Bighorn River

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For other uses, see Bighorn River (disambiguation).
Bighorn River (Iisaxpúatahcheeaashisee)
Great Horn River, Wind River, Wild River, Le Corne
CQA Four Mile Bridge.jpg
The CQA Four Mile Bridge over Bighorn River
Country United States
State Wyoming/Montana
 - left East Fork Wind River, Greybull River, Shoshone River
 - right Little Wind River, Nowood River, Little Bighorn River
Cities Dubois, Crowheart, Johnstown, Riverton, Thermopolis, Lucerne, Kirby, Winchester, South Flat, McNutt, Worland, Washakie Ten, Manderson, Basin, Greybull, Fort Smith
Source Two Ocean Mountain
 - location Wind River Range, Teton County
 - elevation 9,760 ft (2,975 m)
 - coordinates 43°44′50″N 110°04′27″W / 43.74722°N 110.07417°W / 43.74722; -110.07417 [1]
Mouth Yellowstone River
 - location Bighorn, Montana, Treasure County
 - elevation 2,687 ft (819 m)
 - coordinates 46°09′18″N 107°28′28″W / 46.15500°N 107.47444°W / 46.15500; -107.47444Coordinates: 46°09′18″N 107°28′28″W / 46.15500°N 107.47444°W / 46.15500; -107.47444 [2]
Length 185 mi (298 km)
Basin 22,885 sq mi (59,272 km2)
Discharge mouth
 - average 3,644 cu ft/s (103 m3/s)
the Wind-Bighorn River

The Bighorn River is a tributary of the Yellowstone, approximately 461 miles (742 km) long, in the western United States in the states of Wyoming and Montana. The river was named in 1805 by fur trader François Larocque for the Bighorn Sheep he saw along its banks as he explored the Yellowstone River.[3]

The upper reaches of the Bighorn, south of the Owl Creek Mountains in Wyoming, are known as the Wind River. The two rivers are sometimes referred to as the Wind/Bighorn. The Wind River officially becomes the Bighorn River at the Wedding of the Waters, on the north side of the Wind River Canyon near the town of Thermopolis. From there, it flows through the Bighorn Basin in North Central Wyoming, passing through Thermopolis and Hot Springs State Park.

At the border with Montana, the river turns northeast, and flows past the north end of the Bighorns, through the Crow Indian Reservation, where the Yellowtail Dam forms the reservoir Bighorn Lake. The reservoir and the surrounding gorge are part of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

It is joined by the Little Bighorn River near the town of Hardin, Montana. Approximately fifty miles farther downriver, it joins the Yellowstone.


The Bighorn River begins as the Wind River in the Rocky Mountains at Wind River Lake, near Two Ocean Mountain and the summit of Togwotee Pass. From there it flows southeastward, receiving the East fork Wind River from the north, and enters the Wind River Basin, flowing past Dubois and Johnstown, to Riverton, where it receives the Little Wind River, here it turns northeastward then northward, and into Boysen Reservoir, which is formed by Boysen Dam. Below the dam it enters the Wind River Canyon, where the river is very narrow and has many rapids. At the end of the canyon the Wind River widens out in what is called the Wedding of the Waters, where it becomes the Bighorn River and enters the Bighorn Basin, where it continues northward, passing through Thermopolis, Worland, and Basin. At Greybull it receives the Greybull River, and about 30 miles north of here, enters Bighorn Lake, where it is joined by the Shoshone River, north of here the reservoir narrows as the river enters the flooded Bighorn Canyon, where it crosses into Montana, at the end of the canyon the river passes through Yellowtail Dam, Yellowtail Aferbay Dam, Turns northeast and enters the Great Plains. At Hardin it is joined by the Little Bighorn River, and aproxamatly 50 miles downriver at Bighorn, it empties into the Yellowstone.

Variant names[edit]

Bighorn River in Montana

The Bighorn River has also been known as: Great Horn River, Le Corne, [2] and Iisaxpúatahcheeaashisee (Apsáalookěi [4]).

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Sullivan, Gordon (2008). Saving Homewaters: The Story of Montana's Streams and Rivers. Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press. ISBN 978-0-88150-679-2. 


  1. ^ "Wind River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1979-06-05. Retrieved 2011-04-05. 
  2. ^ a b "Bighorn River, MT". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  3. ^ Aarstad, Rich; Arguimbau, Ellie; Baumler, Ellen; Porsild, Charlene; Shovers, Brian (2009). Montana Place Names. Helena, Montana: Montana Historical Society Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-9759196-1-X. 
  4. ^ "Apsáalooke Place Names Database". Library @ Little Big Horn College. Retrieved 2013-04-27. 

External links[edit]