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Pinedale Online > News > June 2005 > Big Sandy current conditions

Snow covered mountains. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Snow covered mountains

Jackass Pass is still snow-covered and Cirque of the Towers is not accessible.

Road Closed. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Road Closed
The road is closed at the beaver ponds, about 4 miles from the end.

4-Wheeling Fun. Photo by Pinedale Online.
4-Wheeling Fun
There are miles of roads to explore with ATVs in the Big Sandy area.

Campers on the Lander Trail. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Campers on the Lander Trail
These campers are along the Lander Cutoff of the Oregon Trail along the way to the Big Sandy Opening.

Dutch Joe Creek Bridge. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Dutch Joe Creek Bridge
There are many dispersed camping spots along the way. The road is closed about a mile past this bridge. There are dispersed camping spots on both sides of this bridge and in many places along this road.
Big Sandy current conditions
Road still not open to top yet
by Dawn Ballou
June 12, 2005

The Big Sandy campground and trailhead access road are still closed about four miles from the end, as of June 11th. We took a drive up that way on Saturday to scope out current conditions and see how far the road is open.

Quick summary: The road is open and dry to about a mile past the bridge over Dutch Joe Creek, with just a couple spots of remnant snow. There is a ROAD CLOSED sign in the middle of the road at the beaver ponds just before the road starts to climb. This is about 4 miles short of the campground, Big Sandy Lodge and wilderness trailhead access.

For those who want to hike the Continental Divide Trail or get over to Cirque of the Towers, those trips should be planned for July/August. There is plenty of hiking at lower elevations right now, but the high country and mountains still have a lot of snow. It will still be about another full month before Jackass Pass is free of snow to cross to the other side of the Continental Divide, and the climbing rocks are snow-free.

The drive to Big Sandy is beautiful right now, with signs of spring everywhere. The aspen trees are starting to get their leaves and have that fresh light green color. Roads are dry and great for 4-wheeling. There already are campers up there and people fishing and 4-wheeling, with many dispersed camping spots available to those who want to tent or dry-RV camp.

This makes a great long day drive or destination for an early spring camping outing. Itís remote and far from services, so be sure to have a full tank of gas and a good spare tire along. Access is via Boulder Highway 353 south of Pinedale, following the signs to Big Sandy Campground along the gravel Lander Cutoff Road.

Bring whatever food and drinks everyone will want for the whole day, because there are no services once you leave Boulder (or Farson if coming up from the south). Some maps still indicate a town called Big Sandy along the way, but this is just an intersection with some homes and no services.

Big Sandy is about 60 miles one way from Pinedale, most of which is on back country gravel and rough dirt roads. It's slow going in places, so be sure to plan for plenty of time so you won't be rushed. If youíve never been up there before, bring a map because the route getting there is a bit confusing. Maps and directions are available from MapQuest.com website. Big Sandy Lodge also has a good map with directions on their website: www.big-sandy-lodge.com.

The last ten miles of the road are the steepest and roughest. There are some muddy spots in the valley bottom, but the rest is in relatively good condition. We saw sedans, trucks, campers and RVs in dispersed campspots as far up as the Dutch Joe bridge. The Forest Service advises a maximum 22 foot RV length limit. We recommend a high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle, rather than a sedan, especially when the road is wet.

The views of the snow-capped mountains are awesome. Big Sandy Opening is located at the southern end of the Wind River Mountain Range, the heart of the Rocky Mountains and Continental Divide. The open fields are brilliant with blooming yellow buttercups. Wild strawberries are blooming along the roadside and will have berries in late summer. Big Sandy Creek is running a bit brown in color yet, but not particularly fast or high. The terrain is dry enough for hiking in the forest and there are miles of two track back roads for exploring on 4-wheelers.

Mosquitoes are out.

Day-time temperatures are t-shirt weather, evenings and nights get cold, so bring clothes to layer, including a coat. This time of year, the weather can go from warm and sunny in the morning, to afternoon thunderstorms with rain and lightning, to waking up to 4 inches of new snow overnight. We recommend being prepared for changeable weather.

Photos by Clint Gilchrist and Dawn Ballou



Related Links
  • Map to Big Sandy - Map courtesy Big Sandy Lodge
  • Area Campgrounds
  • Big Sandy Lodge
  • Continental Divide Hiking Trail Map
  • Continental Divide Hiking Trail Information
  • Wyoming Section of the CDT

  • Dutch Joe Creek. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Dutch Joe Creek
    The water is running a bit brown, but is not too high or fast.

    Big Sandy Opening. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Big Sandy Opening
    Yellow buttercups cover this field along the Big Sandy road.

    Forest Boundary sign. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Forest Boundary sign
    The Big Sandy area is partly on BLM and part Bridger-Teton National Forest.

    Cattle Guard. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Cattle Guard
    This is a cattle guard. They are located along fencelines in the road to keep cattle from getting out of designated areas. The open section of fence just off to the left side is where cattle can get through when being moved.

    Wild Strawberries. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Wild Strawberries
    These wild strawberry plants were growing right next to the road by Dutch Joe Creek bridge.

    New leaves on the aspens. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    New leaves on the aspens
    Leaves have just come on the aspen trees on the Big Sandy road.

    Dutch Joe Guard Station. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Dutch Joe Guard Station
    Dutch Joe Guard Station is dwarfed at the base of the snow-capped Wind River Mountains. Elevation here is close to 9,000 feet.

    Cloud Reflections in Ponds. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Cloud Reflections in Ponds
    There are ponds everywhere in the Big Sandy Opening, making delightful cloud and mountain reflections.

    Sign to Big Sandy. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Sign to Big Sandy
    Watch for signs at the intersections for the way to Big Sandy.

    Pronghorn Antelope. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Pronghorn Antelope
    Pronghorn, commonly called antelope, are common in the sagebrush hills on the way to Big Sandy.

    Lander Cutoff Road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Lander Cutoff Road
    The Lander Cutoff Road closely follows the original Lander Trail route. Watch for wooden and concrete marker posts beside the road showing the location of the old historic trail.

    Sheep on road. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Sheep on road
    The road near Buckskin Crossing has been regraded and isn't as soft and sandy as before. This is open range for sheep.

    One Red Sheep. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    One Red Sheep
    You've heard of putting one black sheep in with the flock?

    Buckskin Cattle Drive. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Buckskin Cattle Drive
    Ranchers move a small herd of cattle along the road at Buckskin Crossing on the way to Big Sandy on Saturday.

    Historical Marker at Buckskin Crossing. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Historical Marker at Buckskin Crossing
    This crosing of the Big Sandy River is named after trapper and hunter Buckskin Joe who had a cabin here in the mid-1800s.

    Big Sandy Creek. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Big Sandy Creek
    Big Sandy Creek at Buckskin Crossing. This was an important resting point for emigrants using the Lander Cutoff of the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s.

    Lander Trail Grave Marker. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Lander Trail Grave Marker
    This marker is for eight graves along the Lander Cutoff of the Oregon Trail at Buckskin Crossing on the way to Big Sandy.

    Desert Paintbrush. Photo by Pinedale Online.
    Desert Paintbrush
    In the spring, beautiful wildflowers bloom even in the dry desert country. These were seen along the road near Buckskin Crossing.
    Pinedale Online > News > June 2005 > Big Sandy current conditions

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