Wind River Basin


From Wyoming Tales and Trails

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This page: Shoshoni, Riverton.

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Shoshoni, Wyo., 1906

Although the Wind River Basin began to be settled as early as 1860, the area near Shoshoni beginning about 1906 held, as indicated by the photos on this page, great promise.

Rock Drilling Contest, Shoshoni, 1908

Across the street from the viewer is the C. H. King Company and the First National Bank. Note that the town had two banks. Charles Henry King (1853-1930) was the paternal grandfather of President Gerald Ford and previously operated merchantile businesses in Fetterman City and Douglas. President Ford's mother divorced his father, Leslie L. King, a wool dealer in Omaha, and upon his mother's remarriage Ford adopted his stepfather's name.

Another view of rock drilling contest, 1908

By 1906 Asmus Boysen had commenced the construction of his dam in the Wind River Canyon to provide electrical power to the area, gold and copper mining in the Owl Creek Mountains to the north of the town had commenced, and the Wyoming and Northwestern Railroad had run its line from Casper to Lander so that the area would be served by two railroads. Arnold Oliver Heyer (1877-1938), the publisher of the above panoramic photo, was active in the Republican Party and was an alternate delegate to the 1932 Republican Convention. Photo of the Heyer-Berger building constructed in 1908 further below on the page. Riverton, pictured to lower right, at the time of the panoramic photo at the top of the page, did not exist. Riverton was founded on August 15, 1906, as a tent town and was named Wadsworth after the railroad station manager. Within two weeks it was renamed Riverton. Today Riverton has a population of over 10,000 and Shoshoni barely 500.

Riverton, c. 1910

The Wind River is known by two names. Below the Wind River Canyon the river is known as the Big Horn. Above the entrance to the canyon is it known as the Wind River. The reason is that early explorers coming up the Missouri came across the stream and named it the Big Horn. Explorers in the Wind River Basin named the river the Wind River. It was only after the names stuck that it was discovered that it was the same stream. To add to the confusion Shoshoni is not on the Shoshoni River which is near Cody, but is on Poison Creek. The Shoshoni River, originally called Stinking Water, was renamed at the insistance of residents of Cody who thought the name might not be good for business. Of course, however, this eliminates confusion with other streams called Stinking Water Creek in Laramie, Natrona, and Converse Counties and in Hayes County, Nebraska, along which the old Texas Trail to Ogallala passed.

C. H. King Company and First National Bank, Shoshoni, 1909

The building occupied by C. H. King and the Bank is now on the National Historic Register and is occupied by a drugstore and ice cream parlor famous for its real milkshakes, not a miracle of modern chemistry.

Halfway House Hotel, Owl Creek Mountains, approx. 1908

In 1907 Henry C. Beeler, the state geologist, noted the prospects for mining near Shoshoni:

Copper Mountain is the name locally applied to that portion of the Owl Creek Range of the Wind River Mountains which lies east of the Big Horn River, and has been the scene of active prospecting for both gold and copper for the past year or two. The territory embraced is about twenty miles long by about six or eight wide, and the formations shown are schist, diorite, two distinct granite flows, and the whole skirted by the sedimentaries which overlie the uplift on the north and east sides of the mountain.

On the west end the canon of the Big Horn River cuts through the range, and the properties of the Boysen Company are situated here. A power plant is being built to furnish power for the mines of this locality, light the Central Wyoming towns, and supply power for the other enterprises of this section. A dam is being constructed, and the plant is being installed as rapidly as possible.

Much prospecting has been done here, and some deep tunneling done from the canon side, but so far no results have been given to the public. Near by are several promising properties, and considerable gold ore has been reported from this end of the mountain.

The Hale property, near Birdseye, is a gold property, is developed by tunnels, and a considerable ore reserve shown up. On this showing a stamp mill has been erected and operated for a part of the season, until stopped by shortage of water. Plans for a cyanide plant to treat the tailings are now being considered for construction next spring.

On the east end of the mountain the Williams-Luman mine bids fair to make Central Wyoming famous for both gold and copper, and in point of production and occurrence of the ores. The ore is found in a crushed and fissured diorite, much altered and almost unrecognizable in spots, and at the surface shows about fifty or sixty feet wide.

Heyer-Berger Building, Shoshoni, undated

The high hopes, however, has faded. The copper industry is, as discussed with regard to Grand Encampment faded in 1908. The gold mining never panned out. At the height of the Cold War there was the Uranium Rush and Fremond County became the leading producer of uranium in the United States. But even that has faded. Jeffrey City in the southern part of Fremont County arose and has again faded into obscurity. In the area of Shoshoni the railroad from Riverton to Lander was abandoned in in 1977. In 1993 the Shoshoni segment was sold to the Badwater Line until it too was abandoned and the right-of-way was accepted by Fremont County as part of the Rails to Trails program.

Shoshoni, undated