Bighorn River: Wedding of the Waters to Worland

CLASS - I

GRADIENT - 5 ft/mile

LENGTH - 40 miles

FLOAT TIME - 18 hours

BLM QUAD MAPS - Thermopolis, Worland

PUT IN - Thermopolis Broadway Park

PUT IN - Google Map

TAKE OUT - Worland City Park

Bighorn River

USGS Gage Station CFS near Basin.

Bighorn River

 

The Bighorn River begins and the Wind River ends at the "Wedding of the Waters" south of Thermopolis where it flows north to Bighorn Reservoir and Canyon. While part of the river passes through irrigated farmland, there are also scenic stretches that offer striking contrasts as the river travels across the arid Big Horn Basin. This is a Class I river with few obstacles to watch for (mainly diversion dams on the upper section).

The upper most put-in is at US-20 mile marker #128 where the river leaves the reservation. This is a short two hour stretch down to Thermopolis and it is floated often. The best access in Thermopolis is at a small park and landing just off Broadway Street. From here the river flows past Hot Springs Park and makes its way through a small restriction. About one hour north of town are two small diversion dams which are lineable. Below here you pass by two Game and Fish boat ramps on river left before reaching the W-172 Bridge (access off US-20 at mile #137 or #138). The last public access on this section is downstream a bit on river right and it may be reached by turning off W-172 at mile #1 and taking the Skeleton Road north along the river.

The river now begins traveling along the base of Cedar Mountain and you swing by the railroad and highway a couple of times. About four hours below W-172 is the first portage around the diversion dam at The Willows. You then have a two hour float to the W-432 Bridge. Just below the bridge is the second portage around the diversion dam for the Bighorn Ditch. In this area you begin having good views of the Big Horn Mountains to the east.

About two hours downstream is the third portage around the diversion dam for the Lower Hanover Ditch. (Take note of the electric fence on river left.) The river for the next hour down to Worland contains a gross amount of carbody riprap and is not nearly so pretty. The landing in Worland is at a small park below the W-432 and US-20 Bridges. Float time from Thermopolis is about 12 hours.

Photo Caption (image not shown): The beautiful float through Bighorn Canyon is worth the trip if you have the time.  Shown here is the view near Devil Canyon.