Wind River Basin - Population distribution, land use, and land ownership

Every large community within the Wind River Basin is located within a few miles of a major stream or river. Riverton, Dubois, and Shoshoni were developed along the Wind River, and Lander was developed near the Popo Agie River. Only a few settlements have been located where there is no nearby supply of surface water; these settlements generally are associated with mineral development.

Land use in the Wind River basin is controlled primarily by the distribution of surface waters, precipitation, and the location of mineral resources. In the high mountain areas, above timberline, the alpine lands are generally used only for recreational purposes. At lower elevations, thickly forested areas are utilized for recreation and limited logging. Grazing is the dominant use on grasslands along the mountain fronts and riparian areas. Approximately 55 percent of the land within the basin is utilized for agriculture. Approximately 6 percent of the basin is irrigated cropland, and 85 percent of the cropland is on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Croplands are located primarily along the major streams where irrigation with surface water is possible. Most of the basin lowlands are covered sparsely with sagebrush and are used for grazing. The locations of active and historic mineral development properties are shown on Figures 5-3, 5-7, 5-8, and 5-9. Industrial, residential, and recreational areas occupy nearly all nonagricultural land.

Approximately 47 percent of the land area of the Wind River Basin is federally owned; it is controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management within the basin lowlands and by the U.S. Forest Service in the forested/mountainous areas. The Wind River Indian Reservation occupies 34 percent – 68 percent of the reservation area is owned and managed by the Eastern Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes, and 32 percent is under jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Approximately 15 percent of the land in the basin is privately owned – it is concentrated along rivers and streams; 4 percent is owned by the State of Wyoming; and less than 1 percent is owned by other entities.

Reference View complete Wind/Bighorn Basin Water Plan