Green River Lakes

Red fishing boat, Green River Lake, Wind River Mountains
A fishing boat patiently awaits the fisherman that will set him upon the water.

One of the Wind River Mountains finest gems is the Green River Lakes; this majestic wonder is 52 miles north of Pinedale Wyoming at the headwaters of the Green River. The calm surface of Green River Lake stretches out from the shore to the distant mountain, reflecting the towering rugged beauty of Square Top Peak and the Bridger Wilderness. The lake's mirror surface is often disturbed by the paddle of a canoeist or more often, the damn wind. This view of the Bridger Wilderness is perhaps the most frequently photographed non-national park landscape in Wyoming.

The Green River Lakes are nestled behind a natural terminal-moraine dam scoured out by glaciers during the last ice age and surrounded by the stark and steep topography of the Wind River Range. Mostly composed of granite uplifts from deep within the earth over 1 billion years ago, these granite monoliths were uplifted and carved by glaciers 500,000 years ago to form circular valley cirques.

The Green River Lakes are considered the headwaters of the Green River the chief tributary to the Colorado River. The Green River runs 730 miles through Wyoming, Utah where it hooks up with the Colorado River that eventually terminates in northern Mexico.

Howard Orange county fisherman trying his luck fishing in Green River Lake
This is fly-fisherman, Howard, from Orange County who has neglected to contact me for copies of this photo. I really think that he would like to have one - call me Howard.

An extremely primitive boat ramp facilitates fishermen and canoers below the campground. A derelict log cabin, an old soddy, formerly the Gannett Peak Guest Ranch, once a very exclusive guest ranch add to the picturesque beauty and intrigue of the area.

The fishing at Green River Lakes can be really good and there some lunkers lurking there. Green River Lakes with the help of Max Long produced the Wyoming state record brook trout that weighed in at 9 pounds, 11 oz and was 24-1/2 inches-long on June 21,1976. It is also an angler’s paradise being home to the Mackinaw (lake trout), brook, rainbow, brown, and trout. Cutthroat trout, the only fish species native to Wyoming, are found in Green River Lakes. The Wind River Mountains to the north and east produce the headwaters of the Green River, which is the principal home of the Colorado River Cutthroat. The Green is friendly to all types of fishers regardless of skill level. It has an extensive variety of water, vegetation and scenery. Many like to fly fish the Green River below the lake as it has very productive water for the fly-fisherman and the ambitious like to hike up to the many lake above Green River Lakes in search of Wind River Golden Trout some of which reach five pounds. There is some-thing around the Green River Lakes for everyone.

woman reads book in canoe at side of green river lake in the wind river mountains
Canoeing is popular and peacful activity in the Wind River Mounains

Canoeing on the lakes is very popular as it is tough to find a prettier place to plant a canoe paddle but a word of caution, when afternoon rolls around be on the lookout for thunderstorms as they can blow up dangerous waves on the lake

Motorized boats are allowed on the lower lake; however, the earthen boat ramp is suitable only for smaller vessels. Upper Green River Lake being within the Bridger Wilderness Area is closed to motorized boats but you can drag a canoe up the short Green River Channel that separates the two. Jet skis and other personal watercraft are not allowed.

The season of operation is typically June 15 to September 15. There are 39 individual camp units at this campground, plus three large group areas. Regular sites are non-reservable, and are first-come, first served. Group campsites can be reserved in advance online through ReserveUSA, www.reserveUSA.com. See the reservation website for this year's fees, advance reservation requirements and cancellation policy. A Campground Host is at the campground during the summer who can answer questions about the area. This campground gets high use, but is typically never completely full up. There are regular pull-in sites for small cars, plus pull-through sites for RVs. There are no constructed pads for tents, but cleared areas are located near each unit and picnic table. Each unit also has a fire pit. Water spigots are dispersed throughout the campground and shared between units. No showers at any of the campgrounds on the Bridger Teton National Forest.

It is tough to find a prettier place to camp than under Square Top Peak in the Wind River Mountains
It is tough to find a prettier place to camp than under Square Top Peak in the Wind River Mountains

Dispersed camping
for those who enjoy bushwhack camping and there are many areas for dispersed camping in the area along the Green River Lakes road. Many places already have fire rings and cleared areas for campfires for those prepared and equipped to dry camp. Campers are encouraged to use existing dispersed spots to have less of an impact on the landscape. Campfires are allowed in these locations as long as campfire restrictions are not in effect due to high fire danger.

Trailhead users will encounter hikers on foot as well as stock animals including horses, mules and llamas. Green River Lakes is the northern terminus of the Highline Trail a popular trail that parallels the backbone of the Wind River Range, 80 miles to the south. This trail typically isn't free of snow until July and August. In the early season, hikers should be prepared to encounter high water crossings, muddy trail conditions and tree downfall.

The elevation here is 8,000 feet, this is high elevation recreation and your physical performance may be affected if you are not acclimated to the rarefied air of the high mountains. Be sure to take it easy and drink extra fluids. If you do start to notice shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches or dizziness, get to a lower elevation as quickly as possible. Please be aware that natural water sources may contain Guardia Lamella or other bacteria. A fine filter (0.2 microns or less) is recommended for all water you use. Water from campground hydrants is regularly tested by the Wyoming State Health Department. Consider all open bodies of surface water to be infected with the Guardia microorganism, which can make you very ill if you drink the water without treating it first.

Derilect Log Cabin, former guest ranch, wind river mountains, Pinedale, wyoming
It is tough to find a prettier place to camp than under Square Top Peak in the Wind River Mountains

Getting there

A 40-mile paved and gravel road that follows the Green River upstream from high sagebrush-covered prairie to the alpine lakes and glacier-carved peaks of the Wind River Range. This drive climbs from the high grasslands on the western side of the Wind River Mountains near Pinedale up to alpine lakes near the headwaters of the Green River. The Wind River Range is almost as spectacular as the Teton Range, but not nearly as crowded. The first half of the road is paved; the second half is gravel. When dry, the gravel road is usually suitable for any vehicle. However, it can be dusty, and washboard and potholes may be a nuisance.

The Forest Service says it is one and a half hours to Green River Lake campground from Pinedale, Wyoming. It will take all of this plus a bit more, a lot more when the clay road turns to slime in the rain. About half the distance is on nice paved road, but don't get comfortable as 17 miles of washboard forest service road await where women wish they had worn sports bras and men wonder why they didn’t remind them to.

Note that this is designated grizzly bear habitat and food storage regulations apply for both the campground and backcountry users.

Pinedale Wyoming Fly-fishing Outfitters
Two Rivers Emporium • Two Rivers Emporium offers some of the finest rainbow and brown trout fishing in the state of Wyoming. Our guides are extremely efficient and up to date on hatches and which flies and lures are working. We are here to help you in any way to make your fishing vacation more memorable. If there is any thing we can do, please contact us at our E-Mail address, or call our toll free number.

 

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