Wood River Above Middle Fork





Protecting what’s left of habitat for native fish like Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a high priority for the department. Habitat protection for any fish species begins with making sure there’s enough water so the other physical parts of fish habitat – the rocks, riffles and pools – can function to sustain a species over time. Protecting water with instream flow rights is identified in the Water Management Section’s five-year plan as one of the key factors for selecting streams where instream flow water rights are needed. Our filing here was designed to protect existing habitat for all life stages of trout including habitat for spawning, rearing, adults, and over-winter survival.
The Wood River is typical of many streams flowing off the Absaroka Mountain Range. The Absaroka’s are young mountains of volcanic origin, resulting in streams that are fairly steep gradient, which means water velocity is high, stream bottom materials are relatively large, the number of pools is somewhat low, stream turbidity is high following measurable precipitation and overall trout productivity is relatively low. However the stream provides important habitat for native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The average trout in this segment runs about 9 or 10 inches long however there are some larger fish in deeper pools. In terms of numbers, the most abundant trout are less than 6 inches long – a reflection of the fact that this segment plays a critical role providing spawning and rearing habitat. Mountain whitefish are also found in this stream segment and non-native brook trout are found on occasion too. For best action consider using wooly worms or other streamers in about a size 8 to 12. Spinning gear also works with any of the usual trout spinners like Blue Fox, Mepps or Panther Martins. The creel limit here is six fish only two of which may be cutthroat trout and only one fish (total) may be over 16 inches long.
From the confluence with Jojo Creek down to the Forest Service boundary above M. Fork Wood River.
From Meeteetse, take state highway 290 about 7 miles west of town. Take the Wood River Road to the southwest at this point where the highway splits. Stay on this road another 18 miles or so until reaching the U.S. Forest Service Wood River campground.
Gold and silver drew some of the first European Americans to the Wood River in the late 1800’s. By 1895 the boom was in full swing and the new community of Kirwin boasted over 200 people and nearly 40 buildings. Kirwin was located along the stream high up in the drainage (9,000 feet above sea level) and life there was always a tough business. The grade of ore was never very good, winters were extremely harsh, and just getting there was a challenge. By 1907, just 10 years after the first ore was hauled out by mule, folks decided they’d had enough and shut everything down. Hunting and fishing became the next commercial venture when privately owned lands around the former town were purchased and a dude ranch started up in the 1930’s. Ultimately, the U.S. Forest Service acquired most of the area where Kirwin had been and restored the town to public domain. It’s a full day’s trip via four-wheel drive to reach Kirwin today but some of the original structures still stand. A visit today offers a great opportunity to experience Wyoming history and get in some outstanding angling.