#Lookback: The Wind River’s Spooky Side

Is this image spooky or beautiful? Maybe both? Sights, sounds, and smells that tantalize as well as terrify people fill the Wind River Valley and Basin. Hearing the angry shuffling of a bear hidden by bushes is probably as disconcerting as trying to fall asleep in a tent while wolves howl. A sudden rainstorm can spell both doom and beauty for a cowboy busy rounding up cattle on the National Forest. Petroglyphs staring down from their rocky perches can upset or entice visitors in their valleys.

Stories told around campfires, written down in books, or cached away in the archives of a museum keep the legends of the Upper Wind River Valley alive. These stories can be scary, thrilling, ridiculous, or even boring.

Even place and object names found around the area carry their own legends. Did soldiers whose commander let the alcohol flow a little too freely one night in camp, resulting in a fight and the death of two men, name Whiskey Mountain after the source of the tragedy? Or was the mountain south of Dubois named by the cowboys who cached bottles of whiskey in a creek and then promptly forgot where they were?

Between mysterious petroglyphs, wild animals, and general human chicanery, the town of Dubois and the surrounding area have its fair share of spots that can be both beautiful and downright unnerving. The Mountain Shoshone tribes, a people who even their descendants cannot describe with 100% surety, left their marks across the valleys and peaks of the Upper Wind River Valley. The dilapidated sheep traps, burnt out wickiups and pecked rock art are remnants of a culture that eludes modern clarification. Hikers, researchers, and hunters come across these remains and can’t help but have an emotional response, even if it’s just a twinge of curiosity.

A cloak of deep fog makes these places and ancient remains all that much more evocative. On the surface, this image is relatively simple: a tree on a sloping hill. What the photo doesn’t show is that the tree stands at the edge of an ancient sheep trap, at over 8,000ft in elevation.

Plus, the sloping hill becomes a very abrupt cliff while a nest of rocks and branches at the tree’s base make up what is believed to be an ancient shaman’s pit. Here Based on archaeological evidence, many antelope, sheep, deer, and bison met their demise at the end of a sharp point or dull club in the vicinity around this tree.

Leading a group of hikers on an Adventure Trek to the sheep trap and surrounding area, Dubois Museum staff couldn’t help noticing how people reacted to the historic structure and environment around it. Some people were very moved by the evidence of ancient cultures, while others couldn’t wait to get out of there because they found the combined fog and history of the place off-putting. It just goes to show that directly encountering history is a powerful experience, and the Dubois Museum strives to help the community engage with the past in unique and impactful ways.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

Our April Schedule of events and programs are being rescheduled where possible

Stay tuned for updates on our programs.

Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. The museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.