NOLS is an experienced Outdoor Survival School, headquartered in Lander and known world-wide for the classes offered in many other wilderness places. The Wind River range here offers a great place to learn how to survive in many challenging situations in nature. The school is in a lovely, historic building in the center of Lander. There are many other fascinating ways to fill your days at Lander, including a hunter’s haven, jeep trail treasure trove, and horseback riders’ delight. Just ask at the local Visitor Center in the train car in town what you wish to see and do. They will gladly help you plan your stay in the area. We particularly enjoyed seeing the beautiful craftsmanship of 20th Century tile and stain glass and wood work in the old hotel, which is now the headquarters for NOLS outdoor school, which teaches survival skills in the mountains, rivers, and forests.
Lander , Wyoming, is a great stopping place if you are driving from the East to Yellowstone National Park or Wind River Range for more adventures. This small town of about 6,000 is over 5,000 feet in elevation and is a great place to get used to the altitude before you start a hiking or exploration of the nearby beautiful outdoor sanctuaries. We arrived not knowing what to expect and decided to stay two days and nights in this delightful small town with its friendly people everywhere we turned. The town itself is so interesting with unique shops and great restaurants, bars, and coffee houses, and just outside the town is an Indian Casino.
We happened to chose to stay at Sleeping Bear Campground, which we found to be an unexpected delightful location for two night of camping or more. The private park , ideally located for beautiful views, has a quiet location overlooking town, which is in walking distance, and is very well run by a friendly couple, Mama and Papa Bear: Chris and Dave, who have served in every capacity of the RV campground business for many years and know just how to make you feel welcome, secure, and happy as campers in their RV park.
We took a delightful day trip from the campground to the Sink Canyon State Park. This beautiful place in the Wind River Range is where the Popo Agie River comes down its long and beautiful pathway, over rapids and waterfalls, through the ancient glacial moraine to reach a limestone underground passage and vanish. The mysterious disappearance of this beautiful river has never been fully explained, but scientists believe the water makes its own way through limestone openings and crevasses deep within the earth and then the water emerges a quarter mile below as it rises in the form of a gently bubbling spring and forms a quiet, clear pool with hundreds of large trout. At the visitor center you can purchase food to feed the fish and farther downstream you can fish in the Middle Popo Rise Lake. This land has been inhabited by people for at least 9,000 years, believed to be originally Crow (who named the river) and Shoshone tribes, of which Sakajawea was a member. Her grave is nearby at the town of Fort Washitia on the Wind River Reservation.
The drive through the Wind River Pass and the Shoshone Forest is worth the time. Red cliffs with colorful rock formations tower over the road on one side and giant grass covered hills on the other side of the road. The glacier that carved this pass millions of years ago left rocks revealing many different geological ages in its path, and these are identified in an educational outside display at the Sink Canyon VIsitor Center, which is open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Red Canyon Wildlife Habitat is another interesting and scenic drive through public/private land. The good asphalt road passes down deep into a valley where hundreds of elk and many other species of animals come to graze in winter as soon as the snows hit the peaks. This drive takes you through ranches and farms including the Red Canyon Ranch where the Visitor Center is quite educational and informative. If you don’t have time to make the interesting drive (about an hour) be sure to stop at the overlook on Highway 287 for photos and in winter to view the wildlife.