Wyoming is a state of the United States that is famous for the beauty of its mountains. The peaks of the Rocky Mountains tower over the landscape. They provide the setting for the world's oldest national park--Yellowstone. Wyoming also has the first national monument in the United States, Devils Tower, and the first national forest, Shoshone. Another famous scenic wonder, Grand Teton National Park, includes some of the West's most beautiful mountains. Millions of tourists visit Wyoming each year to enjoy the state's scenery and historic places.
Not all of Wyoming is mountainous. Between the mountain ranges in the state lie broad, flat, treeless basins. Some of these basins are dotted with rugged, lonely towers of rock called buttes. In the eastern part of the state, a flat, dry plain stretches westward toward the mountains.
Much of Wyoming's wealth comes from its land. About 50 percent of the state's land is used for grazing. Thousands of oil wells dot the prairies. Visitors to Wyoming may see a white-face steer cropping the grass near a pumping oil well. Petroleum, natural gas, coal, and other mineral products make Wyoming an important mining state.
Most of Wyoming's workers are employed in service industries. Service industries include such activities as education, health care, and retail trade.
The federal government owns almost half the land in Wyoming. Since the state depends mostly on its land, this makes the government especially important in Wyoming's economy. Federal agencies control grazing, logging, and mining activities that take place on the government land. The U.S. Air Force operates a nuclear missile base just outside Cheyenne, the state capital.
Wyoming has attracted travelers since the earliest days of white settlement. Three of the great pioneer trails cross Wyoming. The California, Mormon, and Oregon trails all took the covered wagons through South Pass. This pass became famous as the easiest way for the pioneers to travel across the mountains.
Millions of people have crossed Wyoming, but relatively few have stayed. The 1980 United States census reported that Wyoming had fewer people than any other state except Alaska. The 1990 census showed that Alaska had passed Wyoming, leaving Wyoming last among the states in population. Wyoming's largest city, Cheyenne, has only about 50,000 people.
The word Wyoming comes from a Delaware Indian word meaning upon the great plain. Wyoming is nicknamed the Equality State because Wyoming women were the first in the nation to vote, hold public office, and serve on juries. In 1870, Wyoming's Esther H. Morris became the nation's first woman justice of the peace. In 1924, Wyoming voters elected the first woman governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross.
Population. The 1990 United States census reported that Wyoming had 455,975 people. The population had decreased 3 percent over the 1980 figure, 469,557. According to the 1990 census, Wyoming ranks 50th in population among the 50 states.
About two-thirds of Wyoming's people live in urban areas. Most of the cities are small compared with those in other states. Cheyenne, the capital and largest city, and Casper, the second largest city, both have only about 50,000 people. The next three cities, in order of size, are Laramie, Rock Springs, and Gillette. About 30 percent of the state's people live in cities and towns along a single major highway and rail line in southern Wyoming.
Wyoming has two metropolitan areas, the Casper metropolitan area and the Cheyenne metropolitan area.
About 98 out of 100 people in Wyoming were born in the United States. Wyoming's largest population groups include people of German, English, Irish, French, and American Indian descent.
Schools. The first school in Wyoming was founded at Fort Laramie in 1852. William Vaux, the chaplain of the fort, started the school. In 1860, a school was built at Fort Bridger.
In 1869, the territorial legislature passed a law providing tax support for schools. There were district schools in many communities after 1870. The first high school in Wyoming opened in Cheyenne in 1875.
Wyoming's public school system is supervised by an elected state superintendent of public instruction. An 11-member board of education makes school policies. The governor, with the approval of the senate, appoints board members to six-year terms.
Children are required to attend school either from age 7 through 15, or until they complete the eighth grade. Wyoming has one of the highest percentages in the United States of people who can read and write. For the number of students and teachers in Wyoming.
The University of Wyoming is the state's only university. It is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The university was founded in Laramie in 1886 and is state supported. Wyoming also has seven community colleges.
