A Geologic Masterpiece
The Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway begins in the town of Shoshoni and follows U.S. 20 north through Wind River Canyon and the Wind River Indian Reservation ending just south of Thermopolis. Without stopping, the total drive time is about 40 minutes. The 2,500 foot-deep canyon is a feast for the eyes with the oldest layers of rock dating back to the Precambrian era, over 2.5 billion years ago. Highlights include Boysen State Park, Owl Creek Mountains, the “Wedding of the Waters’ and the Bighorn River.
Asmus Boysen had a dream and a fortune. To power his dream, he built a dam using mule teams near where the first highway tunnel bores its way into Wind River Canyon. The year was 1908 and Boysen used the dam to produce 710 kilowatts of power for his copper and gold mine on nearby Copper Mountain. The dam produced the power well enough, but there was a problem. The lake that formed behind the dam flooded the railroad tracks. Mighty Burlington Northern sued Boysen to remove the dam.
Boysen lost the lawsuit, his fortune, his dam and his dream. The dam came down, though concrete abutments are still visible along the river. If you stop off to have lunch beneath the stately cottonwood trees or Upper or Lower Wind River Campgrounds, thank that dreaming Dutch immigrant Asmus Boysen for the shade. His dam created enough silt for the cottonwoods to get a toehold on the rocky shores of the river.