big horn river
There is a unique place near Thermopolis, Wyoming, that some people in Wyoming know about, or maybe they don’t, but people outside of Wyoming most likely don’t know about it. This place is called Wedding of the Waters. The name might seem to imply that two rivers meet and become one, but that is not the case. In this place located four miles south of Thermopolis, Wyoming, something strange happens. It is the only place I know of where one river flows to a certain point, then changes its name and becomes a completely different river. It isn’t that the river was given a nickname, but rather is completely changes it’s name, like a wife does after her marriage.
The way this happened is rather strange. The river begins ninety miles northeast of the actual wedding site. It runs southeast, then winds around to the north and flows through two mountain ranges before joining the Yellowstone River at Bighorn, Montana, 180 miles northeast of the wedding site. From there it eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
When early settlers arrived at the river in what is now the state of Montana, they named it the Bighorn River for the big horn sheep they found near it. Other explorers who found the river south of the wedding site named it the Wind River. Eventually, the people realized that in reality, there was only one river…with two names that had been well established. To avoid confusion, it was decided that a wedding was necessary. That wedding took place, and in fact continues to take place in this quaint little spot known as Wedding of the Waters. The river south of this point is the Wind River, and the river north of this point is the Big Horn River.
The native Indians, mountain men, and early settlers felt like this place was special. I suppose the history of such a compromise made it special. The animals find the place special too, because of the unique vegetation found there. That is mainly due to the warmer water being released from the Boysen Reservoir. Warm thermal spring water adds to the warmth of the water, and it becomes a unique habitat for mule deer, whistling marmots, and mink. The bald eagles are attracted to the rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout, as well as burbot and mountain whitefish. That makes it great for fishermen too. The fish in the river grow quickly because of the many aquatic insects found in the bottom vegetation. And this area even sports the nation’s first handicap-accessible riverine boat ramp that provides drift boat access to the Big Horn River.
I think it’s kind of sad that this quaint little spot is so often passed by as if it isn’t even there. I suppose it doesn’t have the advantage of the spectacular canyon scenes just to the south, or the draw of the hot water mineral springs just to the north. Nevertheless, the Wedding of the Waters really is a very special place in its own right, and one that is interesting to go see.