Discover the only place where the Continental Divide splits, creating a large impressive circular basin where the water does not flow into the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans, but into a succession of ponds and saltflats in an area known as the Chain-of-Lakes. Native shrubs such as sagebrush, saltbush, and active sand dunes primarily dominate the Basin’s landscape.
The Crooks Gap Road to Bison Basin Road segment is a 24-mile stretch of the Continental Divide Trail located southeast of Lander and northwest of Rawlins. It is ripe with potential wilderness experiences, including wild horses. Brenton Springs, a perennial spring and stream 4 miles into this segment, offers the first water source. The landscape takes on a new character as the route heads out of the basin and up onto Crooks Mountain. It is rumored that “Crooks Gap” and “Crooks Mountain” were named perhaps as the site of an ambush or as a hideout for a gang of outlaws. The less exciting truth is that they were named after General George Crook, known as Gray Fox, a commander who maintained good relationships with the indigenous people.
In spite of the unrelenting sun, this segment of the Trail is very pleasurable. The zones vary from sagebrush, limber, pine, and an occasional cottonwood or aspen tree. Sagebrush is everywhere. Poor livestock food, sagebrush is nonetheless an important source of browse for elk, deer, and pronghorn during the winter. It also provides habitat for sage grouse and other birds. Native Americans have used the aromatic sage ceremonially for centuries. Be sure to check the BLM website for water updates. Contact: CDTC at 1-720-340-CDTC (2382) or Lander Field Office 307-332-8400.
Length: 30 miles.
Family Friendly Option: The Rim Lake South to Teton Reservoir is about a 5-mile hike on relatively flat terrain.
Directions: Drive 67 miles northwest of Rawlins on US 287 to the small town of Jeffrey City. From Jeffrey City, follow graded and well-maintained Crooks Gap Road south. Five miles south of Jeffrey City, a fork appears in the road. The right branch leads onto private land, so take the left fork and continue south. A sign says Wamsutter 52 miles, Sweetwater Mill 31. There is also a large sign for the Jackpot uranium mine of the side of Sheep Mountain. The CDT passes south and west of Crooks Peak, then follows the crest of a long massif beginning at Crooks Peak and knows as Crooks Mountain. At mile 12, the road crosses a cattleguard. Park south of the cattleguard on BLM administered land. The CDT follows just to the south of a fence, following a faint two-track heading west.
Maps: USGS 7.5 Quadrangles: Rendle Hill, Coal Mine Ridge, La March Creek West, BLM Surface Management Status: Bairoil, BLM Surface Management Status: South Pass
Other Information: Rawlins BLM-administered public lands in Wyoming –http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/programs/special_areas/Continental_Divide.html