The federal government finally entered the irrigation business in 1902, after it became clear that large infusions of public funds were needed to build projects big enough to be effective in the arid West. The eventual result was a dozen dams across Wyoming, but crop agriculture here remains scarce.
Cody, Wyoming, was founded in 1896 by investors including Buffalo Bill Cody who had high hopes for prosperity thanks to local irrigation, great scenery, and nearby Yellowstone National Park. Prosperity finally arrived early in the 20th century with the Burlington Railroad and, eight miles away, the federally financed Buffalo Bill Dam. Cody remains one of Wyoming’s premier tourist towns.