Bill Sniffin: Wyoming Is Full Of Beautiful River Towns, So Which Is The Prettiest?

Bill Sniffin writes: “One of my all-time favorites is Evanston, which has taken its Bear River and made it a dominant item on its landscape. This town might deserve the prize for best use of its river.”

Bill Sniffin

September 23, 20235 min read

The Green River in the town of Green River really is green.
The Green River in the town of Green River really is green. (Bill Sniffin)

OK, which city or town is the prettiest “river city” in Wyoming?

We all know Wyoming is a state full of beautiful rivers, and a great many of our cities and towns were built along them.

Which city or town has done the best in enhancing their waterway in ways that beautify their town and make being next to a river or creek a positive experience?

I reached out to a large group of friends and there is not a clear choice.

The North Platte River in Saratoga, Casper and Douglas got a lot of mentions.

My hometown of Lander has done wonders with the Popo Agie, especially with the Judy Barney River Walk.

The Bear River flowing through Evanston.
The Bear River flowing through Evanston. (Bill Sniffin)

Towns Named After Rivers

Towns with “river” in their names, Riverton and Green River, also got some nice reviews. Green River, especially, has some amazing amenities around its Expedition Island, where the famous John Wesley Powell explorations started.

Former Wyoming Tourism Director Gene Bryan is a big booster of Saratoga. He writes: “The North Platte River runs through the town, and there are many businesses centered on the river and the superb fishing and floating it affords. But the thing that intrigues me about Saratoga is that the folks who live there love their town for what it is and outsiders can either accept that or not. They flat out don’t care. We are who we are, and that is not going to change.”

Newcastle News Letter Journal Publisher Bob Bonnar loves how Norwood has treated the Big Horn River that runs through it. He writes: “I took my daughter, Summer, to Yellowstone with me one year to distribute a travel guide we put out for 20 years, and we spent the night in Greybull.

“We ate dinner at the little restaurant right alongside the river (can’t remember the name — had a great steak with really good mushrooms on it), and afterward we sat under the bridge and caught bullhead catfish in the dark for a couple of hours.

“Probably not the most riveting river experience in Wyoming, but a pretty special one for me and my daughter.”

Buffalo has made Clear Creek a focal point of downtown. Jim Hicks writes: “We have a trail system along Clear Creek that runs from the east side of town west to the base of the mountain. It hooks up to the Forest Service trails.

“My favorite section is west of town. I would guess at least 8 miles. In dry years the creek can be pretty-low because Wyoming has little ‘in-stream’ flow requirements and ag demands can leave only a trickle — that doesn't do much of a job for fish habitat.”

Popo Agie River running dry in Lander this time of year.
Popo Agie River running dry in Lander this time of year. (Bill Sniffin)

Some Rivers Dwindle To A Trickle

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, chimes in on what Hicks was saying: “Hoping you will mention that community rivers need flow, which Lander doesn't have in the summer. There is a dramatic difference between the flows upstream in Sinks Canyon and what we end up with in town.”

Cody has one of the most interesting rivers passing through it. The Shoshone was historically called the Stinking River because of the hot springs. Dewey Vanderhoff chimes in:

“Cody's northern city limits is the centerline of the Shoshone River. From the west end you have the Stampede rodeo grounds and the Colter's Hell geothermal zone facing each other, overactive DeMaris hot springs a/k/a/ Old Bronze Boot. It was public for the first 100 years of Cody's existence and used by pre-Columbian peoples and Native Americans for 10,000 years before that, but now locked off.

“The river was also the venue for the creation of the intracity whitewater rafting travel attraction beginning in the 1970s, now amended with kayaking and canoeing. It's also popular among beer besotted stoner inner-tubers and other amphibious hedonists.

“The geology exposed by the river's gorge rivals the diversity of any canyon from Arizona's Grand Canyon to Wyoming's brand name Wind River, Tensleep and Shell canyons. Don't tell anyone but you can excavate Jurassic dinosaur fossils from the Morrison Formation on the north side riverbank inside the Cody city limits below the hospital. (So shoot me for the paleontological Big Reveal).”

Shhhh, Dewey, we won’t tell anyone.

Evanston created these ponds near the Bear River.
Evanston created these ponds near the Bear River. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Growing Up In A River Town

My childhood was in a small Iowa town nestled in the hills with the formidable Volga River running through it. We spent summers wading, fishing and swimming the river, and ice skating there in the winter.

It was a fun place to live and I cannot imagine living in a town without a big river and creek running through it.

We should also mention Thermopolis, which might offer the prettiest setting of them all with green fields, blue river and red buttes all around. It is striking to drive north out of Wind River Canyon and drive down into the valley with all the color.

Up the road, Worland also hosts the Big Horn River in nice fashion.

One of my all-time favorites is Evanston, which has taken its Bear River and made it a dominant item on its landscape. This town might deserve the prize for best use of its river. The ponds and riverwalks are outstanding.

Three smaller towns that have pretty rivers are Meeteetse with the Greybull River, Dubois (endorsed by Eli Bebout) with the Wind River, and Baggs with the Little Snake River.

Two tiny towns in eastern Wyoming are Hulett with the Belle Fourche River splashing next to many red rocks and Lusk, which features the Niobrara River. This river feeds a huge arid area on its 500-mile journey from Wyoming to the Missouri River system.

Jackson does well with the Snake River as does Laramie with its namesake river.

Who doesn’t like hanging out next to a river or a creek? Here in Wyoming, we understand that perfectly.

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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.