The area of this investigation is in the western part of the Wind River Basin and includes parts of the Absaroka, Washakie, Wind River, and Owl Creek Mountains. The purposes of the study were to determine the general hydrologic properties of the rocks in the area and the occurrence and quality c f the water in them. Structurally, the area is a downfolded basin surrounded by upfolded mountain ranges. Igneous and metamorphic rocks of Precambrian age are exposed in the mountains: folded sedimentary rocks representing all geologic periods, except the Silurian, crop out along the margins of the basin; and relatively flat-lying Tertiary rocks are at the surface in the central part of the basin. Surficial sand and gravel deposits of Quaternary age occur along streams and
underlie numerous terraces throughout the basin.
The potential yield and quality of water from most rocks in the area are poorly known, but estimates are possible, based on local well data and on data concerning similar rocks in nearby areas. Yields of more than 1,000 gpm are possible from the rocks comprising the Bighorn Dolomite (Ordovician), Darby Formation (Devonian), Madison Limestone (Mississippian), and Tensleep Sandstone (Pennsylvanian). Total dissolved solids in the water range from about 300 to 3,000 ppm.
Yields of as much as several hundred gallons per minute are possible from the Nugget Sandstone (Jurassic? and Triassic?). Yields of 20 gpm or more are possible from the Crow Mountain Sandstone (Triassic) and Sundance Formation (Jurassic). Dissolved solids are generally high but are less than 1,000 ppm near outcrops in some locations.
The Cloverly and Morrison (Cretaceous and Jurassic), Mesaverde (Cretaceous) and Lance(?) (Cretaceous) Formations may yield as much as several hundred gallons per minute, but most wells in Cretaceous rocks yield less than 20 gpm. Dissolved solids generally range from 1,000 to 5,000 ppm but may be higher. In some areas, water with less than 1,000 ppm dissolved solids may be available from the Cloverly and Morrison Formations.
Tertiary rocks yield a few to several hundred gallons per minute and dissolved solids generally range from 1,000 to 5,000 ppm. Wells in the Wind River Formation (Eocene) yield about 1.-500 gpm of water having dissolved solids of about 200-5,000 ppm.
Yields of a few to several hundred gallons per minute are available from alluvium (Quaternary). Dissolved solids range from about 200 to 5,000 ppm. Many parts of the Wind River Irrigation Project have become waterlogged. The relation of drainage problems to geology and the character and thickness of rocks in the irrigated areas are partly defined by sections drawn on the basis of test drilling. The drainage-problem areas are classified according to geologic similarities into five general groups: flood plains, terraces, underfit-stream valleys, slopes, and transitional areas.
Drainage can be improved by open drains, buried drains, relief wells, and pumped wells or by pumping from sumps or drains. The methods that will be most successful depend on the local geologic and hydrologic conditions. In several areas, the most effective means of relieving the drainage problem would be to reduce the amount of infiltration of water by lining canals and ditches and by reducing irrigation water applications to the optimum.
Water from underground storage in alluvium could supplement water from surface storage in some areas. A few thousand acre-feet of water per square mile are in storage in some of the alluvium. The use of both surface and underground storage would reduce the need for additional surface-storage facilities and also would alleviate drainage problems in the irrigated areas.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Ground-water resources of the Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming