Wind River Heritage Center in Riverton may close in 2020

by | Updated Oct 29, 2019 at 3:13PM

Riverton’s Wind River Heritage Center has shared Fremont County’s history with visitors, students, and locals for several years. A few recent income changes make the freewill donations from visitors the only thing that keeps this nonprofit’s lights on and may cause the center to close their doors at the end of 2020.

The center is located on 10 acres of land at 1075 South Federal and has been there for the past 11 years. During those years, local businesses have leased 5 acres of their property which has allowed them to stay open. Unfortunately, those businesses are no longer able to lease taking away their main source of income, Manager Iva Korell shared.

The center currently consists of two attached buildings with exhibits of wildlife and life-like wax figures. As well as, exhibits outside including things like horse-drawn farm equipment and a “trapper’s cabin.” Iva noted it takes about 2 hours to go through the center, depending on how in-depth you want to get with each exhibit.

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The center’s founder Jake Korell had the vision to share different types of wildlife in Fremont County with students who may not know anything about them. The majority of wildlife on display at the center belonged to Jake aka “Trapper Jake.” Iva shared his wildlife have been displayed in a few different businesses in Riverton including The Depot.

The life-like wax figures joined the center six years ago when the Thermopolis Wax Museum closed. They depict more of an overall history of Wyoming and the west instead of being focused on Fremont County. Iva noted she has a goal to expand that portion of the center to include more information about the Wind River Reservation. “Everyone always asks about the reservation’s history and I wish we had more information,” Iva said. 

The center is a typical field trip for schools across Wyoming and especially 4th graders, Iva shared. “That’s when they begin to learn about the mountain man.” Iva noted they have been fortunate to receive grants from the Riverton Chamber of Commerce, Fremont County Recreation Board and Fremont County School District #25. However, grants typically cover certain projects and not the day-to-day operations according to Iva. It was also shared during our visit that the center is listed by Trip Advisor as the #1 thing to do in Riverton.

Iva shared, they have enough money to get them through 2020 but they need to find leasers between now and then. She explained the lease property has electricity, city water and sewer on those five acres but no buildings. She also shared that there is a possibility to lease up to 7 acres total if need be.

If you have questions about the center or interest in leasing the property, Iva can be reached at [email protected] or by calling (307) 856-0706.

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