Clear water from Granite Creek flows into the muddy Hoback River at their confluence along U.S. 191 through Hoback Canyon. Pinedale resident David Rule shot the image with a drone. (David Rule/@davidmrule)

Travelers through the Hoback Canyon linking Bondurant and Hoback Junction see an interesting sight each spring when rivers begin to clear.

At the confluence of Granite Creek and the Hoback River, easily seen from U.S. 191, the two flows merge, creating a visual study in dilution.

For several weeks, Granite Creek runs clear while the Hoback remains off-color. Granite Creek drains parts of the Gros Ventre Wilderness where, as the creek’s name indicates, hard rock dominates. The Hoback originates in the Wyoming Range where there’s a decidedly different geology, including easily eroded layers of sand and mud. Both waterways are in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Hoback flows through some private land.

The two spring flows stay separated for several hundred yards after they meet before finally mingling into a single hue.

David Rule of Pinedale wrote on his Facebook page about noticing the confluence while driving between his home and Jackson and recently deciding to “send up the drone for a new perspective.” You can follow Rule on Instagram; @davidmrule.

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The Hoback River is about 55 miles long, drains some 600 square miles and is undammed. It is protected under the 2009 Snake River Headwaters Legacy Act as a recreational river. The federal safeguard covers the waterway in Teton County for 10 miles upstream from its confluence with the Snake River.

The federal law also protects Granite Creek, except its lowest few hundred yards which run through Sublette County, as a wild and scenic river. Wyoming also granted instream flow rights for the creek in 2015. Wyoming Game and Fish Department determined it had “statewide importance because it is one of the critical Hoback River tributaries which provides habitat for wild Snake River cutthroat trout.”

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. I wonder if part of the reason for all the mud in the Hoback River is erosion set off by the Cliff Creek fire. I remember driving by the Cliff Creek confluence to Hoback in 2017 and seeing dark mud coming in from the tributary.