Committee wants to reopen trailhead and restore the interior

Jordan Smith with the Casper Star-Tribune, via the Wyoming News Exchange

Will the gates open again?


Hell’s Half Acre, an area west of Casper known for its geologic landmarks, could see long-shut gates open to the public once more.


A committee composed of the Natrona County Parks and Recreation Department, Visit Casper and subcommittee members of the Natrona County Outdoor Rec Collaborative wants to reopen the Hell’s Half Acre trailhead and restore the interior for tourists. It estimates that the project will cost about $200,000.


The money will come from grants, the committee stated. They plan to apply for funding starting in October, though a “desired completion date will be reevaluated in the fall once we gain traction on local support,” a proposal from the project committee noted. The committee has been active since March.


The area has been closed since 2005, when the hotel and restaurant that was located on top of the ravine closed. Though the public can still access the area to view it, that’s about all they can do.


The committee also stated it would put out a public survey to the local community explaining why they believe the trailhead is important and ask for their input. The vision is to open the trailhead back up for public recreation during viable times of the year (spring, summer and fall). Hiking and foot exploration would be allowed; most wheeled vehicles would not, except as authorized by the county’s parks and recreation department. Representatives from the project committee made an appearance at the Sept. 5 board of county commissioners work session asking for a letter of support from the commissioners.


“What we’re looking at doing is basically reopening the picnic shelter area,” Michael Brown, a subcommittee member, said at the work session. “We’ll do some rehab work on the shelters – there’s four of them there – and improve the road access by grading and gravel to those picnic shelters.”


He added that they would install a “pedestrian cowguard” as well. A major motivation for restoring and reopening the trailhead, the committee stated in its proposal, is bringing more tourism into Natrona County and Casper. Hell’s Half Acre holds special significance for Native American tribes, who used the ravines to drive bison to their deaths.


The area was also used as the backdrop for a fictional land in the 1997 movie “Starship Troopers.” 


Two representatives from two different tour services wrote letters in support of restoring and reopening the trailhead, as did Leah Juarez, mayor of the city of Mills.


“The City (of Mills) supports the Hell’s Half Acre project be- cause the project will attract local outdoor enthusiasts to a lesser known hiking area but will also fascinate travelers moving through our communities,” Juarez wrote in her letter. “We hope to create a partnership where those coming to fly fish in the North Platte River will also spend half a day at Hell’s Half Acre.”


The parks and recreation department staff will visit the area weekly to do maintenance, the proposal document said.


“A letter of support will come your way,” Steve Freel, one of the commissioners, promised the committee representatives at the work session.


This story was published on September 14, 2023.


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