There’s more to southwest Wyoming’s high plains and sage-covered desert than what flashes in front of your windshield. Pull off I-80 at the towns of Rock Springs, Wyo., and Green River, Wyo., to uncover western outdoor adventures without the crowds. In Sweetwater County, you can enjoy world-class fishing, view wild horses, learn about the historic trails of the west and much more.
Killpecker Sand Dunes
Killpecker Sand Dunes is one of the largest active sand dunes in North America, and contain ice deposits and fossil beds from an ancient inland sea. The dunes are a popular place for off-road vehicle enthusiasts and ATVers, with 13,000 acres open to off-road vehicle use.
The White Mountain Petroglyphs in southwestern Wyoming’s Red Desert are well worth a visit. Ancient drawings etched into White Mountain depict elk, horses, teepees, buffalo and humans. To get there, travel north from Rock Springs on U.S. Highway 191 approximately 10.5 miles and turn east (right) on the Tri-Territory Road (County Road 4-17). Travel approximately 10 miles on the Tri-Territory Road and take a left when you see a sign for White Mountain Petroglyphs.
Desert Rock Formations
Bizarre rock formations resulting from the erosion of an ancient lake can be found throughout Sweetwater County. Among the fascinating sights in the desert are Boar’s Tusk, Castle Rock, The Palisades, Pilot Butte, Kissing Rocks, and Tollgate Rock.
Southwest Wyoming Wildlife
The wild horse is a longstanding symbol of the West, and Sweetwater County is one of the best places to view these beautiful creatures. Wyoming has the second-largest wild horse population in the nation, with an estimated 6,000 animals—3,000 of them mustangs—roaming the lands of Sweetwater County. If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you can venture out on a 25-mile drive across the top of White Mountain on the self guided Pilot Butte Wild Horse Loop Tour, which allows you to view the mustangs in their natural habitat. This tour begins and ends in either Rock Springs or Green River, and can also be taken with a local guide. For those with limited time, mustangs can be viewed in Rock Springs at the BLM roundup corrals. This facility holds and processes the animals for adoption. Learn more about wild horses
Blonde Desert Elk
Wyoming is also home to more than 600 species of wildlife, including the country’s only herd of desert elk, which live in the Red Desert. Other exceptional species found in southwestern Wyoming are pronghorn antelope, pygmy rabbits, burrowing owls, and golden eagles. Some of the choicest areas to see wildlife are near bodies of water.
Highway 28 parallels the Oregon, Mormon, Pony Express, and California historic trails. There are more than 100 miles of wagon ruts in the Sweetwater County region—some of the finest trail remains in the country. Watch for interpretive signs along Wyoming Highway 28 and the Tri-Territory Loop.
Remnants of a Jurassic Park
Wyoming dinosaurs have been “mined” by major museums and world institutions for more than a hundred years, a practice that continues today. The Western Wyoming Community College Natural History Museum, off I-80 in Rock Springs, is home to the most extensive dinosaur collection between Chicago and San Francisco. The free-standing dinosaurs are fiberglass casts of the original fossils, which are housed in national museums. Most of the wall-mounted displays are actual fossils, and date from about 45 million years ago. Self-guided tours of the fossil displays are available from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Green River, Wyoming
In Green River’s Expedition Island Park north river channel, directly adjacent to the City’s outdoor splash park, the City created a 1,200 feet long lazy river/tubing channel. The channel features a series of 4 – ½ foot drops and 3 large pools three drops and pools that are sure to attract not only the kayak enthusiast, but rafters, folks in inner tubes and yes, even the fisherman. The river improvements begin at the Pacific Power pump station, off of N. 8th Street in Green River. Two other structures are located next to Expedition Island.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is located south of the towns of Rock Springs and Green River off of I-80. Centered around a large lake formed by the Flaming Gorge Dam, Flaming Gorge is framed by brilliantly colored cliffs that rise more than 1,500 feet high in places. Some visitors are content to simply take in the magnificent scenery and wildlife, while others indulge in some of the best coldwater fishing in the nation. The first stretch of river, which runs 8 miles, below the dam is some of the clearest, beautiful water you’ll ever see. Known as “The Aquarium” because you can see rainbow trout and other fish swim past you, this stretch is great for rafting, stand-up paddleboarding and rafting. You can rent a raft at one of the gorge’s vendors or bring your own.
Sweetwater County Entertainment
Events and gatherings happen on an almost daily basis in Sweetwater County. Wyoming’s Big Show, Flaming Gorge Days, River Festival, International Days, Rodeos, and Stock Car and MotoX Racing are all summer highlights, while the Crystal Classic ice sculpting competition, indoor car shows, barrel racing, and sporting events take place in winter. Visitors have more than 10,500 square miles in which to hike, bike, fish, sight see, golf, look for dinosaur fossils, shop, or just relax.
For more information:
Sweetwater County Tourism Board
800-FL-GORGE or 800-46-DUNES