Find room to breathe and experience Wyoming the way it was meant to be shared in Wind River Country.
There’s much more to Wyoming than just Yellowstone National Park. And there’s much more to Wind River than just the Taylor Sheridan film. Home to mountains, rivers, historical sites, breathtaking scenery, abundant outdoor activities, the town of Dubois, and the Cowboy State’s only Indian reservation, Wyoming’s Wind River Country takes its name from the actual Wind River, a 185-mile stretch of the upper reaches of the Bighorn River. We love Wind River Country for the land, the people, the history, and all the unique experiences this special region has to offer. See below for some highlights.
Fort Washakie — Chief Washakie and Sacajawea gravesites
There are many towns within the Wind River Indian Reservation, but Fort Washakie is special, in part, because of who is buried there. Both Lewis and Clark’s Shoshone guide Sacajawea and Chief Washakie — a prominent leader of the Shoshone people during the mid-19th century who became friends with Jim Bridger and eventually his father-in-law — are honored at beautiful cemetery sites where the settings feel imbued with the sacred. Important figures in Western history, Chief Washakie and Sacajawea are honored throughout Wind River country. While in Fort Washakie, also be sure to visit the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Cultural Center, where you can learn more about Sacajawea and the Eastern Shoshone, one of the Indian tribes who share the Wind River Reservation, and how Chief Washakie allowed the Northern Arapaho Tribe to share the reservation with them.
Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway
For some beautiful and picturesque canyon views, take the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway from the town of Shoshoni up U.S. 20 north to Thermopolis, Wyoming. As you drive, note the signs along the way that point out how old the rock layers you’re passing are. Some date back to the Precambrian Era, over 2.5 billion years old.
Northern Arapaho Experience Room at the Wind River Hotel & Casino
Both the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho tribes have their respective casinos. At the Wind River Hotel & Casino in Riverton, you can explore the Northern Arapaho Experience Room. Full of artifacts, paintings, photographs, and videos of the Arapaho Indians, the museum is dedicated to the culture of the Northern Arapaho people of Wind River Reservation. Photos aren’t allowed, but the experience is well worth immersing yourself without the distraction of trying to capture it with a camera.
National Museum of Military Vehicles
Although the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois has been open since August 2020, it continues to grow. Owners Dan and Cynthia Starks privately funded this $100 million project to “honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families, to educate next generations on the history of American freedom, and to preserve and share historic military vehicles.” You’ll definitely need every minute of the recommended minimum of four hours to view the whole museum, which is currently 140,000 square feet and filled with all sorts of military vehicles — including the world’s most extensive private collection of artillery vehicles — displays, and historical exhibits. The Starks are already planning an additional building that will pick up with the Cold War and go through to the current War on Terror.
National Bighorn Sheep Center and Guided Eco-Tour
The National Bighorn Sheep Center in Dubois is plenty fascinating and informational in its own right. But going on an eco-tour with one of the center’s guides is a don’t-miss next-level. The tour takes you through beautiful landscapes that bring to life the history, biology, and geology of the Whiskey Basin Wildlife Habitat Area. Depending on the time of year, you may see bighorn sheep. At any time of year, you’ll experience the beauty of the valley, Whiskey Mountain, and petroglyphs etched by the “Sheepeaters,” who are considered the ancient ancestors of today’s Shoshone.
Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary
Thanks to the Oldham family, the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary opened its gates south of Yellowstone in Lander in 2016. On the 900-acre family ranch, the Oldhams continue to work with the Bureau of Land Management to care for wild horses. Some are adopted out, while others live the rest of their lives in this generous sanctuary.
Sinks Canyon State Park
Sinks Canyon State Park gets its name from the geological mystery of “Sinks” and the “Rise.” The Rise of the Sinks is a large pool where the Popo Agie River reappears after sinking into the limestone cavern at the Sinks a quarter mile upstream. The Water of the Rise is over 20 feet deep in places; water flows into it year-round from different cracks and vents along the pool’s edge and in its sandy bottom. It's a rich habitat for birds, insects, reptiles and other animals, including snakes, beaver, ducks, rabbits, bats, Mule Deer and many others.
Eastern Shoshone Tribe Buffalo Tour
Since its inception in 2016, the Buffalo Enclosure Program has worked to restore bison to the Eastern Shoshone homeland on the Wind River Reservation. The program has grown and expanded through the efforts of the Tribal Partnerships Program at the National Wildlife Federation and Shoshone Tribal Buffalo Representative Jason Baldes, who has been instrumental in bringing the magnificent shaggy beasts home and also in restoring them to the homelands of other tribes. If you’ve dreamed of seeing bison in their original habitat with Wind River Country views as a backdrop, Baldes’ presentations and scheduled tours of the enclosure will make that happen.
Find out more about Wyoming’s Wind River Country here.
Photography: courtesy Allie Jones