Libraries and museums. In 1886, Wyoming's territorial legislature passed laws providing for a system of free county libraries. Today, each of Wyoming's 23 counties has a public county library. The Wyoming Territorial Library was established in Cheyenne in 1871. It is now called the Wyoming State Library. The chief libraries at the University of Wyoming include the William Robertson Coe Library, the Science Library, and the George William Hopper Law Library.
Wyoming has about 90 museums. Most of these museums feature pioneer and Indian relics. Outstanding collections in the state include the exhibits at the Wyoming State Museum and the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, both in Cheyenne; the Fort Caspar Museum in Casper; the Fort Bridger State Museum in Fort Bridger; the Wyoming Pioneers' Memorial Museum in Douglas; and the National Wildlife Art Museum in Jackson. The Centennial Complex at the University of Wyoming in Laramie includes the American Heritage Center, which has a strong collection on Western history; and the university's Art Museum, which features items from many cultures and periods. The University of Wyoming Geological Museum has collections of fossils, minerals, and rocks; and exhibits about prehistoric times.
Other museums have exhibits about particular areas or points of interest. For example, the Fort Laramie National Historic Site has relics from the days of the old pioneer wagon trains. The Jackson Hole Museum, in Jackson, has displays about the area's early days. The National Park Service operates the Fur Trade Museum at Moose. It also operates the Colter Bay Museum, which has a fine collection of Indian art. This museum is located in Grand Teton National Park.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody displays possessions of the famous hunter and showman Buffalo Bill Cody. Also in the center are the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, which features paintings and sculpture by famous Western artists; the Plains Indian Museum; and the Winchester Museum, which has a collection of more than 5,000 firearms.
Wyoming's tourist attractions rank among the most spectacular in the nation. Each year, several million people visit the state. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are the chief attractions. They have beautiful mountain scenery and many kinds of animals. Wilderness trails challenge the hiker's skill. Visitors also come to Wyoming to hunt big game animals or to fish in the lakes and streams. In 1904, the Eaton Ranch, near Sheridan, became the first dude ranch in the West.
Wyoming's most popular annual event is the Frontier Days celebration in Cheyenne, which has been staged since 1897. The celebration is held for 10 days in July.
Land and climate
Land regions. Wyoming lies where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. The Continental Divide winds through Wyoming from the northwest corner to the south-central edge of the state (see CONTINENTAL DIVIDE). Water on the east side of the divide flows to the Atlantic Ocean. Water on the west side goes into the Pacific Ocean. Wyoming has an average elevation of 6,700 feet (2,042 meters), and is higher than any other state except Colorado. Wyoming has three major land regions: (1) the Great Plains, (2) the Rocky Mountains, and (3) the Intermontane Basins.
The Great Plains cover the eastern part of the state. This region is part of the vast interior plain of North America that stretches from Canada to Mexico. In Wyoming, short-grass prairie covers much of the land and provides good grazing for cattle and sheep. Cottonwoods and shrubs grow along the rivers. Little rain falls on the plains, but irrigation has turned portions of this region into valuable farmland.
A portion of the famous Black Hills lies in the northeastern part of the state. About a third of the Black Hills area is located in Wyoming, and the rest is in South Dakota.
The Rocky Mountains sweep across Wyoming in huge ranges, most of which extend from north to south. In the north, the Bighorn Mountains form the front range of the mountain area. The Laramie Range stretches north from Colorado. Between these two front ranges lies a wide plateau. In the 1800's, pioneers traveled westward on trails through this area. The Absaroka Range rises along the east side of Yellowstone National Park. The rugged Wind River Range to the south includes nine peaks that tower above 13,000 feet (3,960 meters). Among them is the highest mountain in Wyoming, 13,804-foot (4,207-meter) Gannett Peak. The Granite Mountains extend eastward from near the southern tip of the Wind River Range. The Gros Ventre, Salt River, Snake River, Teton, and Wyoming ranges are near the western border. The scenic Teton Mountains rise nearly straight up for more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the Jackson Hole Valley. Other major mountain ranges include the Medicine Bow and Sierra Madre in southern Wyoming.
