Geography of Johnson County, Wyoming

by | April 4, 2024

Johnson County, located in the north-central part of Wyoming, is a region known for its stunning landscapes, rugged mountains, and rich Western history. From its expansive grasslands and winding rivers to its towering peaks and pristine lakes, Johnson County offers a diverse array of natural attractions and outdoor recreational opportunities.


According to Shoe-Wiki, Johnson County spans an area of approximately 4,174 square miles, making it one of the larger counties in Wyoming by land area. It is situated in the northeastern part of the state, bordered by Sheridan County to the north, Campbell County to the east, and Washakie County to the south. The county seat and largest town is Buffalo, while other significant communities include Kaycee and Barnum.

The terrain of Johnson County is characterized by its diverse topography, ranging from the vast expanses of the Great Plains in the east to the rugged peaks of the Bighorn Mountains in the west. Elevations in the county vary widely, from around 3,800 feet above sea level in the eastern plains to over 13,000 feet above sea level in the mountainous areas. The landscape is shaped by geological processes such as erosion, glaciation, and tectonic activity, resulting in a varied and picturesque countryside.


The landscape of Johnson County is defined by its location within the Bighorn Basin, a large intermontane basin bounded by the Bighorn Mountains to the west and the Powder River Basin to the east. The county is situated in the southern part of the Bighorn Basin, near the border with the Powder River Basin. This diverse terrain gives rise to a wide range of habitats and ecosystems, including grasslands, shrublands, forests, and alpine meadows.

In addition to its natural beauty, Johnson County is also known for its rich Western heritage, with numerous historic sites, ranches, and cowboy culture. The county’s rural character and scenic vistas have made it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, and tourists seeking to experience the beauty of the American West.


Johnson County experiences a semi-arid climate, characterized by four distinct seasons with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers. The region is influenced by its inland location and the weather patterns of the Rocky Mountains.

Summers in Johnson County are typically warm and sunny, with average daytime temperatures ranging from the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit. Heatwaves are uncommon, but temperatures can occasionally exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit during periods of hot weather. Thunderstorms are also frequent, particularly in the afternoon and evening, bringing lightning, gusty winds, and sporadic rainfall.

Winters in Johnson County are cold and snowy, with average daytime temperatures ranging from the 20s to 30s Fahrenheit. The county receives significant snowfall, particularly in the mountainous areas and higher elevations, with several feet of snow accumulating each winter. Snowstorms and blizzards are occasional hazards, particularly in areas with exposed terrain and open fields.

Spring and fall bring transitional weather, with mild temperatures and changing conditions. Springtime heralds the blooming of wildflowers and the emergence of wildlife, while fall is characterized by cooler temperatures and vibrant foliage as the leaves change color before winter sets in.

Rivers and Lakes

Johnson County is traversed by several rivers, streams, and creeks, which play vital roles in the region’s ecology, economy, and recreational opportunities. The Powder River, one of the major tributaries of the Yellowstone River, flows through the central part of the county from south to north, providing habitat for diverse wildlife and offering opportunities for fishing, boating, and paddling.

Additionally, Johnson County is dotted with numerous smaller rivers and creeks, including Clear Creek, Crazy Woman Creek, and the Middle Fork of the Powder River, which meander through the plains and valleys of the county. These waterways provide habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife and offer recreational opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.

While Johnson County does not have any natural lakes of significant size, there are several reservoirs and impoundments scattered throughout the region. These bodies of water serve various purposes, including irrigation, flood control, and recreation, and contribute to the county’s overall water resources.

Parks and Natural Areas

Johnson County features several parks, natural areas, and wildlife habitats, providing residents and visitors with opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, and conservation. One of the most notable parks in the area is the Bighorn National Forest, which encompasses over 1.1 million acres of forests, mountains, and wilderness areas. The forest offers camping facilities, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks, allowing visitors to experience the natural beauty and biodiversity of Johnson County.

Other notable parks and natural areas in Johnson County include the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, the Crazy Woman Canyon Recreation Area, and the Lake DeSmet Recreation Area. These protected areas provide opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing, allowing visitors to connect with nature and explore the county’s diverse landscapes and ecosystems.


Johnson County, Wyoming, offers a diverse and picturesque geographical landscape, characterized by its rugged mountains, expansive grasslands, and meandering rivers. The county’s terrain, climate, and natural features provide a wealth of opportunities for outdoor recreation, tourism, and conservation. Whether exploring the Powder River, hiking in the Bighorn National Forest, or camping in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, residents and visitors alike can experience the natural wonders of Johnson County.