Originally featured in Winter 2011 in Points West magazine
Photograph, Spirit of the Pitchfork on the Big Horn River
Photographer Charles J. Belden captured this image of fellow adventurers Alton Wickwire and Carl Dunrud with their craft, Spirit of the Pitchfork, on the Big Horn River in August 1928—a rare view of Big Horn Canyon before the river was dammed in the 1960s.
The three friends, joined by Percy W. Metz, traveled the river from Basin, Wyoming, to Hardin, Montana. Belden took both still photos and film of the canyon, which varied in terrain from the relatively open view shown here to a deep and narrow gorge. Belden described it thus: “It seemed sometimes as though we were stationary and that these massive cliffs were moving by us in a constantly changing scene of color and form.… [A]t times the walls seemed closer together at their tops than at the water’s edge.” Although Yellowtail Dam and the resulting reservoir have altered the canyon dramatically, it still presents scenic wonders to those who take advantage of its recreational opportunities.
Glass plate negative by Charles J. Belden (1887 – 1966). Alton Wickwire and Carl Dunrud with the boat Spirit of the Pitchfork on the Big Horn River before it was dammed, August 1928. MS 3 Charles Belden Collection. PN.67.432b