Pinedale Anticline and Jonah Field
Note: It is interesting to see the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah Field, and the best way to do so is with a formal tour provided by one of the operating companies working in the area. It’s also possible to visit the field independently, though it is advised to do so carefully. There are many unmarked dirt roads, often traveled by heavy trucks. It’s easy to get lost and it is not a good idea to try to share these roads with industrial traffic.
Suggested Car Tour: Loop from Pinedale through the Pinedale Anticline, and back.
Travel time for this loop is approximately 1.5 hours with a travel area of almost 60 miles. You will cross the historic Lander Wagon Road of the Oregon Trail and see plenty of natural gas activity, traditional Wyoming ranching, and plenty of Wyoming wildlife. It’s well worth the trip.
The Pinedale Anticline runs relatively close to Wyoming Highway 191. The northwest corner of the Field is at the southern edge of Pinedale at Stuart’s Point and runs approximately 30 miles south along the highway.
Start in Pinedale, Wyo. and travel south on Wyoming Highway 191 for 22.5 miles. The span of the Wind River Mountains is to your left. At the junction to Wyoming Highway 351, Sand Draw Industrial Site will be on your left, or to the east. This privately-owned business area provides manpower and equipment services for the natural gas industry. The facility has storage areas, repair shops, a man camp, hotel, gas station, and ambulance barn.
Turn right, going west, onto Wyoming Highway 351, heading to Big Piney, Wyo. with the Wyoming Range on the horizon. Within three miles you will cross into the eastern edge of the Pinedale Anticline core production area. Visible on both sides of the highway are producing well pads and drilling activity.
At 4.5 miles, intersecting the highway will be the Middle Crest Road, which runs the crest of the Anticline. Half a mile south on the Middle Crest Road is Ultra Petroleum’s Central Gathering Facility, one of four companies that operates in the field. Another mile east is Shell’s Liquid Gathering Facility, also on the south side of Highway 351.
The Liquid Gathering System (LGS) is a network of buried pipelines that transports gas product, condensate (light oil) and produced water from multi-well pads. Liquids are piped to central gathering facilities where water and condensate are further separated, and then piped to a refinery or to disposal facility. The pipeline system replaces the need for semi-trucks to haul the liquids, which disturbed more surface and polluted more air, with tailpipe emissions and dust they raised off dirt roads.
On the north side of Highway 351 and shortly west of Middle Crest Road is a “pig launcher and receiver,” which maintains pipelines by working like a plunger to keep the lines clean and open. Additional production facilities may be seen from the highway as the traveler continues west.
Travel a total of 11 miles on Highway 351 to the New Fork River. A quarter of a mile after the river, take a right onto unpaved Sublette County Road 136 (also known as Paradise Road) and head north. On the left is Ultra’s water-injection facility, where production water is pumped deep underground.
Head north on SC 136. This area is rich with Wyoming history and industry. At one mile on the left is Oregon Trail Lane, which leads to a small subdivision of private property on the original Lander Cutoff of the Oregon Trail. On the right is the Lander Wagon Road’s crossing of the New Fork River, one of the few places on that route with water. SC 136 continues north through historical ranches that are still in operation. This is also a large antelope corridor and home to hundreds of antelope year-round. Interspersed throughout are signs of natural gas production. Watch for horses and cattle interspersed with wildlife, such as deer, antelope and sometimes moose along the New Fork River.
After 15 miles, SC 136 returns to Wyoming Highway 191 a short distance north of Boulder, Wyo. In the final mile on Paradise Road, look up the hill to see the Boulder air monitoring station built by Shell and managed by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. This station monitors air pollution and, if needed, triggers an alarm for an area Ozone Alert.
From the intersection with Highway 191, it is 11 miles back to Pinedale.