wyoming guest ranches

History of the Bill Cody Ranch


A Long History In Yellowstone

Like many Wyoming dude ranches, we've had a love affair with Yellowstone country since before tourists packed the park by the millions. Read on to discover a ranch in a place like nowhere else on Earth in a land that'll never change - for the worse, at least.


Origins of an Iconic Western Dude Ranch

Hollywood actor Leonard Morris established the precursor to The Bill Cody Ranch, the Lazy Bar H Ranch, in 1925. He built the original lodge to feel typical of Western life "with its Navajo rugs, Indian curios, hunting trophies, huge fireplaces, and unusually comfortable furnishings."

Since then, little has changed beyond updating to modern standards. Step back in time to a place where all the things that matter have stayed the same for decades.


Established in 1925 by Leonard and Dorothy Morris, his marketing of the ranch in the eastern U.S. helped make the term "dude ranch" part of the American lexicon.

In its early days, guests at the Lazy Bar H Ranch enjoyed home-cooked meals, horseback riding, pack trips, big game hunting, fishing, and target shooting.

In 1945, Bill and Mary Walker purchased a ranch closed by World War II and renamed it Nameit Creek Ranch after the creek that runs through our canyon.

Soon after, Eugene and Adah Petty homesteaded the ranch and added water and electricity while building out space for guests and staff including the chalet, the Ponderosa Cabins, and the employee guesthouse.


Why "Bill Cody"?

Buffalo Bill Cody is a famed showman and the namesake of Cody, Wyoming.

After a turbulent time in the late '60s when the ranch passed through many owners' hands quickly, the grandson of Buffalo Bill, also named Bill Cody, bought the ranch. The purchase occurred in 1971 and he renamed it Bill Cody's Ranch Inn.

Bill Cody had grown up in the Cody area. His mother was Irma Cody Garlow, the favored daughter of Buffalo Bill after whom the historic Irma Hotel is named.

The young Bill Cody left Wyoming to pursue other ventures as a young adult, but Bill Cody Ranch would be where he spent his later years.

He and his wife, Barbara, acquired the operation with a small deposit and devoted their next 25 years to expanding guest capacity and growing a diminished herd from five to more than 50 horses.


Many owners devoted to relentless hospitality owned the ranch from 1996 to 2018, with one owner adding the Buckaroo triplex to the property.

Since 2018, John Jelks, a longtime cattle and horse rancher from Arkansas, has owned the Bill Cody Ranch.

The Jelks family has kept the Bill Cody Ranch a family-oriented guest ranch focused on maximum flexibility for guests. And cramming in the best experience possible even if guests have little time for the Wyoming dude ranch experience.

You'll still find comfortably rustic lodging, great food, hospitality, horseback riding, pack trips, and world-class fishing here, all at an affordable price that opens the experience to far more people.

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