Wyoming Roadside Attraction: Wind River Canyon


8-Wind River Canyon

Ten geologic formations are on display in the Wind River Canyon as U.S. Hwy 20 squeezes between the rock walls and the river. Photo by Barb Gorges. 


Published Aug. 14, 2011, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle: “Try the Wind River Canyon, by road or river.”

By Barb Gorges

It’s disorienting to have to have a river flow north, which the Wind River does. And after it goes through the Wind River Canyon it becomes the Big Horn River, which flows through Thermopolis and eventually flows into the Yellowstone River in Montana. What’s even more disconcerting is that as you drive up the river, you could swear you were dropping in elevation.

The canyon cuts through the Owl Creek Mountains, through10 different geologic formations. Look for the names on signs as the rock walls change color. The canyon stretches 15 miles long and 2,400 feet deep.

The safest way to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way is to drive south from Thermopolis. That way all the pullouts along the river will be on your right side and you won’t have to cut across oncoming traffic to access them.

The more exciting way to enjoy the canyon would be to make a reservation for a raft trip.

At the south end of the canyon, both the highway and the railroad tracks on the other side of the river go through several short tunnels.

If you go:

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

Directions: The 15 miles of U.S. Hwy. 20 south of Thermopolis. Distance ftrom Cheyenne: about 200 miles.

Open: Year round except when weather causes highway closures.

Admission: None. The highway is maintained by the Wyoming Department of Transportation and is within the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Attractions: Geologic formations and tunnels. Wind River Canyon Whitewater & Fly Fishing is the exclusive outfitter, http://www.windrivercanyon.com/.

Time: 20 minutes if no stops are made.

Wyoming Roadside Attraction: Boysen State Park

7-Boysen State Park

A hydro-electric dam was built at this site by Asmus Boysen in 1908. When it silted in and flooded railroad tracks, it was dismantled and the current dam was built further up the Wind River in the 1950s, providing a reservoir popular for recreation. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Published Jun. 28, 2011, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle: “Boysen State Park, Make Boysen Reservoir a short stop for shade or a long layover for fishing”

By Barb Gorges

Like so many of the large reservoirs in Wyoming, the country around Boysen Reservoir is rather bleak and treeless except in the dozen Boysen State Park camp grounds/picnic areas where trees have been planted. But the exposed geology is interesting.

The biggest trees are in the campgrounds below the dam, growing in the silt left at the site of the original dam and hydro-electric plant built by Asmus Boysen in 1908 to service the growing gold and copper mining industry.

The big draw here is boating and fishing on a 15-mile-long body of water. You’ll have to bring your own boat as the marina no longer has rentals. You might check with the boat dealer in Shoshoni.

The main game fish include walleye, sauger, perch, crappie, ling and rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout. State fishing licenses are available at the marina.

If you go:

Boysen State Park

Directions: U.S. Hwy. 20 between Thermopolis and Shoshoni. Distance from Cheyenne: about 280 miles.

Open: Year round, except drinking water and restrooms are not available Oct. 1 through April 30.

Admission: For residents, the daily use fee is $4 per vehicle per day and the camping fee, which includes the daily use fee, is $10 per night. For non-residents the fees are $6 and $17.

Address: 15 Ash, Boysen Route, Shoshoni

Phone: 307-876-2796

Web site: http://wyoparks.state.wy.us

Attractions: Campsites are available by reservation as well as first come first served. Fishing, boating and picnicking are popular activities.

Time: 20 minutes or a whole weekend.

Wyoming Roadside Attraction:South Pass City State Historic Site

6-South Pass City

In South Pass City, the front of the Carissa Saloon receives a new coat of paint, even though it has been out of business since the 1940s. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Published June 9, 2011, Wyoming Tribune Eagle: “South Pass City, Wyoming’s second town to be incorporated survives as historic site”

By Barb Gorges

Gold fever produces towns in the most unlikely places.

But when it cools, it’s hard for the towns to make ends meet.

South Pass City was the second town to be incorporated in Wyoming—Cheyenne was the first.

But the fates of the two couldn’t have been more different.

One is the thriving Capital city. The second is now a professional ghost town.

South Pass City was founded in 1868 with the discovery of the Cariso Lode and the opening of the subsequent Carissa Mine.

With the bust in 1872, it was forced to diversify with ranching, timbering and market hunting. By 1949 it became a ghost town and was run as a private tourist attraction for 20 years.

Today, the State of Wyoming maintains the two dozen buildings, including cabins, stores, saloons and hotel, looking as fresh as their previous owners would wish.

Pick up the newspaper at the visitor information area/dance hall that describes everything. Ask questions there or at the general store where you can pick up Wyoming souvenirs.

The Carissa Mine’s head frame and trestle reconstruction was completed in 2008. Tours of the mill house are given on Saturdays and Sundays June through August by reservation only. Call 307-332-3684 or talk to the Dance Hall attendant.

If you go:

South Pass City State Historic Site

Directions: From Lander, take U.S. Hwy. 287 south 9 miles. Turn off on State Hwy. 28 and follow it about 20 miles to the turn off. Distance from Cheyenne: about 290 miles.

Open: Buildings are open May 15 – September 30, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily. Grounds are open year round, sunrise to sunset.

Admission: $2 per vehicle for state residents, $4 non-residents.

Address: 125 South Pass Main, South Pass City.

Phone: 307-332-3684

Web site: http://wyoparks.state.wy.us

Attractions: Historic buildings and furnishings, gift shop, staff on site to answer questions. Also Volksmarch Trail and access to Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

Time: 1 – 2 hours.

Wyoming Roadside Attraction: Nici Self Museum

5-Nici Self Museum

Though the Laramie, Hahn’s Peak and Pacific Railroad and its tracks are long gone, the depot at Centennial remains, housing a collection of artifacts illuminating a history of prospecting, mining, ranching and timber harvesting. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Published May 25, 2011, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle: “Centennial museum specializes in mining, ranching and timber history”

By Barb Gorges

Museums in small western towns have collections of predictable items, but at the Nici Self Museum in Centennial, 28 miles west of Laramie, there are a few unusual mementos, such as the hand-cranked sock knitting machine.

Some artifacts are too large for the main museum building, such as the 1914 fire engine on loan from the Laramie Plains Museum or the tipi-shaped sawdust burner, which is as large as a building.

Housed in the former depot for the now defunct Laramie, Hahn’s Peak and Pacific Railroad, the museum specializes in local history back to 1875 when the new local gold mine was named for the nation’s upcoming centennial.

When the mine closed, the nearby town by the same name continued, supported by prospectors, ranchers and timbermen. Now it has become a gateway for people wanting to picnic, hike, fish, hunt, camp, photograph, ski and snowmobile in Medicine Bow National Forest.

Centennial has a full calendar of weekend events. Check http://www.centenniallibrary.net/calendar.html.

If you go:

Nici Self Museum, Centennial

Directions: Take I-80 Exit 311 at Laramie, then Wyo. State Hwy. 130 west 28 miles. Distance from Cheyenne: about 75 miles.

Open: Thursday through Monday, noon to 4 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day. In September, Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m.

Admission: Donations appreciated.

Address: 2734 Hwy. 130, Centennial

Phone: 307-742-7763 off-season, 307-745-3108 during museum hours.

Website: http://niciselfmuseum.org

Attractions: Objects and buildings illuminate the area’s past in ranching, lumbering, mining and railroading.

Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour.