Bighorn River

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For other uses, see Bighorn River (disambiguation).
CQA Four Mile Bridge.jpg
The CQA Four Mile Bridge over Bighorn River
Map of the Bighorn River watershed
Origin 43°34′51″N 108°12′45″W / 43.58083°N 108.21250°W / 43.58083; -108.21250 (Bighorn River)[1]
Mouth 46°09′18″N 107°28′28″W / 46.15500°N 107.47444°W / 46.15500; -107.47444 (Bighorn River)Coordinates: 46°09′18″N 107°28′28″W / 46.15500°N 107.47444°W / 46.15500; -107.47444 (Bighorn River)[1]
Basin countries Yellowstone, Treasure, Bighorn, and Carbon County, Montana; Bighorn, Washakie, and Hot Springs County, Wyoming,[1][2]
Length 461 miles (742 km)
Mouth elevation 2,687 feet (819 m)[1]
Avg. discharge 3,644 cubic feet per second (103.2 m3/s)
Basin area 22,885 square miles (59,270 km2)
River system Yellowstone 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.

Variant names[edit]

Bighorn River in Montana

The Bighorn River has also been known as: Great Horn River, Le Corne, [1] 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. ^ a b c d e "Bighorn River, MT". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ "Bighorn River, WY". 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]