September 21, 2017
This summer, I decided to start spending full days exploring the area the size of Vermont that I call home: Wyoming’s Wind River Country. I started with Dubois. My second day as a hometown tourist was in Riverton.
Here are the 11 delightful finds I discovered on my day in Riverton, the Rendezvous City.
- Northern Arapaho Experience Room, Wind River Hotel & Casino: I had a very pleasant, one-on-one conversation with the Arapaho tribal elder hosting the experience room, as we were the only two people there during most of my visit. We talked about the Native American history of spear and arrowheads. We peered at tools in awe of what his ancestors created from every piece of the buffalo. I marveled at traditional beadwork while he explained the symbols to me. This reverent, small room is brimming with information and personal insight in large part due to the elders who are there to answer questions and educate visitors about their culture.
- Nickel machine, Wind River Hotel & Casino: A number of treasures lie under the roof of the Wind River Hotel & Casino. My day had just begun so I couldn’t grab lunch in one of the restaurants yet. I opted instead to try my hand at gambling. Not having a clue what I was doing, I headed to the back wall in search of a machine in which I could lose the least amount of money possible. But it turns out I have enough skills (read: luck) to win nearly $7 off a couple nickels!
- Daylight Donuts & Ice Cream Shop: To celebrate my big win, I bopped down to Main Street and bought myself some homemade ice cream. From Daylight Donuts, I started my stroll down Main Street with a satiated smile.
- Three Sisters Flea Market: When I think “flea market,” I picture an empty lot packed with vendors. What I discovered on Riverton’s Main Street was a building the size of a city lot jam-packed with surprising and delightful wares, all gathered by one small team. The shop is owned and operated by—you guessed it—three sisters who just love flea markets. I chatted with one of the sisters before she set me free to explore the labyrinth of used treasures. We crossed paths in the middle a couple times, each time exchanging pleasantries before diving behind shelves and doorways on our quests.
- Rock Solid: Judy and her sisters have unearthed a great many gems of different style, but my next
stop had on display literal gems unearthed by the shop owners/rockhounds. Many of the items for sale and on display originate from the landscapes of Wyoming, which Alice enthusiastically showed me. A bit like taking Geology 101 on fast-forward with a smile, I followed Alice around the shop in awe. The information was captivating, the stones enticing, and the delivery exciting. Many of the rocks she and her husband pick up or mine she transforms into delicate jewelry that lets the stones speak for themselves. The shop also features the varied stone work of other local artists, and Alice gave each a personal and rave review as she toured me around the shop.
- Meadowlark Books: No matter where you travel in the world, there is something about a book store that feels like coming home. The smell of used books and aged paper, the stiffness and potential of new books, and the sense of community welcome you inside. The Meadowlark is no different, with shelves reaching to the ceiling and a quiet reading nook that looks like a friend’s living room nestled in the back. Had I been traveling with a group, I just might have chosen this space for a quiet reprieve while they took off in search of more ice cream.
- Wind River Gallery and Framing, High Plains Reflections Gallery: No walk down an unfamiliar town’s main street is complete if it doesn’t include local art. These two galleries—the former primarily paintings and the latter photography and pottery—are precisely what I was looking for. It’s always special to me to see what about an area inspires its artists. From the dramatic wild horse images to a solitary cowboy at sunset, the images on these walls put me back in touch with how I relate to Wyoming’s Wind River Country. If I couldn’t see it with every turn of my life here, I would have to take home a piece of Wind River Country in a frame.
- Riverton Museum: After completing my loop up and down Riverton’s Main Street, with many more enticing shops and views including a coffee stop at Brown Sugar Bakery, I strolled two blocks off Main to Fremont County’s Riverton Museum. The two floors of this small building offer a great deal of education about the early days of Riverton and the role agriculture has always played for the community. Also included are displays about Native Americans and the nearby Wind River Indian Reservation. I noted that many of the exhibits were donated by local families, a heart-warming tribute to the connection the community has to its history and its museum.
- Wind River Heritage Center: What followed was a different museum experience. I walked through the door of the Wind River Heritage Center and the giant steel Quonset hut structure opened before me, filled almost entirely with a display of natural scenes of constructed habitats and taxidermy wildlife donated by the local legend and mountain man Jake Korell. Beyond this initial, impressive view lies another half to the Quonset full of re-created creatures of another sort: wax historical figures of people who impacted Wyoming’s Wind River Country. Whether you tour the space alone reading interpretive displays or side-by-side with on-site expert Iva, you’ll walk away with two barn’s worth of knowledge.
- Cowboy Café: Having walked several miles on my work-day-gone-tourist, I figured I had earned a burger and pie at the beloved Cowboy Café. I would love to give you the juicy, flavorful details about my burger, but I ate it so quickly that my speed and finger-licking will have to stand in as a review. I walked out with a piece of homemade pie, of course, to enjoy when I settled in for the night.
- Alive at 5, Riverton City Park: What better way to spend an evening after a full day of exploring than chilling on some green grass listening to live music? The Lost Springs band, a local group of retired teachers, entertained and amused with throwback tunes and banter. Kids played in the bouncy house behind us, and people milled between blankets, camp chairs, the beer garden, and barbecue. This event happens monthly during the summer. I settled down in the grass and reflected on a fantastic day in Riverton.
I certainly didn’t see it all, but I got enough of a taste to plan another day in town with the excuse of doing more research on behalf of travelers like yourselves. There are more attractions and events than a person could ever fit into one day, and the Riverton Airport makes access to Riverton and the rest of Wind River Country fast and simple. For these reasons—and for the 11 prior, I rediscovered Riverton as an excellent launching point or home base for a vacation in Wyoming’s Wind River Country.Posted in Notes From the Field