June 25, 2021

Exploring Wind River Country’s Waterways.
The entrance to Wind River Canyon, just a couple miles from Shoshoni. Photo: Wind River Country

Wind River Country is known for its pristine mountains and all of the activities that go along with them—rock climbing, backpacking, trail running, horsepacking and mountain biking, just to name a few. But what’s our best kept secret? Our water! With over 600 lakes and reservoirs, and 2,000 miles of river, visitors to Wind River Country have plenty of opportunity to explore the Rocky Mountain West via its waterways. And there’s something for everyone: whether you’re looking for a “mild” day relaxing by the water, or a “wild” multi-day adventure, we’ve got something for you.

One of the most sought after activities in the Wyoming water is fishing, and it’s an incredible way to experience the landscape. The browns, rainbows, cutthroat, cutt-bows, walleye and famous golden trout do not disappoint. The golden trout are as beautiful and elusive as their name suggests. Native to the Sierra Nevada, California allowed their exportation for a brief time, and Wyoming stocked a handful of lakes in the Wind River Range. Since then, they have thrived in the most remote high mountain lakes that beckon anglers from all over the world. But you don’t need to hike 15 miles to 12,000 feet above sea level if you don’t want to. There are incredible opportunities in town or just a short hike away. Fishing can be for everyone—whether you want to spend an afternoon hanging out on a riverbank or go on a multi-day expedition. Visit www.WindRiver.org for license information, outfitters and guides.

Exploring Wind River Country’s Waterways.
Photo by Bill Sincavage

Fishing is magical. It’s perhaps one of the best ways to practice presence and to learn to notice. The skill is in the fisher’s ability to mimic nature—noticing what bugs are hatching on the underside of rocks, what flies are wriggling on the surface of the still pools of eddies and learning where the fish like to hang out. When you stand on the edge of a cool mountain river or lake and cast, you’re given a chance to slow down and listen to the crickets and birds chirping, watch the sunlight stream through a lodgepole pine and smell the fresh mountain air.

If you already have some fly fishing skills, you could enjoy a day trip by the water. Stop in at a local fly shop like the Lander Fly Shop, Cutthroat Fly Shop in Dubois or Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Riverton, where you’ll be able to buy your fishing license (or directed how to do it), buy the flies that are hatching and ask for some local beta about the hot spots. Then take your fishing gear, license, a basket of sandwiches and beverages and sunglasses, and head to Wind River Country’s pristine fishing spots. For spectacular river fly fishing, check out the North or the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie, the Green River or the Little Popo Agie. Or you could take a few sandwiches, a case of bubbly water and a sun hat and spend the day fishing out of a canoe on Boysen Reservoir or on the outlet of Worthen Reservoir.

If you haven’t fly fished before and are looking for a little bit more of a wild day, you could enjoy a day of guided fly fishing. Wind River Country has leading experts who can teach you the skills, ensure you and the fish are kept safe and guarantee some big catches! Make sure you have your biggest net ready to go. Based out of Fort Washakie, Wind River Fishing Adventures fishes the Popo Agie, the Big Wind River and Bull Lake. Fishing on the reservation is a unique and beautiful experience, just remember that you’ll need a special license. If you find yourself in Dubois, check out Wind River Flyfitter. They offer waded fishing trips and free evening casting lessons. Refine your skills before committing to a day of it. Riverton’s Wild Willow Camping and Fishing has family-friendly walleye fishing, and Lander’s 307 Outfitter offers both wade and boat trips. You can expect to learn about local fauna, see magical sights and catch some really big fish!

Exploring Wind River Country’s Waterways.
Boysen State Park. Photo: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Imagine this: waking up to the smell of crackling bacon, watching morning sunlight hit the Dinwoody Cirque and listening to a Clark’s nutcracker sing from a whitebark pine outside your tent. This could be you on a fishing expedition. To get truly wild with your Wind River Country fly fishing, head into the mountains for a few days or a week for the adventure of a lifetime. Outfits like Diamond 4 Ranch or Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions out of Lander can haul your belongings into the mountains on a guided pack trip into the Winds, which includes camp, horses, a guide and a cook. Or the Outfitters of the Wyoming Wilderness and Bear Basin Adventures in Dubois offer customizable pack trips with professional guides. Whoever you choose to go with, extended time in the mountains fishing is a must. Nothing better connects you to this place and its waterways.

If you prefer the calm of floating rivers and lakes without a fishing rod in your hands, there are a lot of places and options for adventure in Fremont County. Take your own kayak, canoe or raft, and enjoy the serenity of places like Boysen Reservoir and State Park near Shoshoni. There’s a boat ramp and full marina to help meet your needs, and the serenity of the still water makes a perfect spot for some quality bird watching. The other activities are endless: at Boysen, you will relish in the scenic and comfortable camping set ups, volleyball courts and picnic areas. If fast is more your speed, rent a motor boat or a jet ski from the marina and cruise around with an engine doing the work.

For another place to enjoy a quiet romp around the water, head up the Loop Road above Bruce’s Bridge in Sinks Canyon into the Shoshone National Forest. You’ll find picture perfect stops at Worthen Reservoir, as well as Frye, Fiddlers and Louis lakes. There are some beautiful campsites nestled into the shores of the lakes—like the sandy campsites you’ll find when you kayak or canoe across Worthen Reservoir from the boat ramp. Or you can rent a canoe or kayak at Louis Lake Lodge and have a fun overnight stay. There’s beautiful hiking in the area, for after you get your fill of time on the water. Wind River Country reservoirs and lakes are really fun for stand up paddleboarding. If you own one, bring it along, and if you don’t, you can buy one of your own at Murdoch’s in Riverton.

Exploring Wind River Country’s Waterways.
Photo by Bill Sincavage

For longer adventures, you can get wild with multi-day expeditions. Life on the river is sensational. You’ll live with the sun and relish in the outstanding combination of mellow current pulling your boat along and the excitement of stretches of rapids. You’ll  sleep with the relaxing sound of the water and learn how to leave the places you travel through better than you found them. Packrafting is a unique sport—you carry your inflatable boat on your back to access the water. You can now take guided packrafting trips in Wind River Country. Check out Lander-based Wyoming Rivers Cooperative for details (they also offer incredible rafting trips). Wind River Canyon Whitewater and Fly Fishing offers rafting excursions as well (see here for a detailed trip report).

The water in Wind River Country is not to be missed. Whether you’re looking for a beautiful picnic on an alpine beach or a 10 day expedition in the Winds, we have the adventure for you. Come to Wind River Country, and enjoy the magic of our mountain water.

Author’s note: this list is by no means exhaustive of all of the incredible activities, outfitters and shops in Wind River Country. You can find an even bigger list here.

Kathryn Montana Perkinson is a writer living in Lander, Wyoming. Find more at kathrynmontana.com and @kathrynmontana.

Posted in Notes From the Field