The North Fork of Crazy Woman Creek tumbles down the dramatic Crazy Woman Canyon southwest of Buffalo, Wyoming. Two legends exist as an explanation for how the drainage got its name: One involves a native American woman who was left alone after a rival tribe attacked and killed everyone in her village. She supposedly stayed in the canyon, but was never the same after the event. The second legend is similar, but the main character is a white woman, stranded in the canyon after her family was killed by marauding Indians. Either way, the name stuck, and the scenery sticks with you long after you leave.
It’s not a very big canyon as far as western canyons go, but this tucked away piece of Wyoming is definitely worth a visit. A narrow, winding gravel road follows the creek through the canyon taking you from the Powder River Basin at about 5900 feet above sea level, up to the eastern edge of the Bighorn Mountains at 7100 ft elevation. Crazy Woman Creek is a tributary of the Powder River and drains in a north easterly direction off the eastern side of the Bighorn Mountains.
Huge, rounded, boulders and towering rock formations shaped by wind, water, and time overhang the canyon creating a constantly shifting perspective. Every bend in the road reveals another fantastic scene.
One theory is that the entire drainage was, at one time, underwater. As the flood waters receded, the rushing water shaped and smoothed the protruding rock layers. Boulders, broken from the canyon sides, were rolled, tumbled and deposited in the jumbled pattern we see today.
I visited the Crazy Woman in August of a very dry year. There was a place in the creek where the water goes below ground, leaving the creek bed dry, and reappears about 100 yards downstream. I don’t know if this is the case when the spring runoff is high, but it’s a fun place to climb down into the creek bed with the kids and see where the water ‘disappears.’