may have prompted the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company to locate its rail line in Sheridan, about 35 miles north of Buffalo.
Although Buffalo missed out on the railroad, it may yet become a boomtown. Natural gas fields lie east of town, promising growth and an influx of money. But folks here still have their priorities straight. They rave about their superb outdoor recreation and their historic landmarks—not their methane.
Photography by John Elk III
This article was first published in March 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Pick up the Colorado & Wyoming map and the Idaho, Montana & Wyoming TourBook. For more information, contact the Buffalo, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce: 55 N. Main St., (800) 227-5122, www.buffalowyo.com. Area code is 307.
The Virginian In the Occidental Hotel. Call ahead for the table in the bank vault. 10 N. Main St., 684-0451. Winchester Steak House 117 Hwy. 16 E., 684-8636.