Sublette County Historic Preservation Board 2014

The Drift

For more than one hundred years, the Green River Drift has functioned as the essential connector between seasonal grazing lands for cattle ranches in the Upper Green River Valley. It provides the route for Upper Green River Cattle Association members and other area ranchers to trail cattle from spring grazing at the southern end of the Drift to summer and fall grazing at the northern end. In the fall, the cattle "drift" back to the south on their own back to their home pastures along the well-worn route of the Drift. Adult cows know the way, and confidently lead their calves and the younger heifers along. The Green River Drift Trail extends for 58 miles, with an additional 41 miles of spurs, from high desert mesas in the southern part of the county to the Bridger-Teton National Forest in the northern part of the county. Established by 1896, the Green River Drift has functioned as the essential connector between seasonal grazing lands for cattle ranches in the Upper Green River Valley. The Drift continues to be used by area ranchers as well as those ranchers belonging to the Upper Green River Cattle Association to do their cattle operations. The path of the Drift made use of natural features such as draws and creeks to funnel the cattle onto a common path and provide a stable supply of water and feed. Overall, the overall route and use of the Drift today is very similar to its route and use in its early history. .
Ranches in the Upper Green River Valley region are dispersed along waterways and valleys that contain irrigable land for producing hay. Grazing land is located further out on the surrounding mesa, desert, foothill, and mountain pasture based on a spring, summer, fall, and winter feeding pattern. In the spring, starting from May 1- May 25, the cattle of the Association members graze Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allotments on the Little Colorado Desert or the Mesa. Spring grazing on BLM managed land lasts about two months - May through June. Cowboys start removing cattle from spring BLM pastures and trailing them up to 60 miles north beginning the middle of June and ending the middle of July. There is a 3 to 4- week period for trailing the cattle to the mountains from the time they are taken off the spring pasture until they are on the pasture systems on National Forest land. Each ranch's cattle herd is on the trail approximately two weeks. Summer grazing begins June 16 and lasts through October 15 of every year. Bulls are put in with cows in June and early July for the breeding season. The haying season corresponds with the summer grazing season. As cold weather arrives in the late fall, the cattle drift back out of the forest on their own, moving south back toward their home pastures. Strategically located fences direct their movement down to the sorting grounds where they are sorted by brand, rounded up and trailed to their respective home ranches, and shipped to market in October and November. In the winter, cattle graze on the hayed pastures and meadows back at the home ranch. As the pastures become snow-covered, the livestock are fed from the hay supply that grew in the same fields over the spring and summer. If a ranch was not able to grow enough hay for winter feeding all their cattle for five to six months, they need to either bring in additional hay to supplemental feed or ship cattle out so they don’t starve.
The Green River Drift follows the Green and New Fork Rivers for much of its route and has the Wind River Mountains as its backdrop to the north and east, the Wyoming Range in the far distance to the west, and the Gras Ventre Mountains to the north, in western Wyoming. Home Dedication The Drift Drift History Photo Gallery Contact

Green River Drift

Home Dedication The Drift Drift History Photo Gallery Contact
Photos courtesy Upper Green River Cattle Association
Some of the text on this page has been reproduced from the National Register nomination report: