The lodge has exchanged hands a handful of times over the last century, and they collectively made it what it is today. But we all owe it to the tie-hackers and the flume that paved the way. In the 1860s, the railroad industry was making its way to Wyoming, and the tie-hacking economy emerged. The railroad required ties to be 8 feet long with a width and depth of 7 inches. As a result, tie hacking became a way of life for many, with a specialized vocabulary and tie hack camps resembling small towns with all the comforts of town life.
A railroad connecting northern Wyoming and Montana was to be built in the 1890s, and that was the spark needed for two Omaha men, Dan Starbird and Thomas B. Hall, to start their hacking camp. They were contracted to supply 1.6 million ties. However, the best trees for tie cutting grew high in the mountains, far from the railroad, and Starbird and Hall needed an efficient means of transport down the hill. So, they decided to build a flume in the Big Horns.
Hundreds of men and their families lived in camps on sheep creek and black mountain road creating an economy and a lifestyle of their own. Workers sent ties down the flume at high speeds; sometimes, the ties had passengers riding the flume to get to town quickly! However, by 1913, lumber was shipped to Sheridan by rail from Washington and Oregon, and the tie-cutting economy in the Bighorn Mountains ended.
Yet, it opened up ways of travel and exploration for many others. Leading us up to the Neuenswander family, who began sawing logs to build the first cabin at Bear Lodge Resort. They wouldn’t recognize the place today. The cabins they lived in are now tucked behind the main lodge building and rented out as “rustic cabins.” In the 60s, eight motel rooms were built to accommodate more visitors, and a camp and RV sites surrounded the lodge. As more guests enjoyed the country for all its beauty, the lodge expanded sporadically in the 90s and 2000s into a full-service resort accommodating thousands of guests each year.