Monday, August 3, 2015

Day Trips From Buffalo, WY: Story and Dry Creek Petrified Trees

Just 20 miles North of our month-long home base in Buffalo, WY is the small hamlet of Story. Less than 1,000 people call Story home, and there are very few businesses but the beauty of the area is worth the drive. Along the way are historical sites such as Fort Phil Kearny, the Wagon Box Fight Site and the Fetterman Battlefield, details about these sites can be found here.

Not in the mood for war history on this day, we chose to visit the Story Fish Hatchery. Unlike the DC Booth Fish Hatchery we recently visited in Spearfish, SD, the Story Hatchery is currently a brood stock hatchery.

Originally built in 1909 to serve the needs of Northern Wyoming, in 2005 a group of fish was found to have a parasite that causes whirling disease, a disease known to affect wild trout. All the Story fish had to be destroyed and since the parasite cannot be transmitted to eggs, changes were made to the facilities to turn it into a brood stock only facility.

Today five different brood stocks are raised to egg bearing age and spawned for egg collection. Four to six million eggs are collected each year, serving Wyoming's hatchery needs first, then trading with other states for fish that cannot be raised in Wyoming, such as catfish, walleye and bass.

There is a small but informative visitor center at the hatchery and you can feed the fish in the brood stock pond.

Most of the buildings are off limits so you get to read interpretive signs instead.

About half a mile from the hatchery is the Story Penrose Trailhead. In the summer it is a popular ATV trail but we lucked out and never saw or heard a single ATV during our hike up three miles of the trail. It's a beautiful hike up into the mountains above Story and is known as a wildflower hot spot.

The trail is a steady but reasonable uphill that soon provides excellent views over Story below
and out to the rolling plains beyond.

Flower strewn hillsides dotted with colorful rock formations provided distraction from the continuous uphill walk.

About two miles up we came to a gorgeous meadow watched over by impressive rock spires.

Beebalm covered meadow with a view.

One of the benefits of our short-term Buffalo YMCA membership is learning of things to do in the area from the locals. To round out or day trip to Story we made the drive a loop and visited the Ucross Foundation. The Foundation occupies the historic Powder River Basin headquarters of the Pratt & Ferris Cattle Company built in 1882, presents conferences on conservation and other topics relevant to the region and provides facilities for an artist-in-residence program.

The drive to Ucross took us out into the rolling plains that stretch to the horizon to the East, quintessential Wyoming.

The Ucross Foundation sits at the confluence of three creeks and the grounds are stunning,
truly an inspiration for the artists who get to reside here temporarily.

The big red barn houses a conference center and gallery.

Another morning we took a short drive to the Dry Creek Petrified Tree site, about 13 miles southeast of Buffalo and in the plains. About 60 million years ago this sagebrush country was jungle-like, receiving about 50 inches of rain per year. Metasequoia trees stood 100 - 200 feet tall. Over time they were buried with very wet sand and mud, soaking the wood, and minerals settled into the trunks, then crystallized and hardened, turning the wood into rock.

Most of the Metasequoia trees are preserved as stumps and branchless trunks.
As erosion over the years uncovers more stumps it is possible there are many more underground in this area.

Here we can see some of the growth rings.
Some of these stumps were 800 - 1,000 years old when they were buried.

The Bighorn Mountains peak over the sage covered hills far to our West.

On the drive back to our RV park we took another road which brought us to a BLM site called Red Horse. Although it seems to be an area for seasonal hunting it gave us an opportunity to do a little more walking among these beautiful sage hills.

Hans stands next to some scoria...the red buttes in this area once had coal beds in them. As erosion exposes the coal beds to air, they burn. Heat from the underground fires changed the soft shale in the hillsides to scoria.

Under the green grass and sage is the red earth of scoria. The rocky tops of some of the hills are scoria.

Driving any distance through the hills in this area you are very likely to see pronghorn and/or deer.
This handsome pronghorn seemed to pose just for me!

Female and young pronghorn among scoria topped hills.


  1. Yes, this area of Wyoming is beautiful! In college I worked a summer in Gillette, Wy at one of the coal mines and they used crushed scoria for traction on muddy roads.

  2. WOW! The benefits of joining the YMCA have really paid off. I love it when the locals recommend the places they like. The Story Penrose Trail is beautiful. And so is the photo of the red barn!

    Great capture of the pronghorn Lisa!

  3. Beautiful! You are putting this trail on the map for us to follow someday.
    I think the pronghorn is saying, "What's up Lisa?"

  4. I love all the amazing geology in that little valley - have never heard of scoria, it's very different! The Beebalm is beautiful, as are the pronghorns. We have friends in Gillette and are looking forward to seeing the area with our own locals when we can get there!!

    1. How cool you have friends in the area! I think you will enjoy exploring around here!

  5. What lovely views! I really miss being able to see for miles. I'm with Jodee, I've never heard of scoria either. It quite pretty. That beebalm field is magnificent, as is the pertrified stump, Looks like lots to do near your new home:) Thanks for taking us along!

  6. Wonderful pronghorn photos! Their painted faces are so striking. Looks like you're finding a lot of variety in your explorations -- the rock spires and meadows of wildflowers are beautiful. I've planted bee balm in my garden -- how lovely to find a meadow filled with it!

  7. That ATV trail looks really lovely. I’m surprised that it doesn’t look torn up at all. So glad you were able to enjoy it without the noise. The wildflowers are just beautiful. I’ve never heard of the Ucross foundation so that was very interesting for me and their grounds are stunning. Great pictures of the pronghorn. I’d never heard of Buffalo Wyoming but obviously you picked it for really good reasons.