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U.S. Forest Service

Intermountain Region Viewing Areas

Finis Mitchell, Wind River Range Legacy

You cannot mention the Green River Lakes or the Wind River Range without recognizing and paying tribute to its most well known legacy, Finis Mitchell, "The Lord of the Winds." Finis, an explorer and naturalist since childhood, has walked over 15,000 backcountry miles and climbed these mountain peaks 276 times.

Finis and siblings. Finis and siblings. Photo courtesy of Finis Mitchell.

In 1906, as a young boy, Finis came to the Wind River Range with his father in a boxcar along with the rest of his family. They, like most pioneers, worked hard to farm a beautiful and fragile land that would never bend to the plough. They were broken repeatedly by rugged cold winters and unforgiving topography. However, unlike others, Finis stayed and started to watch the creatures that could survive in this harsh environment. He started to listen to a land that had tried to starve his family. With a new knowledge, he learned to live in harmony with an untamed wilderness. He learned that while the land could not be farmed, it could be fished.

Finis packing fish up the  mountains on horseback Finis packing fish up the mountains on horseback. Photo courtesy of Finis Mitchell.

Not bowing down to the fierce obstacles wielded by a stark and barren land with winters lasting 9 months a year, Finis spent the next 7 years carefully carrying five-gallon cans of water and wild trout on horseback over steep rugged trails to more than 300 remote Wyoming lakes. Due to the glacial topography of the upper mountains, these lakes had no native populations of fish. These isolated lakes, which had never seen a trout before, began to team with these newcomers. Miraculously, as though knowing the way, these fish migrated to over 700 more lakes in the upper mountains. With his life-long friend and wife Emma, he carved a life in this unknown wilderness. The fish that were once missing from these high mountain lakes and the land that was once a starving desolation now sustained their life-long career as backcountry guides.

Over time, Finis became an indistinguishable part of the Wind River Range, its voice, and protector. He led countless backcountry trips into the Winds Rivers renting their horses for $1.50 and usually not charging for his time. Before the end of his days, legislators would honor him, mountains would bear his name, the government would depend upon him, universities would applaud him, and he would forever be called the "Lord of the Winds."

Finis Mitchell article in Outdoors Magazine, summer 1987. Finis Mitchell in Outdoors Magazine, summer issue 1987.

Finis Facts

  • The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) lifted its legal ban against naming landforms after the living, and named Mitchell Peak. Finis has climbed this peak 18 times. The USGS has asked Finis, on several occasions, to review their preliminary maps and make any needed corrections.
  • He served on the 33rd and 34th Wyoming legislators as a State Representative.
  • The California State Rules Committee passed a Resolution commending his dedication to our western United States. The Wyoming legislature also passed a Resolution honoring the authentic legacy of one man.
  • In 1977, the University of Wyoming gave him its highest award: an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.

Finis Mitchell Finis Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Finis Mitchell.

“Too many of us follow endless trails. Unless a trail leads us somewhere and ends, it is but a circle.”

~ Finis Mitchell

Finis and Emma with fish. Finis and Emma with fish. Photo courtesy of Finis Mitchell.

Postcard of Finis Mitchell packing trip. Postcard of a Finis Mitchell packing trip.