There is one special link between the flat land of the plains and the heights of the mountains. It is in southeastern Wyoming, where a narrow finger of land rises gently from the plains to a point high in the Laramie Mountains. Along the slope are major rail and highway routes that quickly bring a traveler from the plains to the mountains. This slope, sometimes called the Gangplank, is only about 100 yards (91 meters) wide.
The Intermontane Basins include several fairly flat areas between Wyoming's mountain ranges. The word intermontane means between mountains. The major basins include the Bighorn and Powder River basins in the north, and the Wind River Basin in central Wyoming. The Green River, Great Divide, and Washakie basins are in southwestern Wyoming.
The basins are mostly treeless areas that get less rainfall than the mountains. Short grasses and other low plants make most of the basins good areas for grazing sheep and cattle. The Great Divide Basin is an exception. It lies along the Continental Divide, but has no drainage of water either to the Atlantic or the Pacific. The divide splits and runs around the 3,000 square miles (7,800 square kilometers) of this basin. The little rain that falls there soaks quickly into the dry ground. A part of the Great Divide Basin and the area to the south of it are sometimes called the Red Desert. Pronghorns and wild horses feed on the thinly scattered plant growth and sagebrush. Sometimes sheep are grazed there.
Rivers and lakes. Parts of three great river systems start in the mountains of Wyoming. These three river systems are the Missouri, the Colorado, and the Columbia.
The tributaries of the Missouri flow both north and east. The Yellowstone, Clarks Fork, Bighorn, Tongue, and Powder rivers flow north. The Cheyenne, Niobrara, and North Platte rivers flow east.
The Green River, the major source of the Colorado River, rises in the Wind River Mountains and flows south across western Wyoming into Utah. The Snake River is part of the Columbia River system. This river starts in the Absaroka mountains in Yellowstone Park. It flows into Grand Teton National Park, then turns west into Idaho. The Snake leaves Wyoming through a magnificent canyon that cuts through three mountain ranges. The Snake River is joined by the Salt River and eventually reaches the Columbia. Bear River, in the southwestern corner of Wyoming, flows into the Great Salt Lake of Utah.
Many of the rivers have cut beautiful canyons, and some plunge over steep cliffs in spectacular waterfalls. The most interesting canyons include the Laramie River Canyon, the Grand Canyons of the Snake and the Yellowstone, Platte River Canyon, Shoshone River Canyon, and the Wind River Canyon. The most dramatic waterfalls are the Upper and Lower falls of the Yellowstone River.
Wyoming has hundreds of clear, cold, mountain lakes. Among the largest are Fremont, Jackson, Shoshone, and Yellowstone lakes. The major artificially created lakes include Big Sandy, Boysen, Buffalo Bill, Glendo, Guernsey, Keyhole, Pathfinder, and Seminoe reservoirs. Two new dams outside the state formed major lakes in Wyoming. Yellowtail Dam in Montana created a large lake in the northeastern part of Wyoming. Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah backs up water of the Green River 30 miles (48 kilometers) inside Wyoming.
Plant and animal life. Forests cover nearly a sixth of Wyoming's land. The chief commercial trees are Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, and ponderosa pine. Other trees include subalpine fir, aspen, and cottonwood.
Bluegrass, wheat grass, tufted fescues, and redtops grow on much of the state's approximately 50 million acres (20 million hectares) of grazing lands. Cactus and sagebrush are found in the drier regions. Areas of Wyoming with poor soil produce greasewood brush, which is used as firewood. Mountain wildflowers found in the state include the arnica, buttercup, evening star, five-finger, flax, forget-me-not, goldenrod, saxifrage, sour dock, and windflower.
Wyoming's most common larger animals include black bears, elk, mule deer, and pronghorns. Moose are common in the state's northwestern forests, and mountain sheep live among the rocky peaks of the higher mountains. Grizzly bears, lynxes, and mountain lions are sometimes seen. Some of the smaller fur-bearing animals include beavers, martens, raccoons, and otters.
Pronghorns are common in the open areas of the basins. Other animals in the basin areas include badgers, cottontail and jack rabbits, coyotes, foxes, skunks, and wildcats. Game birds include ducks, geese, grouse, pheasants, sage hens, and wild turkeys. Wyoming also is the home of bald and golden eagles. The bald eagle builds its nest in tall pines near mountain streams or lakes. The golden eagle usually chooses a home farther from water.
Climate. Wyoming has a dry, sunny climate. Winters are cold and the summers are warm. The dry air makes the climate more comfortable than the temperatures would indicate. Differences in altitude create large differences in temperature in various parts of the state. At Casper, in central Wyoming, the average January temperature is 22 °F (-6 °C), and the average July temperature is 71 °F (22 °C). Near Yellowstone Lake, at a higher elevation, the January average is 12 °F (-11 °C), and the July average is 59 °F (15 °C). In Wyoming's high mountains, freezing temperatures can occur any time of the year.
Wyoming's highest recorded temperature was 114 °F (46 °C) at Basin on July 12, 1900. Moran, near Elk, had the lowest temperature, -63 °F (-53 °C), on Feb. 9, 1933.
The average annual precipitation (rain, melted snow, and other forms of moisture) ranges from about 5 inches (13 centimeters) at Hyattville in the Bighorn Basin to about 50 inches (130 centimeters) in the Yellowstone Park area. Snowfall varies from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 centimeters) in the Bighorn Basin to about 260 inches (660 centimeters) in the northwestern mountains.
On the Great Plains, and in some open areas of southern Wyoming, the wind blows during the afternoons, usually from the west or southwest. If dry snow is on the ground, the wind may whip it into a ground blizzard. An individual cannot see straight ahead in the swirling snow, even though the sky may be blue and the sun shining.
Service industries, taken together, make up the largest part of Wyoming's gross state product--the total value of all goods and services produced in a state in a year. However, Wyoming's economy depends almost entirely on its land. The land provides the state's most important product--petroleum. Petroleum, coal, natural gas, and other mineral products account for about a third of the gross state product. Wyoming's land provides grazing for cattle and sheep. Most of the state's manufacturing plants process the products of Wyoming's mines, farms, and forests. Millions of tourists come to Wyoming to enjoy its scenic beauty. These visitors spend about $11/2 billion annually.
Government plays an important part in Wyoming's economy. The federal government owns half the state's land. The government controls grazing, logging, and mining rights in this huge area, which includes national forests and parks, Indian lands, and other public lands.
Natural resources. Wyoming's most important natural resources are mineral deposits, grazing land, scenery, wildlife, and water.
Soil. Wyoming does not have large areas of fertile soil. Much of the state has sandy soil formed from sandstone rock that lies beneath the surface. The most fertile soils of Wyoming are those deposited in the major river valleys by floodwaters. Wind-blown dirt called loess also has formed fertile soil in some areas.
Minerals. Wyoming's reserves of bentonite clay, coal, petroleum, sodium carbonate, and uranium rank among the nation's largest. The mineral reserves are found mostly in the basin areas of the state.
Many of the petroleum and natural-gas reserves occur in an underground region called the Overthrust Belt. This region lies beneath southwestern Wyoming and parts of neighboring states. About 40 percent of Wyoming has coal under it. Most of Wyoming's coal is found in the northeastern part of the state. Trona, a mineral containing sodium carbonate, is found in southwestern Wyoming. The state's largest uranium deposits are in the Powder River, Shirley, and Wind River basins. Bentonite is a clay used in oil drilling and in the manufacture of chemical products. The largest reserves of bentonite are in the northeast and north-central sections. Wyoming also has agate and jade. Other mineral resources include building stone, gold, gypsum, and limestone.
Forests cover about 10 million acres (4 million hectares), or nearly a sixth of Wyoming's land. Most of the forests grow in the mountain areas. About two-fifths of the forests are available for commercial use. About 22/3 million acres (1.1 million hectares) have been set aside in parks and other reserves. The federal government controls about three-fourths of the commercial forest land in Wyoming. The chief commercial trees are lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and ponderosa pine. Other trees in Wyoming include subalpine fir, aspen, cottonwood, and Douglas-fir.
