Historic Film Footage of Bighorn Canyon Before the Dam to be Shared This Week

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Ever wonder what lies beneath the water of those big man-made lakes in the West? Before the Yellowtail Dam was completed on the Bighorn River in Montana, an expedition took a last look at the river and canyon. A member of that group will share historic film footage and stories at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area on January 28.

The Bighorn River carved an impressive canyon through the high desert of northern Wyoming and Southern Montana, and the names of local features such as Devil Canyon offer a hint of the rugged terrain. The area changed dramatically when the Yellowtail Dam was completed in 1967. The result was the seventy-one-mile-long Bighorn Lake, now the focus of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

The lake and the cold water downstream from the dam are now a magnet for boaters, fishermen and other recreationists, but some may occasionally wonder what the canyon looked like before the dam.

If you're in the vicinity of Lovell, Wyoming on Thursday evening, January 28, you can find out. According to an announcement from the park,

In August of 1965, a diverse group of 29 men began what would be referred to as “The Last Trip”. Leaving a sand and rock covered beach south of the confluence of the Shoshone and Bighorn Rivers in five rubber boats, these men floated down the Bighorn River through Bighorn Canyon.

They were historians, photographers, travel commissioners, mayors and government employees. They enjoyed scenery seldom seen before and some that would never be seen again. After the completion of the Yellowtail Dam, rising lake water would change the canyon forever. Wes Meeker was able to join this expedition as the cook.

On January 28, 2010, starting at 7 PM at the Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center, Wes will share his story and film footage of that historic trip.

A second film, taken by five adventurous men in August of 1949, will be shown afterwards. This is a silent film detailed with amazing history and wildlife footage. This film has footage of chain canyon, with a few links of chain still hanging from the canyon walls, bobcat hunting, fishing, and remains of a human with a flint lock rifle and grizzly skeleton near by.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is located northwest of Sheridan, Wyoming and southeast of Billings, Montana.

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