Bison in the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Shutterstock by Megan Brady.
The mythic frontier barreled into Seattle on September 17, 1908, when a parade of wagons from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show inched south down Broadway en route to erect an arena for 14,000 spectators. When the chuck wagon’s brakes gave way near the intersection of Spruce, it careened down Broadway and flattened one of the six draft horses pulling it. The untamed frontier was literally unstoppable.
The Wild West has always been a strange concept for the Pacific Northwest; that legendary land of open range and adventure is to our east, after all. What does an amorphous region known for big hats and six-shooters mean to us? Was it Wyoming, or California, or Montana, or just anything that touches the Rocky Mountains? For all the romance and the little dogies gittin’ along, the idea of the Wild West comes with a brashness that runs contrary to PNW restraint.
But the concept of the American West has continued to evolve since the day Buffalo Bill led his traveling circus of sharpshooters down Seattle’s hills. “The West” is an idea woven into beautiful places just past our borders. We’re drawn to a landscape both familiar—the jagged peaks, the thick forests—and foreign, like broad, grassy prairies. Today we go to the West for nature, for history, for a uniquely American brand of fun.