Friday, January 28, 2011

Sinks Canyon - Wyoming!

My blog is devoted almost entirely to landscapes of the Colorado Plateau, as it is my favorite place which coincidentally happens to be located in my backyard. Occasionally I venture further afield than northern Arizona and Utah, and last summer I took advantage of extra free time and pushed farther north into Wyoming.

It was a trip into the past, as I once lived and worked in the Cowboy State. I came here first in the mid-1980's, drawn by vast open spaces and the fascinating frontier history of the area. I was fortunate enough to find a job in Cody for the summer, which was an amazing experience. That introduction led me to explore the entire state, and on that first journey I stumbled upon what I consider one of the most interesting and beautiful State Parks found anywhere in the west - Sinks Canyon

Over the years I returned to Wyoming several times to work and play, and Sinks Canyon became a favorite destination. It has changed very little in the last two decades, and I was happy to spend a few days reacquainting myself with the sights and sounds of this fascinating area. Located at the southern end of the rugged Wind River Mountains just north of Lander, Sinks Canyon was carved by the tumbling Popo Agie River. Popo Agie is pronounced “poe-poe-zhuh” with the “zhuh” sounding like the “sia” on the end of amnesia. The meaning translates as something like "gurgling river" and is from the Crow Indian language.

The forested canyon and boulder strewn torrent of the river are beautiful in their own right, however what makes the area even more interesting is the "mystery" of the river, specifically a phenomena called the Sinks, which gives the canyon its name.

The river, which boils and seethes in the channel upstream, disappears from the surface at the Sinks, going underground for nearly half a mile. It emerges in a much more subdued manner at the "Rise", a long pool filled with very fat and happy fish.

I say fat and happy because the fish are protected - no fishing is allowed at the Rise. In addition, State Park staff have provided a coin operated vending machine dispensing fish food, which visitors are all too happy to plug money into. The fish spend their day hovering beneath the viewing platform, waiting for the rain of nuggets from above. Fighting over food seems to be the extent of activity they get, but I'm sure they don't mind.

For those seeking an educational experience about the geology of the region including the Sinks, the Park has a small but excellent Visitor Center with exhibits and information regarding different facets of the canyon, including wildlife displays and historical artifacts from the earliest inhabitants.

One of my favorite aspects of the Park is a campground located on the banks of the river. Those who need all the bells and whistles for their RVs take note - there are no hookups, the sites are small, and only pit toilets exist for sanitation. Even so, there are more positives than negatives here. Most sites are within 25 feet of the water, and the white noise of the river provides a soothing backdrop for relaxing and sleeping.

Another great feature here is the Volksmarch Trail - volksmarch is a german word meaning "people walk". This nearly 10 mile long hike leads upstream to Popo Agie Falls, following the river high on the east bank through meadows and forest. Those who want a less strenuous outing can walk the much shorter Nature Trail, a one mile loop just across the river from the campground. Beautiful summer flowers abound along the way, inviting visitors to stop and admire the display.

In my book, Sinks Canyon is about as good as it gets, especially for a State Park right off the highway. The spectacular canyon setting includes interesting geology and a raging river at the doorstep of my camper, as well as great hiking and wildlife watching. It's a worthwhile destination, and I'm looking forward to another visit in the near future.

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