The Wind River Canyon is located in central Wyoming, less than 150 miles southeast of Yellowstone National Park. While not exactly a destination, except for the few real fishermen, it's widely considered to be the most beautiful ride through a canyon in the state. The Wind River runs wild and clean, the fishing obviously blue-ribbon. Most of the Wind River Canyon is located inside the Wind River Indian Reservation and special permits are required. Whitewater rafting is available, and I can tell you from personnel experience that it's a trip not to miss, it's an amazing experience; this from a guy that lives in the canyon. Most people, however, never see any more of the canyon than a fleeting glance as they blast through at 70 mph.
It's too bad that everyone is in such a hurry, as the Wind River Canyon ecosystem is unique to central Wyoming.
Bring along a good pair of binoculars and just maybe you'll spot a family of Bighorn Sheep. The Bighorn are travelers and I've spent many, many dozens of hours hiking and photographing them in the canyon. In my experience Bighorn Sheep are difficult to spot and only mildly interested in humans. To spend quality time with such spectacular wild animals is a privilege and a real rush. Certain days past are singed into my memory, and not forgotten; if you're lucky enough to see them for yourself, you will understand.
Depending on the time of the year, Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles may be spotted by the keen-eyed visitor to the Wind River Canyon. These wild raptors are difficult to find and even more difficult to photograph; I've spent an eternity chasing them around in the cold. In the summer our vultures can easily be mistaken for eagles by the uninitiated. Unlike eagles, vultures are rarely seen alone in the canyon, and closeup one is regal, while the other----not so much.
I've photographed more than 120 different species of birds in the Wind River Canyon, and I am sure there are some I may never get to. My favorites are the four nesting species of hummingbirds: My summers are planned around their breeding cycle. A few of our favorites are the Lazuli Buntings, Bullock's Orioles, hawks, owls, woodpeckers, eagles, vultures, Mountain Bluebirds.....well, you get the picture.
It's been written the Wind River Canyon is a magical place, and I can personally testify to this. But to experience this wild place requires you stop and pull over. Breathe in the clean mountain air; hike down to the Wind River. Maybe you'll spot the funniest bird in the canyon, the American Dipper; he dances better than you.
Last week I saw our buck deer in velvet, the older buck lost a left eye since I last saw him in the fall, probably from sparring. Even with his one good eye he remembered me; nature can be cruel. There are beaver in the Wind River Canyon, but they don't like mid-day sun. Elk can be viewed with binoculars when the herd is near Boysen Peak; we've stopped counting at 60 when the herd makes their rounds several times a year.
When the weather is not freezing, something is blooming in the Wind River Canyon. There is always somebody flowering here, including flowers that I still haven't been able to identify. I have two flowers in photographs that are not in either of two books on flowers of the Rocky Mountain Region. The challenge now is to somehow figure out what they are.
My personnel favorite wildflowers are the Shooting Stars, especially the more rare white. The Shooting Stars are blooming right now.
I've blogged recently about caves in the canyon, and many can easily be seen, but many will never be seen by human eyes. You're not really supposed to climb here, but there really is nobody to stop you, and I've never been questioned. You certainly cannot miss the landslides/mudslides that occurred last year, they changed the Wind River Canyon forever, but this is how the canyon was formed in the first place; I was here, and yes, it was frightening. It was a fascinating thing to witness....and live through.
At the northern end of the Wind River Canyon, the Wind River magically changes to the Bighorn River; it's called the "Wedding of the Waters." It really is the same river, just the people over there didn't know it was the same river as the one over here, and nobody wanted to change their mind; I think it's funny. At the southern end of the canyon is the Boysen Dam and the lake; it's a big lake, so bring your boat, the fishing is great, too. But most of all, this is what the Wind River Canyon is all about............ Of course, there is Chimney Rock to look out for, and others that have no name at all. There is a large stone arch, easily seen, at a place called "Windy Point." It's known as the "Eye-of-the-Needle" and is on the other side of the river. There are three tunnels for cars, and tunnels that trains blast through.
I wish that space allowed for me to write all about the wonderful things that the Wind River Canyon has in store for you. Just take some valuable time and stop to enjoy one of the most exciting wild places in Wyoming. And just maybe you will see one of my hummingbirds.
*Wind River Canyon Blog and all photographs by Michael John Balog/Hogbats Photography, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming. All rights reserved.
*Visit www.HogbatsPhotography.com for many more wild bird, wildlife and landscape photographs of the Wind River Canyon.