CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Some residents in central Wyoming were put on notice Friday to be ready to evacuate because of record flooding along the Wind River, which overflowed into an old river channel that hadn’t seen flowing water in decades.
A rapidly melting mountain snowpack is overwhelming many rivers and streams in central and western Wyoming, and forecasters expect the situation to worsen through the weekend.
Besides the Wind River in Fremont County, flooding was occurring along the Green River in southwest Wyoming, the South Fork of the Shoshone in Park County and the Greybull River in Park and Big Horn counties.
The high water has closed one highway and washed out backcountry roads and bridges. In addition, it has forced closure of camping and boating access in some recreation areas.
In Fremont County, the Wind River is flowing at record levels, exceeding 12 feet (3.66 meters) at Riverton on Friday afternoon.
The river was so high that is flowing into an old river channel about 6 miles west of Riverton, Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Kathi Metzler said Friday.
“One of the local residents there … has been there for 60 years, and he said he’d never seen this,” Metzler said.
The water could cause problems along a canal that runs through Riverton, a city of about 11,000 residents, she said.
“Depending on the volume of water there, we may have issues with that because that’s a supply canal that comes right into town, around the golf course and into town,” Metzler said.
A ditch was cut to drain the wayward water back into the Wind River west of Riverton, and the action appeared to be working Friday afternoon, she said.
So far, there have been no reports of homes being damaged with water in Fremont County, although several rural homes have been isolated by water washing out their main access road, she said. The occupants have remained in their homes.
A 10-mile (16 kilometer) stretch of U.S. Highway 26, which runs along the Wind River, remained closed Friday west of Riverton because of water flowing over a section of road.
The U.S. Forest Service reported that runoff has damaged several roads, a trail and a campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in northwest Wyoming.
Tent camping sites along the Popo Agie River at the Sinks Canyon State Park in Fremont County were closed for safety reasons until the water recedes. The park remained open.
And the Wyoming Game and Fish Department temporarily closed several of its boat and fishing access areas along the Green and New Fork rivers in southwest Wyoming because the high water had damaged boat ramps, access roads and parking areas. It also warned people not to float the rivers until the water recedes.