Service industries account for the largest portion of Wyoming's gross state product. Most of the service industries are concentrated in Casper, Cheyenne, and Laramie, the state's largest cities.
Transportation, communication, and utilities form Wyoming's leading service industry in terms of the gross state product. Pipeline companies are a major part of the transportation sector. Pipelines carry Wyoming's large oil and gas output to processing and distribution sites. Railroad companies transport other minerals and farm goods. Telephone companies are the most important part of the communications sector. Utility companies supply electric, gas, and water service. More information about transportation and communication in Wyoming appears later in this section.
Finance, insurance, and real estate rank second among Wyoming's service industries. Real estate is important because of the large sums of money involved in the selling and leasing of houses and other buildings. Casper and Cheyenne are the leading financial centers. The state's largest bank is Key Bank of Wyoming.
Government ranks next among the service industries. Government services employ more people than any other economic activity in Wyoming. Government includes public schools and hospitals and military establishments. Many people are employed in Wyoming's public schools and universities. State government offices are based primarily in Cheyenne. Warren Air Force Base lies just outside Cheyenne. The base is the control center for a large network of long-range nuclear missiles. The federal government also operates Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, both of which provide hundreds of seasonal jobs.
Wholesale and retail trade is Wyoming's fourth-ranking service industry. The wholesale trade of petroleum is important to the state. Automobile dealerships, grocery stores, and restaurants are the leading types of retail businesses.
Community, business, and personal services rank fifth. This industry consists of a variety of establishments, including doctors offices and private hospitals, hotels and ski resorts, law firms and engineering companies, and repair shops. Tourism growth in Wyoming has benefited the state's hotels, dude ranches, and ski resorts.
Mining provides a larger portion of the gross state product of Wyoming than of any other state. Petroleum, coal, natural gas, trona, and bentonite are the state's leading mineral products. Wyoming is the leading state in coal production and ranks among the leaders in petroleum and natural gas. Changes in the prices of any of these mineral products have a large impact on Wyoming's overall economy.
Large petroleum deposits lie in several parts of Wyoming. The leading oil-producing counties are Campbell, Park, Sweetwater, and Uinta. The oil companies that produce the most petroleum in Wyoming are Amoco and Marathon.
Almost all of Wyoming's coal is obtained from surface mines. These mines provide a variety of coal called subbituminous. Campbell County provides most of Wyoming's coal. Sweetwater and Converse counties produce most of the remaining coal.
Natural gas, like petroleum, is found in several parts of the state. Southwestern Wyoming is the leading area for natural gas production.
Among Wyoming's other mineral products, sodium carbonate-containing trona is the most important. It is used to manufacture glass, soap, and paper. All of the trona comes from Sweetwater County. Wyoming is also a major producer of bentonite and other clays. The state also produces crushed stone, gypsum, and sand and gravel.
Manufacturing in Wyoming makes up a smaller percentage of the gross state product than in most other states. Goods manufactured in Wyoming have a value added by manufacture of about $1 billion a year. Value added by manufacture represents the increase in value of raw materials after they become finished products.
The production of chemicals and related products is Wyoming's most important manufacturing activity. Soda ash is the state's chief chemical product. It is manufactured from local deposits of trona.
Petroleum refining ranks second among manufacturing activities in Wyoming in terms of value added by manufacture. Casper and Sinclair have large oil refineries. Refineries also are located near Cheyenne and Newcastle.
Other products made in Wyoming include food products, machinery, printed materials, and wood products. The state's most important food products include dairy products, refined sugar, and soft drinks. Casper, Gillette, and Powell produce machinery. Newspapers are the chief type of printed material. Hulett, Laramie, Sheridan, and many other cities have sawmills.
Agriculture. Farms and ranches cover about half of Wyoming. The state has about 9,200 farms and ranches.
Livestock and livestock products account for about 80 percent of Wyoming's total agricultural income. Cattle ranching is by far the most important agricultural activity in Wyoming. Most beef cattle are raised in eastern Wyoming. Other livestock products in Wyoming include milk, sheep, and wool. Wyoming is among the leading states in the production of sheep and wool. About half of Wyoming's land is used to graze cattle and sheep. This includes vast amounts of federal government land leased to ranchers.
