What Is Green River, Wyoming, Famous For?

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A glassy Green River reflecting the sky and mountain landscape in Wyoming.

When you think about Wyoming, you might have images of cowboys, rodeos, ranches, and wide-open plains. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Wyoming is the Cowboy State for a reason.

But nestled in the southwestern area is desert that transitions into stunning canyons and a rushing river that flows hundreds of miles. Green River, Wyoming, is a place you’ll want to add to your destination list when you trek out west. With endless kayaking, river rafting, fishing, and relaxing opportunities, you might even want to call Green River “home.”

About Green River, Wyoming

Located in southwestern Wyoming is the city of Green River. It’s home to about 11,800 people and covers 14.11 square miles.

Before the 21st Century, Green River became a depot for the Union Pacific Railroad. The water from the Green River was much needed after the steam locomotives traveled from Rawlins across the Red Desert.

But the railroad company didn’t settle in Green River at first. They were surprised to find a bustling city already in place.

Since they didn’t know what to do with a town they didn’t create, they chose to build the city of Bryan, about 12 miles west of Green River. But in 1872, the water in Bryan dried up, and the railroad went back to Green River.

Green River, Wyoming, was also the starting point for John Wesley Powell’s famous exploration of the West. He headed down the Green River in 1869 after leaving what is now called Expedition Island.

The explorers ended up meeting the Colorado River and venturing onto the Grand Canyon. In 1871, Powell made a second trip and was later appointed Director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Where Is Green River, Wyoming? 

Green River, Wyoming, is about an hour north and 90 minutes east of the Utah border. It sits off Interstate 80, which runs west-east through the state’s southern portion. Cheyenne, the state’s capital, also lies on Interstate 80, about four hours east of Green River.

The actual Green River is 730 miles long. It runs north-south from the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming into Utah, converging with the Colorado River at Canyonlands National Park.

What Is Green River, Wyoming, Famous For?

The world’s largest known deposit of trona ore is in the Green River Basin. When the ancient Lake Gosiute shrank, there was a deposit of trona beds because of the evaporation of highly alkaline water. But as far as tourism, Green River, Wyoming, is known for its beautiful scenery. 

Outdoor activities such as fishing, wildlife viewing, and river rafting are popular in this part of the Cowboy State. In fact, the city’s slogan is “Fish it. Float it. Live it.” The river has carved stunning canyons over millions of years with layers of sediment producing beautiful hues throughout the desert.

Green River, Wyoming, is also famous for its Flaming Gorge Days. For 65 years, the town has celebrated the beginning of summer with a family-friendly event of concerts, games, and vendors. Tourists visit Green River every year to participate in the celebration.

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Why Do They Call It Green River?

Although there is no evidence of why the Spanish started calling the river “Rio Verde” (Green River) in the late-1700s, there are a few speculations. First, perhaps the river during that time was a green hue.

Today, it’s redder than the Colorado River. The green color could also be referring to the soapstone along the banks of the river or the surrounding vegetation.

How Deep Is the River in Green River, Wyoming?

The Green River begins in the Wind River Range, flows southwest through the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, and then into the eastern part of Utah. It briefly flows through the Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado before returning to Utah, eventually draining into the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park.

As the Green River meanders through Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, it drops from almost 1,830 meters above sea level to about 915 meters at the Colorado River. Its width ranges from 30 meters to 457 meters. It also has a depth of less than one meter in some places to over 15 meters in others.

Can You Swim in Green River?

You can swim in the Green River, but as with all rivers, do so with caution. There are no lifeguards, and the river is constantly changing.

Around Expedition Island, there are wading pools that are great for families during the summer months. Expedition Island Park is a great spot for river access and picnicking, walking, biking, fishing, and relaxing in the scenic beauty.

Floating on a tube in Green River Lake in Wyoming, surrounding my mountains.

What Is There to Do in Green River, Wyoming?

If you’re looking to visit Green River, Wyoming, you don’t have to just take a trip to the river itself. There are other ways to experience the beauty of this area and engage in the local culture and history.

Expedition Island Park

You can get to Expedition Island Park by way of South 2nd Street East. You cross over the Green River to arrive at this National Historic Landmark.

As already mentioned, this is where John Wesley Powell began his exploration. Not only can you learn more about this history-making journey, but Expedition Island is also home to excellent Blue Ribbon trout fishing. Tubing, rafting, and kayaking are also common water activities.

Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Tour

This one-and-a-half-hour wild horse scenic self-guided tour is 24 miles long. Between Rock Springs and 14 Mile Hill is a good place to look for wild horses along the route. Across the top of White Mountain is another popular location to spot these beautiful creatures.

You’ll probably encounter other wildlife if you go during the early morning and late afternoon hours. Elk, deer, coyotes, eagles, and other animals inhabit this land. But the main draw is the wild horses. The public lands managed by the Rock Springs Field Office are home to approximately 1,100 to 1,600 wild horses.

A herd of deer roaming the land around Green River, Wyoming.

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

One way to experience Green River, Wyoming’s natural beauty and habitats, is to visit the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. Over 300 different species call this area of Wyoming “home.” You can book a commercial fishing and float trip with one of four licensed commercial outfitters.

The Flicker Trail loop is about 2 miles, and the Lumbard Ferry Trail is much shorter at a quarter of a mile. However, the entire refuge is open for hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. Make sure to bring your camera to capture sights of elk, moose, swans, warblers, and more!

Is Green River, Wyoming, Worth Visiting?

Green River, Wyoming, is a beautiful part of the country. The stunning colors of the canyons carved by the river illustrate the majesty of nature. The history of Green River is also intriguing. Learn about the Union Pacific Railroad and the explorations of John Wesley Powell.

The next time you plan a trip along Interstate 80 in Wyoming, stop for a few days in Green River. 

What outdoor activity will be top on your list when you visit?

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