This report gives results of an investigation by the U. S. Geological Survey of chemical quality of surface waters and sedimentation in the Wind River Basin, Wyo. The sedimentation study was begun in 1946 to determine the quantity of sediment that is transported by the streams in the basin; the probable sources of the sediment; the effect of large irrigation projects on sediment yield, particularly along Fivemile Creek; and the probable specific weight of the sediment when initially deposited in a reservoir. The study of the chemical quality of the water was begun in 1945 to obtain information on the sources, nature, and amounts of dissolved material that is transported by streams and on the suitability of the waters for different uses. Phases of geology and hydrology pertinent to the sedimentation and chemical quality were studied. Results of the investigation through September 30, 1952, and some special studies that were made during the 1953 and 1954 water years are reported.
The rocks in the Wind River Basin are granite, schist, and gneiss of Precambrian age and a thick series of sedimentary strata that range in age from Cambrian to Recent. Rocks of Precambrian and Paleozoic age are confined to the mountains, rocks of Mesozoic age crop out along the flank of the Wind River and Owl Creek Mountains and in denuded anticlines in the floor of the basin, and rocks of Tertiary age cover the greater part of the floor of the basin. Deposits of debris from glaciers are in the mountains, and remnants of gravel-capped terraces of Pleistocene age are on the floor of the basin. The lateral extent and depth of alluvial deposits of Recent age along all the streams are highly variable.
The climate of the floor of the basin is arid. The foothills probably receive a greater amount of intense rainfall than the areas at lower altitudes. Most precipitation in the Wind River Mountains falls as snow. The foothill sections, in general, are transitional zones between the cold, humid climate of the high mountains and the warmer, drier climate of the basin floor.
Average annual runoff in the basin is about 3.6 inches on the basis of adjusted streamflow records for the Bighorn River near Thermopolis. Runoff from the mountains is high and is mostly from melting of snow and from spring and early summer rains. It does not vary greatly from year to year because annual water losses are small in comparison to annual precipitation. In the areas on the floor of the basin, where runoff is low, the runoff is mostly the result of storms in late spring and early summer. The annual water losses nearly equal the annual precipitation; therefore, runoff is extremely variable, in terms of percentage changes, from year to year and from point to point during any 1 year.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Sedimentation and chemical quality of surface waters in the Wind River basin, Wyoming
Water Supply Paper
x, 336 p. :ill., maps (12 folded in pocket) ;24 cm.