Crops provide about 20 percent of Wyoming's farm income. The state's most valuable field crops are grown on irrigated land. The leading crops, in order of value, are sugar beets, hay, wheat, barley, beans, and corn. Hay is grown chiefly as feed for livestock, especially cattle. Certified seed potatoes, which must be unusually free of disease, are raised in Goshen and Laramie counties. Farmers use dry farming methods on the Great Plains (see DRY FARMING). The most important crops raised on farms in the Great Plains include hay, and wheat and other grains.
Electric power. Coal-burning power plants generate more than 95 percent of the state's electric power. Major plants operate near Gillette and in Glenrock, Kemmerer, Rock Springs, and Wheatland. Water power provides most of the rest of Wyoming's electric power. The largest hydroelectric plants are at Alcova, Fremont Canyon, Glendo, Kortes, and Seminoe dams.
Transportation. Wyoming has about 37,000 miles (59,000 kilometers) of roads and highways. Jackson has the state's busiest airport. Wyoming's first railroad was the Union Pacific. It was built across the territory in 1867 and 1868. Today, three rail lines provide Wyoming with freight service to other states. No local passenger trains serve Wyoming.
Communication. The first newspaper in Wyoming was the Daily Telegraph, published at Fort Bridger in 1863. Today, Wyoming has about 50 newspapers, including 5 dailies. Newspapers with the largest circulations include the Star-Tribune of Casper and the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle of Cheyenne. Wyoming publishers also produce about 60 periodicals.
Wyoming's first radio station, KDFN (now KTWO), began broadcasting at Casper in 1930. The first television station was KFBC-TV (now KGWN-TV) in Cheyenne, which started operating in 1954. Today, the state has about 65 radio stations and 15 television stations. Cable TV systems serve several Wyoming communities.
Constitution. Wyoming is still governed under its original Constitution, which was adopted in 1889. Amendments (changes) to the Constitution must be approved by a majority of the people voting in that particular election. Amendments may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature, or by a constitutional convention. Such a convention must be approved by two-thirds of the members of each house of the legislature, and by a majority of the voters.
Executive. The people of Wyoming elect the governor to a four-year term. The governor may serve no more than two terms during a 16-year period.
Much of the governor's power lies in the right to appoint other important state officials. For example, the governor appoints the attorney general and the heads of the budget and personnel departments.
The voters elect four other high state officials to four-year terms. These are the secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction. They have the same term limitations as the governor.
Wyoming does not have a lieutenant governor. If the governor dies or resigns, the secretary of state serves as governor until a new governor is elected.
Legislature consists of a 30-member senate and a 60-member house of representatives. Senators are elected to four-year terms and may serve no more than three terms during a 24-year period. Representatives are elected to two-year terms and may serve no more than three terms during a 12-year period.
The two houses of the Legislature meet each year. General sessions of the Legislature begin on the second Tuesday of January in odd-numbered years. Budget sessions begin on the third Monday in February in even-numbered years. The Legislature may not meet more than 40 legislative days in any year or more than 60 days in each two-year period. The governor may call special legislative sessions.
Courts. The highest court in Wyoming is the Supreme Court. It has five justices who are appointed to serve eight-year terms. These justices elect one of their number to serve as the chief justice. The Supreme Court usually hears only appeals from the lower courts.
Most major civil and criminal trials in the state are held in district courts. Wyoming has nine judicial districts, each with either one or two district judges. District judges are appointed to six-year terms. The governor appoints all judges of the Supreme Court and district courts. The governor chooses them from nominees of the Wyoming Judicial Nominating Commission. At the next election, voters then choose whether or not to have the judges stay in office. Other courts in Wyoming include county courts, police courts, municipal courts, and justice-of-the-peace courts.
