Bridger Wilderness

Located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

Bridger Wilderness Topography - The intricately faulted Wind River Range is dominated by a igneous and metamorphic core. Enormous compressional forces in the earth thrust the block of granite into the air. The glaciation and erosion that followed carved the range, leaving 13,804-foot Gannett Peak the highest mountain in the Wilderness, and in Wyoming.

Glacial action left cirques, kettles, U-shaped valleys, hanging troughs, and 1,300 lakes, and left "erratics", boulders strewn about the lowlands. The sedimentary rocks that once overlay the granitic core of the range have been stripped from the mountains by erosion. Remnants of the sedimentary rocks remain near Green River Lakes.

The Wind River Range has seven of the ten largest glaciers remaining in the contiguous United States.

Approximately 994,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River and its tributaries originates the Bridger Wilderness. The Green River joins the Colorado after 1500 miles, and empties into the Gulf of California. The Green River drains most of the west side of the Wind River Range. The Sweetwater River drains the southern end of the range and flows into the Platte River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

Trails - There are over 600 miles of trail in the Bridger Wilderness. Most well-used trails are cleared early in the season, but fallen trees may be encountered on secondary trails. Winter snows generally do not leave the high mountain passes and highest trails until mid July. Stream flows are high and swift during snowmelt runoff in June and July when some stream crossings can be hazardous. Check at the Pinedale Ranger Station, located on the main street in Pinedale, for up-to-date information.

For those who wish more detailed descriptions of trails and routes in the Bridger Wilderness, refer to Wind River Trails, by Finis Mitchell.

Hiking and Backpacking - Backpacking is the primary activity of people who visit the Bridger Wilderness. Areas without trails also exist for those who wish more solitude.

Horseback Riding and Packing - Saddle horses and pack strings are a part of the western tradition. Although once depended upon as a primary means of travel, stock use now accounts for only 25 percent of the recreational traffic in the Bridger Wilderness. Horsemen have the additional responsibility of providing for their animals while protecting the fragile wilderness resources. A permit is required for all overnight stock use in the Bridger Wilderness.

Climbing and Mountaineering - Most of the major peaks in the Bridger Wilderness are of sound granitic rock, and climbing is a popular pursuit. The best known climbing areas are the Cirque of the Towers and the Fremont Peak areas along the Continental Divide. The climber can find a variety, from Class III scrambling to extremely challenging Class VI climbs.

Weather - The weather is usually warm and sunny during the day from June through September. Night temperatures may be as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Sudden rain and occasional snow flurries may occur at any time. During lightning storms it is best to avoid open areas such as meadows, ridges, lone trees, and mountain tops. Find safer shelter in dense stands of trees or boulder fields.

Insects - Mosquitoes, deerflies and horseflies are plentiful most of the summer, making insect repellent a must.

Wildlife - The Bridger Wilderness contains a rich diversity of wildlife species, including large mammals such as moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, bears, badgers, yellow-bellied marmots, and beaver. Black bears live in these mountains, but they rarely disturb humans and are infrequently seen. If you happen to encounter a bear that has become familiar with humans and is bothering your camp, keep a clean camp. Do not bury garbage. It is advisable to hang food, toothpaste, garbage, and other odorous products from a tree branch at least 10 feet above ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk,

A unique small mammals is the pika, which can be found in talus slopes. It resembles a rabbit with small round ears, and is distinguished by its sharp chirp with which it signals danger. The pika (also called coney or rock rabbit) remains in the mountains an winter, but unlike its relative the marmot, it doesn't hibernate. It makes "hay" of mountain grasses, which it stores to eat over the long winter.

Birds that are common in the Bridger Wilderness include the Canada ("gray" ) jay, Clark s Nutcracker, and raven. These birds generally show up around camp when there's food around. The high meadows are home to water pipits, rosy finches, and mountain bluebirds. The dipper may be seen in fast-moving mountain streams. It stands on streamside rocks, bowing and bobbing, until it decides to plunge into the icy water for insects. The bird uses its wings to propel itself underwater in search of food. It has one of the most melodious songs in the wilderness, and can be heard singing even in winter.

Historically, the Bridger Wilderness had no fish in most of its lakes. Stocking programs during the 1920's and 1930 s were successful, and today one can find six trout species, grayling, and mountain whitefish.

The most vicious and complained about species of wildlife during the summer months is the mosquito. Do bring repellent.

Access - U.S. Highway 191 the major highway between Rock Springs and Jackson Wyoming, lies west of the Wind River Range. Major trailheads are reached via roads which are clearly signed at intersections with Highway 191. Both Jackson and Rock Springs are served by commercial air and bus lines. A local bus line, the Jackson-Rock Springs Stage transports passengers from both cities to Pinedale. Pinedale also has a paved non-commercial public airstrip located about six miles south of town.

For more information contact: The Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 4 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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