The Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway is located along U.S. Highway 20 between the towns of Shoshoni and Thermopolis Wyoming, and is a very popular 34 mile drive through the incredible Wind River Canyon and Boysen Reservoir surrounded by Boysen State Park. While driving north from Shoshoni,
Wyoming along the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, the blue waters of Boysen Reservoir create a stark contrast with the bright red and yellow rocks of the Owl Creek Mountains to the west... which is quite a remarkable sight.
Beyond the water paradise of Boysen Reservoir, the Wind River Scenic Byway then enters the legendary Wind River Canyon with its 2,500 foot high walls towering above each side of the highway. The river you see roaring through this amazing canyon is the fabled Wind River, which provides thrill-seeking tourists fantastic white-water opportunities. If you look carefully, you might even get a glimpse of some of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that reside in this rugged canyon.
The Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway eventually takes its travelers to the amazing town of Thermopolis Wyoming, which is a center of many incredibly popular attractions, such as Hot Springs State Park and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center.
Named after the Shoshone Indian Tribe, Shoshoni Wyoming is the gateway community to the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway and Boysen State Park. Founded in 1904, and originally an oil and uranium boom town along what was known as the Old Yellowstone Highway, Shoshoni had to reinvent itself once the boom was over. Through the years, Shoshoni became quite famous for its
delicious ice cream malts and shakes that were served at the historic Yellowstone Drug Store. Tens of thousands of these tasty delights were served to tens of thousands of tourists heading for Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone Park during the summer seasons.
Unfortunately, this famous old drug store is no longer in business... but there are many folks throughout the nation that have very fond memories of this historic old fashioned drug store. Another "claim to fame" that Shoshoni can boast is that it may be the driest town in the Mountain Time Zone, sometimes receiving less than 4 inches of rain during an entire year. But as you drive through this charming town, you'll love the classic western main street with its early 1900s commercial buildings, and its wonderful hospitality. And if you're timing is right, you'll get to enjoy the annual Wyoming State Championship Old Time Fiddle Contest, which is an extremely popular event that draws in thousands of people throughout the region and beyond.
Boysen State Park
Boysen State Park, Wyoming.
As you drive north along the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway (U.S. Highway 20), you will rather quickly encounter Boysen State Park and Boysen Reservoir. Boysen State Park is located just north of Shoshoni
Wyoming, and is one of the largest parks in the State Park System as it surrounds the deep blue water of Boysen Reservoir.
Boysen State Park of Wyoming is a mecca for just about every water sport activity you can think of, including boating, water skiing, wind surfing, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing and more.
The water is relatively warm throughout the summer season, and there is a wonderful beach along the east shore that is a very popular spot to relax as well as swim. You will also find plenty of water skiers in this area of the lake.
Boysen Reservoir is a result of the Boysen Dam, built between the years of 1947 and 1952, blocks the northward flow of the Wind River. When the water began to fill the valley, a major railroad track that ran between Casper Wyoming and Billings, Montana became covered in water. The new track that was laid as a result includes a 1.3 mile tunnel underneath the dam and underneath parts of the lake.
Boysen State Park has a very nice marina and concession area on the north end of the lake which offers bait, boat fuel, food, fishing supplies, boat and jet ski rentals and fishing licenses. There is also a very protective bay where a nicely built boat dock is located.
Boysen Reservoir is home to a wide variety of fish species, including walleye, perch, sauger, ling, crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, lake trout, brook trout and more. There have been several state record fish caught on Boysen Reservoir, and this popular lake is renowned for its outstanding ice fishing opportunities during the winter months.
There are seven campgrounds located throughout the Boysen State Park that are suitable for campers, RVs and tents. There are well over 280 campsites available throughout the seven campgrounds found along the 76 miles of shoreline.
The campgrounds include the Lower Wind River Campground (50 sites, below the dam), Upper Wind River (50 sites, below the dam), Brannon and Tamarask Campground (65 sites, north end near marina, concessions and protected boat dock), Tough Creek Campground (65 sites, on a peninsula), Loop One (west side, 20 sites) and Loop Two (west side, 30 sites)
Boysen State Park of Wyoming provides 280 campsites.
Wind River Canyon
Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, Wyoming.
North of Boysen State Park and along the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, the Wind River enters a remarkable canyon with towering canyon walls on each side reaching 2,500 vertical feet above the river.
These tremendous rock walls include some of the oldest rock on earth...dating back to the Precambrian Era more than 3 billion years ago. The geology of this canyon is in itself incredibly fascinating, and there are very helpful interpretive signs that really help visitors understand the amazing geology of the Wind River Canyon.
Visitors driving along the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway will find themselves "looking up" a lot as they drive through this beautiful canyon to see the amazing rock structures such as Chimney Rock, as well as the sheer cliffs towering above them on each side of the highway.
Bighorn Canyon is home to a very healthy herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. These bighorn sheep were transplanted into Bighorn Canyon 1995... when 43 bighorn sheep were transported here from the Dubois Wyoming. They were first loaded onto horse trailers and the final stretch was by railway. There are now over 100 bighorn sheep living in the Bighorn Canyon Area, and many of them can be seen from the highway, as the sheep work their way along the cliffs "doing their thing". Bighorn sheep are indiginous to the area, but this successful transplant really helped build and stabilize the herd.
Whitewater Rafting/Fly Fishing
As the Wind River rages down the Wind River Canyon along the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, the water becomes a dream come true for whitewater rafting enthusiasts. So as you drive through the Wind River Canyon, you more than likely see these thrill seekers riding the rapids.
In addition to incredible whitewater, the Wind River Canyon also provides fantastic fly fishing opportunities...where fly fishermen and women test their skill on some of the finest trout waters in Wyoming. This has been a fairly well kept secret for a long time, but lately, the word is out and the reputation of the Wind River fly fishing opportunities in the Wind River Canyon is becoming recognized throughout North America and beyond.
"Wedding of the Waters"
Interestingly, the Wind River changes names as it leaves the Wind River Canyon.
Located at what is known as "The Wedding of the Waters", the Wind River is renamed the Rocky Mountain Bighorn River.
The Wind River was renamed at this spot to recognize the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that are indigenous to the Wind River Canyon area.
The Wind River Canyon is an amazing place to visit, and we highly recommend that you spend some time in this incredible canyon.
Thermopolis Wyoming marks the end (or beginning) of the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, depending on which direction you're traveling.
Thermopolis Wyoming is home to several major attractions, such as Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Legend Rock Petroglyph Historic Site and the Hot Springs County Historical Museum. The world's largest single mineral hot spring is located in Thermopolis, and is without question one of Wyoming's top attractions.
Thermopolis Wyoming is such a significant center for several important attractions, that we built an entire page devoted to the Thermopolis Area.