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One of the best-kept secret lake destinations in Northwestern Wyoming is spectacular Fremont Lake. Formed by nature when glaciers gouged out a deep trench along the western slope of the Wind River Mountain Range, the lake was dammed by glacial deposits far back in pre-history. A full eleven miles long but only half a mile wide, Fremont Lake reaches a depth of 607 feet, the deepest lake in Wyoming. Surrounded by mostly public lands under the control of the Bureau of Land Management, Fremont Lake is just one of the many high mountain lakes hidden within this area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Clean and cold, with steep slopes protecting much of the shoreline, Fremont Lake serves as the main water source for the Town of Pinedale about three miles to the south. A few summer homes and one resort lodge occupy the south shoreline, but the only other signs of human intervention along the 22-mile shoreline are the three Forest Service Campgrounds and the occasional hiker or backpacker.
Located 100 miles north of Rock Springs and 75 miles south of Jackson Hole, Fremont Lake hides its charms quite effectively to those not looking for it. Locally, Fremont Lake has all sorts of reasons that residents and visitors are drawn to it. A small natural sandy beach at the south end invites swimmers and sun bathers, while two boat ramps allow for launching boats up to 35 feet long if water levels are normal. All types of watercraft are allowed to enjoy the water, offering such watersports as water skiing, tubing, sailing, wind-surfing, canoeing, kayaking and power-boating. A few private docks also offer boat access to the water by invitation only. The resort here includes a marina which offers boat gas, seasonal slips, bait, parking and rentals of pontoons, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and jet boats. Subject to regular winds sweeping down from the surrounding mountains in the afternoons, a local boat club regularly meets here for sailboat races, club outings and regattas. The Forest Service Campground along the northeast shore is only accessible by either trail or boat, and boat-camping is a popular pastime. Although most nearby large lakes are dammed, Fremont Lake has only a small weir across the Pine Creek outlet that can raise water levels almost two feet when needed.
Bragging rights belong to many fishermen who have managed to catch one of Fremont Lake's legendary 40-pound mackinaws. Rainbow trout, brook trout and Kokanee salmon also live in the lake. Unlike many deep lakes, Fremont Lake studies show that there is good oxygen saturation even at great depths within the lake, offering excellent cold water fishery opportunities. The lake freezes over by January and is frozen until May, so ice fishing is popular in all areas of the lake. Fishing derbies are held both summer and winter, sponsored by the local boat club. A series of small artificial wetland areas called the 'CCC' Ponds offer vital spawning habitat, nature interpretive programs, and a children's fishing day. Because the water is exceedingly clean and used for drinking water, authorities are necessarily protective of the water quality. Reservations for the campgrounds are suggested and dispersed camping, although allowed, is prohibited within 200 feet of the waterline or incoming streams. And because this is bear country, campers much follow strict rules about food storage and make use of the provided bear-proof containers.
Although there are no designated hiking trails near Fremont Lake, game trails are plentiful and often used for access to the backcountry. The Bridger Wilderness and its neighbor, the Gros Ventre Wilderness, encompass three mountain ranges, over a thousand small lakes, and over 1.2 million acres of designated Wilderness within the 3.4 million-acre Bridger-Teton National Forest. The highest mountain in Wyoming, 13,804-foot Gannett Peak, is located within the Bridger Wilderness.
Nearby New Forks and Half Moon Lakes offer trailheads with parking and corrals. Self registration for hikers, particularly those planning a multi-day hike, is available at the trailheads. Weather can change here quickly, with snow possible every month of the year, so hikers should always be prepared for inclement weather. Hikers can obtain trail maps and any necessary permits from the nearest Forest Service office. Inexperienced hikers may avail themselves of the services of local outfitters who supply and lead horseback treks and camping trips into the backcountry under special license with the Forest Service. Many trails are very remote, and the nearest town may be over 50 miles away. Cell phone service is mostly non-existent so backcountry hikers must be fully prepared and preferably very experienced.
The Town of Pinedale considers itself the gateway to Fremont Lake and the nearby wilderness areas. The local area is becoming more popular as its recreational opportunities become better known. A nearby ski resort offers all types of snow and skiing activities without the huge crowds sometimes seen at Jackson Hole. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing. sledding, winter trekking and ice climbing are all available near Pinedale and Fremont Lake. Many of the roads are seasonal but offer opportunities for wildlife viewing and nature observation year-round. Besides black bear and grizzly bear in the surrounding wilderness, other large mammals such as pronghorn, elk, mule deer, moose and bighorn sheep call this area home. Eagles, wolves, mountain lion, lynx and bobcat inhabit the surrounding area.
The Town of Pinedale holds strong historic links to the past as the area was a regular haunt of the fur traders of the early 1800s. Some trappers camped at the south end of Fremont Lake for over ten years. At least six of the big Beaver Hat Rendezvous were held near Fremont Lake in the Green River Valley. That history is kept alive in Pinedale with activities centering around the local Museum of The Mountain Man. The museum itself is open from May to November and offers standing exhibits of fur trapping tools, weaponry, artifacts of both the European trappers and the local Native American tribes who often supplied many of the furs and camped together with the trappers. Children's hands-on exhibits, living history demonstrations, Plains Indian interpretive discussions and a live Mountain Man camp are just a few of the activities that go on during Living History Days and the Annual Green River Rendezvous held near the museum each summer. The festivities spread to the Town of Pinedale, where a Green River Rendezvous Pageant and associated festivities provide fun and food for all who visit.
Although there are few private rentals directly at Fremont Lake, the resort there accepts guests and provides activities and guided tours. The Town of Pinedale itself holds all types of lodgings from small motels and chain hotels to bed & breakfasts, guest cabins and RV campgrounds. A number of other resort properties and guest lodgings are located along Highway 191 which becomes Pinedale's Main Street and attracts many visitors traveling to Jackson Hole or on north to Yellowstone. With much of the surrounding area in Federal or State hands, there is still some private real estate that can be found for sale. Pinedale is big enough to provide all necessary services yet small enough that visitors quickly encounter that friendly, small-town camaraderie experienced across rural North America. So, plan a trip to Pinedale and spend a few days enjoying Fremont Lake.
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