WHMA / WHMA / Chain Lakes


Public Access Area Open: Open year-round
Recreation Opportunities: Hunting, Trapping, Camping, Hiking, Wildlife Viewing
Additional Restrictions: Weed free certified hay only
Total Acres: 62386.6

Wyoming is famous for its pronghorn antelope.  Approximately 32 miles northwest of Rawlins in the Red Desert, Chain Lakes Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA) provides winter habitat for antelope, and protects movement routes for pronghorn traveling between summer and winter ranges.

This part of the Red Desert averages six inches of precipitation annually, and its topography is a flat-to-gently rolling steppe.  The elevation ranges from 6,500 feet at the lakes to 6,750 feet on Chain Lakes rim -- the dominant topographical feature of this area.  Sagebrush grassland communities dominate most of the area, while greasewood grows along the basins around the "Chain of Lakes.” The area is treeless and the lakes are natural drainage depressions without outlets.  Some artesian flows drain into the surrounding wetlands.

Hunters may enjoy stalking pronghorns, elk, rabbits, coyotes, and sage grouse at Chain Lakes WHMA. If you enjoy photography, there are more than 100 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles in this area to capture on film.  The "Chain of Lakes" is an important resting area for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. April is an excellent time to observe many unique migrating shorebirds.  One may see plovers, sandpipers, willets, American avocets, phalaropes, herons, curlews, and yellowlegs, among others, which nest in the arctic, passing through the area.

A large population of feral horses lives in the Red Desert.  These horses are a common sight at Chain Lakes. An artesian well and several solar-powered water wells provide dependable and quality water sources for the pronghorn, horses, as well as other wildlife.  The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts periodic feral horse roundups to control numbers and prevent habitat damage from overgrazing. The BLM offers these horses for adoption to anyone interested in owning one.

In recent years, an abundance of oil and gas exploration has occurred on Chain Lakes WHMA. The western portion of the WHMA is in the northern end of the Continental Divide-Creston oil and gas field.  Currently, there is a considerable amount of industrial infrastructure and oilfield-associated traffic. Those wishing a quieter experience may wish to avoid this part of the WHMA.

This eastern portion of this large management area is ideal for wildlife watching without much human interference.  However, a note of caution -- watch the weather. A rainstorm or snowstorm can hinder vehicle travel due to muddy or snow-drifted roads.

A 14-day camping limit is in effect in designated camping areas within the WHMA.

Chain Lakes is open all year.


For questions about this Public Access Area, please contact:
Lander Regional Office

260 Buena Vista Dr.
Lander, WY 82520
ph: (307) 332-2688
Visit our Region Page

Last Updated: 6/28/2019
*Some boundary areas are missing and will be updated as soon as possible.
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