Local government. Wyoming has 23 counties, each governed by a board of three or five commissioners. The commissioners are elected to four-year terms. Most Wyoming cities have a mayor-council government. Exceptions are Casper and Laramie, which employ city managers. By state law, a community must have at least 4,000 residents to be classified as a city. Wyoming's cities are called first class cities. Communities with populations between 150 and 4,000 are called towns.
Revenue. Taxes account for about 40 percent of the state government's general revenue (income). Most of the rest comes from federal grants and other U.S. government programs. The leading sources of tax revenue are a tax on mineral production and a sales tax. Wyoming has no state personal or corporate income tax.
Politics. In state and local elections, Republicans have won two-thirds of the contests since 1890, but Democrats often win major offices. The cities of southern Wyoming are a major source of Democratic strength. Republicans usually get more votes from the northern counties, which are largely rural.
In presidential elections, Wyoming has voted for Republican candidates more than twice as often as for Democratic candidates.
Indian days. The first people who lived in the Wyoming area were Indian hunters of at least 11,000 years ago. Later, huge herds of buffaloes roamed the prairies. This rich source of meat attracted many Indians to the area. When white people arrived they found Arapaho, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Shoshone, Sioux, and Ute Indians living in what is now Wyoming.
Exploration. French trappers may have entered the Wyoming region in the mid-1700's. However, exploration of the area did not begin until after 1800. The United States bought most of the region from France in 1803, as part of the Louisiana Purchase. After that, American trappers came to the area to find furs. In 1807, a trapper named John Colter became the first white man to travel across the Yellowstone area. Five years later, in 1812, a party of fur traders from Oregon crossed the area from west to east. The group, led by Robert Stuart, discovered a relatively easy way across the mountains through South Pass. This route became important in pioneer travel to the West.
During the 1820's and 1830's, the fur trade became more highly organized. General William Ashley established an annual rendezvous (gathering) of trappers. At these gatherings, Ashley's fur company traded ammunition, food, and other supplies for furs. The first rendezvous took place in 1825 on the Green River, near the present Wyoming-Utah border. The yearly rendezvous became important to the trappers not only for trading, but also for exchange of news and as an enjoyable social event.
A trapping and trading party of more than a hundred men came to the Wyoming area in 1832. The group was led by Captain Benjamin L. E. de Bonneville. Bonneville's party discovered an oil spring in 1833 in the Wind River Basin. In 1834, traders William Sublette and Robert Campbell established Fort William in what is now eastern Wyoming. This fort, later called Fort Laramie, was the area's first permanent trading post. In 1843, the famous Western scout and trapper Jim Bridger--with his partner, Louis Vasquez--founded Fort Bridger in southwestern Wyoming.
After trading posts were established, the rendezvous became less important. The last of these colorful gatherings was held in 1840.
In 1842 and 1843, Lieutenant John C. Fremont explored the Wind River Mountains. His party was guided by the famous scout Kit Carson. After Fremont made his report, Congress voted in 1846 to establish forts along the Oregon Trail to protect settlers moving west. In 1849, the government bought Fort William. This fort, also known as Fort John, was renamed Fort Laramie by the army.
At various times, parts of what is now Wyoming were in the territories of Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Dakota. Part of southern Wyoming, south of the 42nd parallel, belonged to Spain from the 1500's to the 1800's. Mexico claimed it in the early 1800's, but lost it to the Republic of Texas in 1836. This area became part of the United States in 1845 when Texas joined the Union.
The great trails. By the mid-1840's, pioneers were streaming west through the Wyoming area on three famous trails. These were the California Trail, the Mormon Trail to Utah, and the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest. All three trails took South Pass through the mountains. Beyond South Pass, the Oregon Trail turned northwest, and the Mormon and California trails went southwest. Settlers moving across southern Wyoming used the Overland (Cherokee) Trail, which joined other trails at Fort Bridger. Thousands of settlers traveled through Wyoming, but few of them stayed.
The Plains Indians often assisted early wagon trains by pointing out grazing lands and watering areas. The various tribes often traded with the travelers.
