The Lower Wind River is not nearly as intense as the upper section, with bigger individual drops but a more forgiving pool-drop nature. This run is always combined with a run down Panther Creek, or it can be done in combination with the upper run, or alone.
A special note: You might want to take out at the hotsprings parking lot or somewhere nearby. There is a fee charged to park at the springs lot but you will avoid the dreaded one mile flatwater paddle out. Also, if you do park at the springs lot, be aware that cars have been broken into here before.
This run can and has been done at incredibly high and incredibly low flows. Phil Donofrio, Ron Blanchette, and others ran this section at ~15,000 cfs a year or so ago and Phil reported that once below high bridge there was a hole on the outside of a right turn "That you could have parallel parked a greyhound bus in..." If you decide to repeat this feat please take pictures, assuming you ever find an eddy or slow to under fifty miles per hour.
Phil told me later that when he got to the portage at Shipherds there was 6-12 inches of water running down the top of the fishladder, which made the portage rather exciting!
On the other end of the scale, locals sometimes do some kayak-assisted hiking down the river in the summertime to run Shepherds Falls at very low flows. I know that Jon Loehrke and others did it this last summer and had a great time once they got to the falls, which they ran several times.
Below the put in are a few small rapids, then boaters round the corner and drop into High Bridge Rapids, one of the most enjoyable rapids on the lower section. This long class IV boulder garden is fun and long with plenty of eddies.
Pete Giordano runs High Bridge Rapid.
Below High Bridge are many fun and easy class II-III drops, all with pools in between. The next big drop is The Flume, which is my favorite drop on this river. This raging chute is always a thrill- the only downside is that once you run it you can't hike up and do it again!
Josh Knapp drops into the Flume.
Just around the corner and one short drop downstream from the Flume (about 300 yards downstream) is Beyond Limits, a scary V+ waterfall that we always run down the fishladder on the left. This falls can be scouted or portaged on the left. This falls is very dangerous because the outflow at the bottom is backed up by rocks, creating a viciously sticky hole. Rescue would be very difficult if someone missed their line here, though I have seen folks run this in kayaks and rafts with no problems.
The next two photos show a sequence ( from above and below ) of James Bagley Jr. running the main line at Beyond Limits.
James squares up on the huge hole at Beyond Limits.
James emerges below Beyond Limits
photo by Pete Giordano
Once below the Falls be on the lookout for a small suspension bridge crossing the river. As soon as you see it get ready to portage Shipherds Falls on the left. Shipherds is class VI at regular flows, so be very careful when you approach it! Shoulder your boats and do a quick walk down the covered fishladder, then rope your boats up onto the cliff below the low head dam. It should be noted that this portage requires a rope and would be nearly impossible in icy conditions. This series of four falls would be a lot more runnable if it weren't for the fifth drop, a gnarly river wide low head dam. Dan Coyle and others have run the falls at winter flows but they portaged the low head dam. (Ok, I don't know how but Dan regularly does stuff that we can't figure out so that's not unusual...)
We never make the laborious hike down the cliff at the bottom because there is a quicker and much more entertaining way to get down- toss your boat off the cliff and jump in!
Some raft crews work through the portage at Shipherds Falls.
Martin Bauer ( visting from Germany ) takes the plunge off of the cliff below Shipherds Falls.
Below Shipherds is a nice hot springs on the left, then it is class II all the way to the takeout, with the last mile below the Hot Springs parking lot flatwater all the way.
In the photo below the river is medium-low and the gauge rock has both horns visible, and water is 'sloshing' up between the horns. This is an ok flow for the upper and lower, both runs are class IV, but Panther Creek won't be runnable.
MEDIUM (OPTIMAL) FLOW:
This photo below was taken just after we ran Panther Creek. The gauge rock is covered, but it is forming a wave-hole. At this flow the upper and lower are on the harder end of class IV, and Panther was running at a nice medium flow (about 22 inches on the Panther Creek bridge gauge).
I don't have any photos taken when the river was running higher, but suffice it to say when you arrive at the take-out and there are a series of large waves where the gauge rock usually is, expect a big water class five run.