Sweetwater Canyon WSA
Location: Fremont County
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Nearest Town: South Pass City (15 miles)
BLM Acreage: 9,056 acres
Recommended for Wilderness: 0 acres
Access Points & Directions:
The Sweetwater Canyon WSA is accessed from the Hudson Atlantic City Road.
Access to wild lands inherently requires navigational skills and in many cases, four wheel-drive/high clearance vehicles. Visitors should be prepared for adverse weather and road conditions. The WSAs in the Lander Field Office are primarily accessed by unnamed/unsigned two track roads; in many cases, these roads are impossible to find without good navigational skills and equipment. You will need to use your navigational skills to access the Sweetwater Canyon WSA from the Hudson Atlantic City Road.
Allowable Uses & Restrictions:
Motorized travel in the Sweetwater Canyon WSA is allowed on roads and trails that existed during the inventory phase of the area. Specific route maps are available at the Lander Field Office.
Primitive & Unconfined Recreation:
The river canyon contains outstanding opportunities for a primitive and unconfined type of recreation. Of all the opportunities for recreation, the river itself is by far the most important. Typically, fishing opportunities attract most visitors to the area. While fishing, visitors usually take advantage of other benefits such as the outstanding solitude, scenery and camping opportunities along the river. The river offers high quality brown, rainbow and brook trout fishing. Mule deer are hunted within the canyon. Sage grouse are also hunted, and antelope are hunted on the areas above the canyon.
The Sweetwater Canyon WSA encompasses 9,056 acres of BLM-administered land without any split estate or private inholdings. The WSA lies along the southeastern flank of the Wind River Range in the high plains desert. The 5,538 acres recommended for wilderness include the core area of the Sweetwater River Canyon, which is roughly 7 miles long and averages 500 feet deep.
The inaccessibility of the Sweetwater River means that outstanding opportunities for solitude exist in the dramatic canyon. Rainbow, brown and brook trout inhabit the river and its tributaries, and moose, elk, mule deer and antelope may be found in the area, depending on the time of year. Golden eagles, prairie falcons and ferruginous and red-tailed hawks dot the skies. The river canyon offers opportunities for hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, nature study and photography. Of the 9,056-acre WSA 538 acres have been recommended for wilderness designation in the 1992 report to Congress.
Significant human influence is substantially unnoticeable in the WSA. This is particularly true in the river canyon itself. The only intrusions are two-track trails and an abandoned mineral exploration site near the river at the western edge of the WSA.
There are two basic types of topography in the WSA: the canyon with its tributary draws, and the gently rolling hills that surround the canyon. The canyon, which is nearly 7 miles long, is a water-carved gorge nearly 500 feet deep. In places, the walls are nearly vertical. Bare rock exists throughout the gorge. Outcrops along the canyon walls are interspersed with sagebrush, grasses, other shrubs and pockets of aspen and willow, all of which provide considerable variety in the landscape. Vegetation in the bottom of the gorge and along the river tributaries consists of willow, limber pine, aspen, cottonwoods and juniper. The contrast between the Sweetwater River Canyon and the surrounding hills is abrupt and striking. The terrain above the gorge is mostly flat with low, gently rolling hills and a few moderately scattered rock outcrops. The area above the canyon is less natural, containing numerous two-track ways.
The river canyon, coupled with dense riparian vegetation and numerous tributary draws, provides a high degree of solitude. The canyon follows the meanders of the Sweetwater River, creating numerous secluded places to escape from the sights and sounds of other visitors. The vegetation along the floor of the canyon and the topography of the canyon screen visitors from one another. There is less opportunity for solitude outside the canyon. Lack of vegetative screening and relatively flat topography contribute to less-than-outstanding opportunities for solitude.
The portion of the WSA recommended for wilderness provides an important scenic backdrop for two national historic trails and contains an important fur trade era campsite. The campsite was used by the Jedediah Smith fur brigade prior to their discovery of South Pass in 1824, an event that literally opened up the west. Later, the Oregon Trail and Mormon Pioneer Trail were both located through South Pass. These two trails lie in close proximity to the WSA.
Thus, the natural appearance of the WSA provides historic trail buffs with a wide expanse of relatively undisturbed landscape similar to that seen by the pioneers of the mid 1800s. The canyon also has high scenic values with a great diversity of color and texture, which contrasts sharply with the surrounding desert environment.