May 18, 2018
This five-day itinerary through Wyoming’s Wind River Country in early July, 2018, takes you from the Oregon Trail and fur-trade era to Wyoming’s gold rush, then on to paid rodeos and the celebration of America’s 242nd birthday.
Don’t miss a moment—this week is full of anniversary celebrations and fun.
Day 1, July 3
Start in Dubois, home to the largest wintering herd of bighorn sheep. The National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center provides tours and interpretation to see and learn all about these impressive creatures. The center is celebrating its 25th birthday at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3.
Enjoy lunch and lessons, then explore the surroundings of Dubois on foot or on bike.
Spend the night in Dubois or head over to Lander for the night.
Day 2, July 4
Sleep in and enjoy the family friendly Independence Day festivities in Dubois (think parade complete with fire trucks, wranglers, and 10 military tanks; rubber duck races; and ice cream social).
Or wake up early with Lander: This town knows how to celebrate America’s birthday. The morning starts with a 5K and half marathon, then graduates to an impressive parade that concludes with a water fight with the local fire department. Open-container laws are suspended, fireworks are allowed, and public picnics abound.
Lander is also where the Pioneer Days rodeo was born 124 years ago. Known as the Granddaddy of ‘Em All for being the oldest paid rodeo in the States, the rodeo has a surprisingly heartwarming history and an even stronger presence today. The two-day rodeo will run 6:30-9 p.m. both July 3 and 4, and the second evening’s show is followed by an impressive display of fireworks.
Be sure to take high ground for the fireworks because the displays will rain over the whole mountain town of Lander.
Day 3, July 5
Take a short trip (30 minutes) over to Riverton and step back in time at the 1838 Mountain Man Rendezvous in Riverton. This reenactment of fur traders and trappers meeting up to trade goods is the only such mountain man rendezvous to take place on the original place that it did in the 1830s. One hundred eighty years later, you can join historians in period clothing for the pastimes of the day: black powder rifle shooting competitions, hatchet throwing, beading, and more.
While you’re in Riverton, be sure to tour the town’s museums, stop in some of the shops on Main Street, and more.
Overnight in Riverton or Lander.
Day 4, July 6
Get up early and escape the heat in Atlantic City, a gold rush mountain town, to take a flora walk with local herbalist John Mionczynski. Then take in the town’s 150th anniversary celebration, which will include children’s games, local craft vendors and demonstrations, and a viewing of “Gold Mine in the Sky” in the St. Andrew’s Church.
Munch at the lunch wagon next to the church, then head over to watch a gold-panning demonstration and try your hand at the “match the brand” game, where you’ll try to match the livestock brand with its name.
Mellow out for the evening with live music at the Atlantic City Mercantile, an old Western bar with a veritable museum of the West decorating its walls.
Return to Lander or Riverton to overnight.
Day 5, July 7
Each year, South Pass City State Historic Site holds Gold Rush Days, a celebration of the rowdy and thrilling history of this old gold mining town. This year’s Gold Rush Days will be over the top because they will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding. All this in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, which is the reason South Pass City came to exist.
Live music by Chauncy Williams & the Younger Brothers Band will pair with the ever-popular act of blasting an anvil into the sky with dynamite. Throw in hands-on gold panning, and you have a weekend worthy of a sesquicentennial (and of a dodransbicentennial).
The fun starts at 10 a.m., giving you time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast wherever you’re staying. Then enjoy the scenic drive to South Pass City and cut loose:
Explore the five miles of new interpretive trails and walk in the ruts of the Oregon Trail Then fill up on food from local caterers and then take special tours of the historic city and gold mines.
Wrap up the night with live music at 8 p.m. by Chauncy Williams & the Younger Brothers Band, followed by an unmatched fireworks display at 8,000 feet in elevation.
Day 360, July 2, 2019
Commemorate the first anniversary of your best vacation ever by returning to Wyoming’s Wind River Country.