Bighorn Basin – Surface drainage

Most flow in perennial streams is from snowmelt in the mountains. Rejected recharge from Mesozoic through Precambrian aquifers in the surrounding mountains and irrigation return flows from Quaternary and Tertiary aquifers add to perennial flows. Ephemeral streams in the central basin flow only in response to thunderstorms; they do not contribute significantly to overall stream flow. The Wind/Bighorn River is the primary drainage for the WBRB drainage basin. The river cuts the Wind River Canyon through the Owl Creek Mountains, which separates the two structural basins. The name changes from Wind River to Bighorn River a few miles south of Thermopolis at the mouth of Wind River Canyon, a location called “Wedding of the Waters.” The Bighorn River, which drains most of the structural BHB, flows northward from Wedding of the Waters and into Montana. The Clarks Fork Yellowstone River drains a small north-central area of the basin, and the Yellowstone River drains much of the Yellowstone Plateau; both rivers flow northward into Montana. Major streams and tributaries in the Bighorn Basin are listed in Table 3.2, and some are shown in Figure 3-2.

Table 3-2. Bighorn Basin surface drainage divisions by tributary rank and downstream order.

Reference View complete Wind/Bighorn Basin Water Plan