The Wind River Indian Reservation, an area nearly as large as Yellowstone National Park, is home to the remaining Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe, Native American Tribes. It is also home to a considerable portion of the Wind River before it reaches the Wedding of the Waters near Thermopolis and becomes known as the Bighorn. At its head, below the Boysen Dam, the Wind River Canyon appears narrow and formidable with rocky walls rising 2500 feet into the air. But don’t be intimidated. The Wind River Canyon is one of the West’s best-kept secrets, harboring excellent pocketwater fishing along its entire 15 mile run. Full of trophy browns and rainbows, it’s not unusual to net 18 to 26 inch trout while 30 inchers are infrequent but not unknown. Float fishing is available but professional guides are highly recommended since the river descends the canyon in a series of Class II and Class III rapids and conditions vary widely from season to season.
Wind River crosses into the reservation at the confluence of its East Fork, about 35 miles below its headwaters at Dubois, Wyoming. In continues in a southeasterly direction for nearly 75 miles where at Riverton, it abruptly turns north. About 20 miles downstream from this point, the river’s flows are captured by the Boysen Reservoir located outside the reservation’s boundaries. The open, high plain of the Wind River Valley is lined on the north by the Owl Creek Mountains and to the south and east by the Wind River Range. Strong winds which funnel down the valley from the northwest, give the river its name.
Wind River Lake, at the base of Togwotee Pass northwest of Dubois, is the source of the river. For its first 10 miles it is barely more than a trickle but it soon doubles in size as it merges with Sheridan Creek. Visitors can find lodging in Dubois, the social and recreational center for the northern Wind River and the eastern Absarokas mountains. Flows on the upper river fluctuate during growing season due to irrigation releases from tributary lakes. Experienced anglers say early spring, before the seasonal runoff, is the best time of year to fish, although April 1 to September 30 is the official fishing season. Fishing is good for rainbows, browns and cutthroats in the 12-16 inch range while it’s possible to hook a considerable number of larger fish.