The Road Into the Winds
When your mind wanders and returns to that place, that place where the fishing was so good, that place where no one was around, that place where it was just you and the trout, that place was probably on a dirt road.
As anglers, we know the fishing experience improves the further from asphalt and concrete we get. So on that fateful day in the summer of 2018, we drove through Kendall Valley, Wyoming leaving cell service and asphalt behind for the 20-mile trip on a bumpy dirt road to Green River Lakes nestled in the Wind River Range.
Green River Lakes
The Green River is born in the high elevations of the Wind River Range, a 100-mile long mountain range that stretches from the northwest to the southeast and is home to 19 of 20 of the tallest peaks in Wyoming. Green River Lakes are found in the northwest portion of the Winds where the range rises and meets the Gros Ventre and Absaroka Mountain Range.
The Green River flows from the high mountain meadows of the Winds and collects itself in the Green River Lakes before sliding into the river channel for its 700-mile journey to join the Colorado River.
An Angler Crosses a Riffle on the Green River
Author Fishing the Green River on the Road into the Winds
Green River Lakes Road
The country road from Pinedale to Kendall Valley is stunning. The tall peaks of the Winds rise to the north while antelope graze in sage meadows in Cora, WY. We leave the prairie behind and slowly head into higher ground. The Green River now flows along the road as the pavement ends and the adventure begins.
We’ve found the first mile or so of the road is always the worst. Perhaps it gets the most traffic? How many turn back after a few hard bumps? This would never make my ‘Top 10 Best-Kept Gravel Roads’ list.
ATVs and quads rule this road. Like a scene out of a Mad Max film, clouds of dust roll behind the fast-moving machines driven by masked speed lovers.
We are content to drive 20 miles per hour or less.
Leaving the Sage Prairie
The Lake Ends, The River Begins
Kendall Warm Spring
A couple of miles down the road, a warm spring creek flows under the road en route to the river. In summer, watercress and tiny wildflowers flourish on the travertine shelf which creates a waterfall into the river below.
This tiny creek is home to a unique species of dace. Kendall Warm Springs Dace (Rhinichthys Osculus Thermalis) are rare and endangered. The dace developed into a distinct species when the travertine deposits, which formed the waterfall, isolated them from the river.
The largest fish grows to 2 inches long. During the spawn, the male turns purple while the female turns light green.
It’s worth a stop to view the spring and the amazing deep pool in the Green River below the small falls. There are worn paths to walk to keep the stream and surrounding vegetation safe.
Gros Ventre Lodge
One of the earliest dude ranches was built on the Green River with an expansive view of the Gros Ventre mountains. Operating from 1897 – 1906, the lodge hosted anglers and hunters. At nearly 8000′ above sea level, this spot has always drawn my eye as we pass by. This summer I sent up a drone – see photos.
Gros Ventre Lodge Site on Green River Lakes Road
Kendall Warm Spring
In winter, Wyoming Fish & Game feed elk in a remote location a few miles downstream from the lakes. Feeding elk hay keeps them away from private ranches and away from hay meant for cattle.
Green River Lakes Road is maintained for snowmobile travel in winter. What a sight it must be to see thousands of elk in such a dramatic and beautiful setting!
The road into the Winds ends at Green River Lakes. From here, travel is on foot. Trails lead from the lake into the mountains. A primitive campground and Bridger Forest ranger station cabin are the only improvements on the land.
Squaretop Mountain casts a distinctive shadow on the water while trout slurps insects from the mirror-like surface of Green River Lakes. While the parking lot is full, think 20 spaces, I marvel at how few souls will ever gaze on this beauty and I feel privileged to be one.
View into the Winds at Green River Lakes
Video of the Road to the Winds
Fly Fishing Along Green River Lakes Road
Access to the Green is pretty easy along Green River Lakes Road. There are a few private plots of land, but they are obvious. Many primitive campsites can be found along the river – those offer great access and also come with clues as to where some good spots to fish are. Watch for footprints!
It’s hard to say what our favorite spot to fish the Green is here. There are spots with a view of Squaretop Mountain and the high peaks of the Winds. There are pools where mountain streams join. There is pocket-water and there are long, beautiful glide pools.
Bring along your mayfly box as well as your summer nymph box. Have a good supply of Green Drakes, PMDs, Hoppers, and Pheasant Tails. Two Rivers Fishing Company in Pinedale can fill in your boxes with local patterns.
If You Go
Here are some items I’d consider a must-haves:
- Water and Snacks
- Bear Spray
- Wading Sandals or Waders – this water is COLD
- Fly Rod
- Mayfly Dry Fly Box
- Nymph selection
- Tippet 4x fluorocarbon
- Full Tank of Gas
- Good Spare Tire – Just in Case
There is no cell service – that ended back in Cora.
Ranger Cabin at Green River Lakes
A Green River Brown Trout
This was very informative and well written. I will be staying in Pinedale for a few days and it looks like I will need to visit here.
It’s so beautiful and such big country. Make a day of it!