“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Pinedale in Sublette County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)

The Green River Drift

National Register of Historic Places • Traditional Cultural Property

The Green River Drift Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, July 9, 2021
1. The Green River Drift Marker
Captions: (upper center-right) Cowboys at the Drift Fence in 2012. Left to right: Mike Beard, Red Dugan, Ty Swain, Albert Sommers, Coke Landers, Zach Roberts, Patty Roberts, Garland Swain, unknown.; (top right) Cowboys at the Drift Fence in 1921. Right to left: Ed Bailey, Vigo Miller Frank Belknap, Carl Jorgenson, Ora Seaton, unknown.
Inscription.  For more than than one hundred years, the Green River Drift cattle trail has connected the seasonal communal grazing lands to cattle ranches in the Upper Green River Valley. The trail is used by area ranchers to move livestock, using cowboys on horseback from spring grazing at the southern end of the trail to summer grazing at the northern end, and back to the home ranches in the fall. Experienced mother cows sense the change of seasons, helping lead herds to greening grass at progressively higher elevations, and back down as the weather cools. This movement of cattle in the Upper Green River Valley, from the Little Colorado Desert to the upper reaches of the Green River, has become known as the "Drift." and coincides with the migration of deer and antelope to mountain and valley habitats.
The trail was already in use when the "Equalizer Winter" of 1889-1890 established the Drift as an economic and environmental necessity. That particularly harsh winter, which killed 90 percent of the valley's cattle convinced ranchers to use their summer meadows to raise hay, while turning the cattle out to graze open range under the supervision of cowboys.
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Livestock headed home in the fall would be sustained through the winter months by the homegrown hay crop.
As rangeland transitioned to federal agency management in the early twentieth century, a monitored system was created for moving cattle through allotments, from Bureau of Land Management units in the valleys up to the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Originally stretching 150 miles, from Fontenelle Creek south of LaBarge, Wyoming, to Green River Lakes, the Drift cattle trail today extends approximately 68 miles, utilizing that route in much the same way it did a century ago.
Grazing is one of the oldest uses of public land. Ranchers share the land with the oil and gas industry, recreationalists, and others. The vast open space of the West is a result of ranching on a blend of private and public land. The Drift has existed for over 100 years due to good cooperation between private land owners, federal land management agencies, and participating ranches.

The Drift Fence & Fall Gather

The large fenced area surrounding this sign and the hilltop known as Trapper's Point, south of US 191, is a livestock sorting ground commonly called the "Drift Fence." It was built in 1921 with World War I wire and marks the most visible part of the Green River Drift.
In the spring and fall, cattle and wildlife migrate through
The Green River Drift Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, July 9, 2021
2. The Green River Drift Marker
Marker on the right.
the Drift Fence on their way to and from the mountains, using the nearby underpass and overpass.
During the fall gather, the Drift Fence serves its most important function. As cattle drift back down from the mountains, they are contained here. Every morning for two or three weeks, cowboys come to sort cattle by brand into separate ranch herds. This task requires the greatest skill of both cowboy and horse, highlighting their teamwork and endurance.
Cattle from nearby ranches are trailed home by cowboys. Cattle from more southerly ranches are turned out to continue down the trail, past Sommers Homestead, to be sorted and collected near State Highway 351.
Preserving and protecting the trail from this point northward has challenged ranchers. As open range transitioned to BLM allotments and deeded private land, the Drift trail began to narrow and become more difficult to connect to US Forest Service grazing land.
The first underpass was built in 1939, when the construction of US Highway 191 created a barrier for livestock and wildlife. North of US 191, a donation of private land from the Carroll Noble family resulted in the Noble Lane, a narrow driveway that preserves the trail along State Highway 352 past the town of Cora. The driveway widens as it crosses BLM land between Wright Hill and Marsh Creek, where cattle can access water and forage. An underpass
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at Marsh Creek funnels cattle under Highway 352 and into the Bloom Driveway, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938. The trail from the Drift Fence to the Forest is a mixture of private land and a specially designated BLM livestock driveway.
Erected by Sublette County Historic Preservation Board.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AgricultureRoads & Vehicles. A significant historical year for this entry is 1921.
Location. 42° 52.763′ N, 109° 58.926′ W. Marker is near Pinedale, Wyoming, in Sublette County. Marker can be reached from East Green River Road near U.S. 191. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Pinedale WY 82941, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Rendezvous - Birth of an Empire (within shouting distance of this marker); Upper Green River Rendezvous (within shouting distance of this marker); Rendezvous on the Green River (within shouting distance of this marker); Ancient Pronghorn Kill Site (within shouting distance of this marker); Wind River Mountains (within shouting distance of this marker); Welcome to the Riparian Community of Duck Creek (approx. 1.9 miles away); First Holy Mass in Wyoming (approx. 3.2 miles away); Pinckey W. Sublette (approx. 3.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pinedale.
More about this marker. This marker is located at the Trapper's Point Overlook.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 25, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 25, 2021, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 982 times since then and 50 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 25, 2021, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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May. 25, 2024