A Diamond in the Rough: The Wind River Reservation

Riverton is in Fremont County, Wyoming. It’s at the southern edge of the Wind River Indian Reservation, and is home to vibrant Native American culture that dates back hundreds of years. Names like Chief Washakie, Jim Bridger, and Sacajawea, are just a few notable figures who have made Riverton the place it is today.
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This story has been created in partnership with the Wind River Hotel & Casino, Wyoming.

The city’s surroundings are stunning, and you can see why the Arapahoe and Shoshone tribes have a strong connection to it. Rolling plains coupled with sudden, protruding mountain ranges constitute the lands they call home.

Enter Yellowstone

It’s an ideal place to enter Yellowstone. You can head north to Cody, or west towards Dubois. Togwotee Pass is by far my favorite entry point to Yellowstone, which can be found heading west from Dubois, one hour from Riverton. As you meander over the pass, you’ll see the Tetons rise like daggers into the sky – it’s breathtaking.

Denver International Airport is little over five hours of scenic drive from Riverton or a 20 min flight to Riverton with Denver Air Connection. From Salt Lake City, it is also a five hour ride. The city prides itself on its close-proximity to the Yellowstone Loop – a renowned road trip that encapsulates the best bits of Yellowstone National Park. For Yellowstone expeditions, Riverton ticks all the boxes.

Accommodation near Yellowstone and great places to eat

Accommodation-wise, the Wind River Hotel & Casino offers comfortable, spacious rooms, and an array of great dining options, all reasonably priced. The Buffalo Restaurant caters dishes from Italy, Mexico, Mongolia and more. It’s a great place to have lunch before traveling into the reservation.

The Red Willow restaurant, also in the Casino, is an all day fine dining restaurant. There I enjoyed an excellent rib eye steak cooked rare and served with a side of mash, and roasted vegetables. Each steak has the option of adding a lobster tail, making for a delicious, filling meal. My second day I returned for lunch, and enjoyed a gorgeous lobster salad with a subtle, creamy blue cheese dressing.

Native American Art

The hotel honors its ancestry with an abundance of artworks, some of which are murals, and all produced by local talent. Nearby to one beautiful work of art by Eugene Ridgely Jr (AKA: Snowball) is the Experience Room. The Experience Room, opened just over seven years ago, highlights the Arapahoe people’s practical and artistic flare. You’ll also see that at the many authentic crafts shows hosted in the hotel throughout the year, where purchasing of reservation goods is made possible by the locals. The gift shops are open year around so you can take home a touch of this great people.

Deep history to match lively culture

There’s intriguing history behind the reservation and within the Arapahoe culture. I loved the Experience Room because I had the opportunity to have it all explained to me, in detail, by elders of the tribe. It’s unique and incredibly insightful. I spoke with Gary – a hardy elder who’s lived in Riverton all his life.
Timelessness was a major talking point, likewise a feeling of connectedness because of the land, of the past and present.

“We’ve been here forever – more than 10,000 years. That means a lot to me. We’ve been here since the beginning of time. We carry on, persevere.”

Gary informed me of the undying passion within its boundaries. There’s a sensibility for beauty, humanism, and tradition, and you’ll see it all over as you meander the Wind River Indian Reservation. In the summer, dances like pow wows are performed weekly by both the youth and the elders, so to honor their traditions and express their passion. The Arapahoe Tribe heart and character stands out greatly. I’ll be returning soon.

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