Bill Sniffin: Seeing Green River Was Like Visiting An Old Friend

Bill Sniffin writes: "For some time, Green River has celebrated Expedition Island as the launching place for the famous expedition by John Wesley Powell, which mapped the Green River, the Colorado River, and ultimately the Grand Canyon in 1869. What an adventure!" 

Bill Sniffin

August 05, 20235 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

It was 50 years ago when I started visiting the town of Green River. Back in 1973, I had the idea that somehow Publisher Adrian Reynolds was going to sell me his weekly newspaper, the Green River Star.

 Today, Green River is a modern, bustling town that features many new amenities plus some glorious old-style places. It is very much worth a visit.

Not sure any town in Wyoming celebrates its river quite like this town, named after its namesake stream. We were there Wednesday and the river looked just as “green” as it did the first time I saw it a half century ago.

Wow, What An Expedition

For some time, the town has celebrated Expedition Island in the middle of the river as the launching place for the famous expedition by John Wesley Powell, which mapped the Green River, the Colorado River, and ultimately the Grand Canyon in 1869. What an adventure! It rivals the Lewis and Clark Expedition and it all started here in Wyoming.  

Powell discovered Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon, homes of two future fantastic reservoirs. His crew rode the first boats down the Grand Canyon – it is the stuff of legend. Just try to imagine someone launching that trip into the unknown. It would be like going into outer space.  

  • Jim Bridger was here 8 6 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Beautiful Fontenelle Reservoir 8 6 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Why it is called Green River 8 6 23
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  • Bridge from Expedition Island 8 6 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • La Barge park with Army Tank 8 6 23
    (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Powell was a dynamic explorer and Civil War hero. He lost most of his right arm in the Battle of Shiloh, but he held his own with the rest of the crew despite his handicap. 

The park at Expedition Island is a beautiful location and takes full advantage of the big river heading downstream.  

Another amazing old site in Green River is the historic depot on the Union Pacific Railroad. This is a true railroad town with a long history of trains. The depot is a magnificent structure and local leaders are trying to figure out how to preserve it.  

And yes, Adrian Reynolds did sell his newspaper to me and my partners Bruce Kennedy of Greybull, Jack Nisselius of Gillette, Lee Myers of Cody, and Roger Budrow of California. We had formed a company called Sage Publishing and had purchased the Cody Enterprise in 1971, but that is another story. Tom and Annie Mullen now own the Star. 

Eric Pauley (left) and Al Harris of the Green River and Rock Springs radio stations
Eric Pauley (left) and Al Harris of the Green River and Rock Springs radio stations (Photo by Bill Sniffin)

I was on this road trip calling on some folks about Cowboy State Daily’s new radio product. It was fun to reconnect with an old friend Al Harris of Green River. Way back when, while I was poking around about the Green River Star, Al was getting ready to launch his new radio station KUGR in the same town.  

Today, we are both gray-haired but still working. Also reconnected with former Riverton radio guy Erick Pauley, who works with Al. Harris and his team just purchased Sweetwater Now, the successful digital news outfit covering that part of the state. 

Checking Off My Bucket List

A few years ago, in my annual column about a Wyoming Bucket List, I mentioned that I had never been to La Grange, WY or La Barge, WY. On this day, I was going to check one of them off.

We headed up past a huge solar array just off Interstate 80 going north to La Barge, which was named for an early fur trapper in the area.

The road north passes by the huge and spectacular Fontenelle Reservoir. Why have I not visited this place before? It is a wonderful body of water and sizeable. 

We were still following the Green River, which we found out was called by the early Shoshone Indians Seeds-Kee-Dee Agie, which means Prairie Chicken River. This river was a favorite for those early mountain men who claimed it was the best place on earth to trap beaver. 

A little farther north is Names Hill, where among the hundreds of names carved on a bluff is “James Bridger 1844 Trapper.” 

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

So, we got to La Barge, which was smaller than I thought it would be. We visited the famous Eagle Bar, which is celebrating its 100th year in 2023. Plus, we drove by the deserted but famous Moondance Diner. There is a huge army tank located in its town park. 

 It was on to Big Piney, which is known as America’s Icebox. It has some of the coldest temperatures each winter in Wyoming. Next door is Marbleton. Hardy souls live in these two frontier towns. 

The Lander Cutoff there would have saved us some miles headed to Pinedale but we wanted to go through Daniel. We did that and as the sun was setting and it was starting to rain, well, we just headed on through.  

Pinedale Is A Favorite Town

We spent the night in Pinedale and enjoyed a dinner at the Wind River Brewing Company. We ate outside with one of our star reporters, John Thompson, who lives nearby in Cora. We sat under an umbrella so the persistent rain was not a problem. 

I have lived 53 years next to the mighty Wind River Mountains, but on the lee side. These folks in Pinedale have it made. Their view of the Mighty Winds is just breathtaking. No wonder photographer Dave Bell has produced so many wonderful coffee table books featuring these scenes. 

The next morning, we had a quick cup of coffee with Dave and then headed over South Pass for home. It had been a great trip. 

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.