Scenic USA - Wyoming

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

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Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, Wyoming

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

Wind River Scenic Byway Sign      Following a modern highway (U.S. Route 20), the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway connects the towns of Shoshoni and Thermopolis. A casual look at this route on a map looks innocent enough, but the impenetrable nature of the canyon fooled mapmakers for years. Little did they realize the Wind River on the southern end was the same river as the Bighorn at the northern end. Its sheer cliff walls and fast moving waters made it next to impossible for traveling settlers as well as 19th century mapmakers.
     Today, the 34 mile scenic byway allows sightseers to explore the entire canyon, witness firsthand the racing Wind River and experience the area's wildlife. A series of broad pullouts North Entrance to the Wind River Canyon allow byway travelers to enjoy views along the entire length of the canyon. Living in the middle of this land of rugged canyon land, bighorn sheep and mountain goats always cause a stir among byway visitors. Not known for their rock climbing skills, mule deer also call the canyon home, relying mostly on vegetation along the roadside and riverbanks.
     Both manmade and natural cuts have exposed layer after layer of the canyon's ancient rock. Wind River Canyon Spire Offering a fascinating look at Wyoming's geology, a series of road signs point out unique slices of geologic time which span a period of 2.7 billion years. Rock layers, totaling 2400 feet in depth, offer geologists a look at what went on during Precambrian and Paleozoic eras.
     At the southern end of the byway, boaters and anglers enjoy the Boysen Reservoir, a watery retreat in this arid section of the state. To the north of the canyon, a point called the Wedding of the Waters marks where the Wind River changes its name to Bighorn, a solution to help mapmakers separate the river's names. The byway ends at the city of Thermopolis, where its unusual name is best explained at Hot Springs State Park.

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