Following the River through Casper, Wyoming

The North Platte River in Casper, Wyoming runs through history, from Indigenous people to the Oregon Trail, to world-class fly fishing.
Prepared By:

Casey A.

Traveler, writer, editor

The North Platte River runs from west to east to and through the middle of the city of Casper in the heart of Wyoming, a powerful vein of beauty, fun, and history. Whether you’re wading, standup paddle boarding, fishing, or birding, when you walk along the shores of the North Platte River in Casper, you’re also becoming part of its story, from Indigenous peoples to the Oregon Trail, to community-driven river restoration.

This story was created in partnership with Visit Casper.

Woman fishing North Platte River in Casper Wyoming

Casper is located in the heart of Wyoming, the ideal first stop when you’re ready to escape the crowds of Yellowstone National Park. Bid the nation’s first park adieu, and four and a half hours later, step out of your car and into the North Platte River. Feel the cold water wash over your tired feet, breathe in the wild air, look up to see an eagle flying overhead, and call Casper home for a few days.

Efforts to restore the river to its original glory have gained momentum since the 1960s, and now you can enjoy all those years of forward thinking and cleanup days. We’re going to follow the North Platte downstream, relishing its health and helping write future chapters of that story as we go.

Day 1: Pathfinder and Fremont Canyon

Fremont Canyon near Casper, Wyoming

Start just an hour southwest of Casper, on your route from Yellowstone, at Pathfinder Reservoir and National Wildlife Refuge. You can camp here or make it a day trip before grabbing dinner and a room in town. Pack sunscreen, a picnic with plenty of water, and a sense of adventure. Pathfinder Reservoir is known for its fishing year-round, and the nearby wildlife refuge is a great spot to get some birding and wildlife watching in. 

Hot Tip: If you don’t have the equipment or knowledge to hit Casper’s famous fisheries, there are a number of outstanding guides and fly shops in Casper who will be happy to ensure you get the most out of your time on the water.

Just a few miles from the Pathfinder Marina lies a hidden gem of the state: Fremont Canyon. You can approach this canyon a number of ways. Take a scenic drive with stops at stunning views for photo-ops, or put the car in park and cast a line. Or switch things up and head out for a hike, cycling adventure (biking is only allowed on paved roads), or even rock climbing up the walls of the canyon.

Collage of beer and views in Casper, Wyoming

Few things hit the spot after a day on the water like a cold, local brew and homemeade pizza, so grab a table at Gruner Brothers Brewing in town and toast to your first day following the river to and through Casper. Whether you overnight in town or at a campsite at Pathfinder Reservoir, you’ll hit the pillow with a tired, happy head.

Day 2: Alcova & Fishing into Casper

Aerial view of Alcova Resort near Casper, Wyoming

If you camp, wake to the sounds of birdsong from your campsite near Pathfinder Reservoir and enjoy the sunrise as you prepare to follow the North Platte east. If you stayed in town, enjoy the sunrise during your short 30-minute drive to Alcova Reservoir.

When you arrive, lace up your hiking boots for a quest for dinosaur fossils! The trails around Alcova will lead you to fossils, great hiking, and of course, fishing and water sports. Grab lunch at the Alcova Resort Lakeside Grill before following the North Platte further east.

The stretch of the North Platte between Alcova and Casper is full of public access points and outstanding fishing (remember, if you want tips, reach out to a local guide). So whether you’re planning a riverside picnic or a full afternoon and evening of casting lines, you’ll find plenty of places along the Miracle Mile or Grey Reef to suit your needs as you drift closer to Casper itself.

Fish and fisherman on North Platte River

When you reach the city limits, the fishing doesn’t have to stop, and neither do the water sports. But first, dinner. We recommend catching some live music, sipping local beer, and enjoying food truck options at Frontier Brewing in the heart of the city.

Day 3: River Town Life

Collage of activities on Casper Mountain

Rise and shine, and start your day with a coffee and a dose of art at Scarlow’s. Today you’ll venture away from the river to the mountain. Though the North Platte River runs through the heart of the city, Casper Mountain is probably the city’s most recognizable feature. From hiking and mountain biking to skiing and camping, the wildlife, waterfalls, and forest offer up all kinds of accessible outdoor recreation. Spend the day trying it all, or pick one activity and go all in!

Since you spent your “River Life” day on the mountain, it only makes sense to grab a meal and cocktail made with local spirits at Backwards Distillery! Don’t worry—opposite day ends here and you can get back to your Wyoming Waters vacation.

Day 4: Walk/Float/Drift Casper

Horses pulling covered wagon, wooly mammoth in Casper museums

The Platte River Trails meander throughout Casper, giving you the opportunity to check out most of the city’s 7 wonders and learn about the Western history at your own pace (and by your chosen mode of transportation!). You can float sections of the river on a paddle board or inner tube, or just stroll about Casper, crossing the river as you go.

As you get to know Casper, be sure to spend some time at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022. You’ll learn all about the early days before Casper even existed, when the pristine river ran past what became the Oregon Trail, and when it later became Fort Caspar. Step even farther back in time at the Tate Geological Museum, where you can see far more—and more massive—fossils than those you found at Alcova.

After a full day of strolling and SUPing, learning and meandering, treat yourself for your final dinner in Casper at FireRock Steakhouse.

Day 5: Downriver and Beyond

Aerial view of downtown Casper

Enjoy a leisurely morning in downtown Casper sipping coffee and nibbling at pastries while you squeeze in one last shopping stop or museum lesson. Just outside of town and downriver, Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park offers the perfect place to solidify that calm vacation mentality. Stroll through the park, watch and listen for local bird species, cast your line into the water, or jump in the swimming pond for one more intersection between your story and all the stories the North Platte has seen over the generations.

Only one thing remains to be determined: when will you next step in this river?

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Photo courtesy of @Ronakp967 via Instagram.


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