Indian and settler conflicts. By 1849, the Sioux and other tribes were becoming alarmed at the growing number of settlers crossing traditional Indian land. The white settlers killed or frightened away the game. Their carelessness with fire caused roaring blazes on the prairie, and their diseases killed or crippled countless Indians. Fighting broke out between the Indians and the settlers, and the United States Army often had to step in. The conflicts resulted in the deaths of many more Indians than settlers.
Gold was discovered in Montana in the 1860's, and settlers began moving north up the Bozeman Trail to Montana. This trail crossed the Powder River Basin, a different area of the Indian land. The tribes fought with new fury.
To keep the Bozeman Trail open, the army built Fort Phil Kearny near the Bighorn Mountains in the summer of 1866. The Sioux hated this fort. Led by Red Cloud, they put war parties around it in what was called the Circle of Death. During the first six months, about 150 men were killed. Captain W. J. Fetterman and 81 of his men died in a single battle. Finally, in 1868, Red Cloud and other Indian leaders signed a treaty. The army agreed to give up Fort Phil Kearny and two other forts and leave northeastern Wyoming to the Indians. In return, the Indians agreed not to interfere with the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad through southern Wyoming.
A troubled peace lasted until 1874, when prospectors discovered gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota just east of Wyoming. Thousands of white people violated the treaty by moving into the area. The Sioux considered the Black Hills sacred, and they fought the new invasion. Sioux and Cheyenne warriors won two bitter battles with U.S. soldiers in what is now Montana. However, the Indian force broke up to flee from other troops. Some Indians went to Canada, and others agreed to move to reservations. Serious Indian fighting ended in the summer of 1876, and Wyoming settlers finally had peace.
Territorial progress. Even before the Indian troubles ended, southern Wyoming was developing rapidly. The foundations for Wyoming's minerals industry had been laid long before the area became a territory. In 1833, the Bonneville party greased its wagon axles at a spot where oil seeped from the ground in the Wind River Basin. Jim Bridger sold oil at his fort, and pioneers mixed it with flour to use as axle grease.
Gold was found at South Pass in 1842. However, the discovery aroused little interest. In 1867, a more promising gold strike attracted many prospectors to the area. Several boom towns, such as Atlantic City and South Pass City, sprang up.
The Union Pacific Railroad entered the area in 1867. Towns were founded as the "end of track" moved west. Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Green River, and Evanston grew up in turn. Towns also appeared along the route of the great trails. In 1868, Congress created the Territory of Wyoming. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Brigadier General John A. Campbell as the first governor of the territory.
On Dec. 10, 1869, the territorial legislature granted women the right to vote, hold office, and serve on juries. The new law was the first of its kind in the United States. Women first served on juries in 1870, in Laramie. That same year, Esther H. Morris of South Pass City became the nation's first woman justice of the peace.
Wyoming's tourist industry got its start during the territorial days. In 1872, Congress created Yellowstone National Park, the nation's first national park. The park immediately attracted tourists.
In 1883 and 1884, interest in oil was revived because of profitable drilling elsewhere. The first successful well was drilled in 1883 in the Dallas Field, near Lander. Plans were made for exploration of several areas near Casper, but the industry developed slowly, and several years passed before oil activity prospered.
Ranching supported the new territory's economy. Large numbers of cattle were driven north from Texas to Wyoming. Wealthy ranchers controlled huge areas and ruled the affairs of the territorial government.
By 1885, however, cattle prices had dropped. In addition, there was a severe shortage of grass for grazing. In 1887, thousands of cattle died in the howling blizzards and freezing temperatures of a bitterly cold winter. Many ranchers were ruined financially and lost much of their political power.
Statehood. Wyoming became the 44th state of the Union on July 10, 1890. Francis E. Warren, a Republican, became the first state governor on September 11. He resigned in November after being elected to the U.S. Senate. Settlers flocked to Wyoming, and trouble started almost immediately. Many settlers built homes on the prairie and tended small herds of cattle. Powerful cattlemen who had used the range for years grew angry when the settlers began fencing their small ranches. Many of the cattlemen who had financial problems blamed their hardship on the small ranchers. They accused these small outfits of fencing the land and rustling (stealing) cattle from established ranches to build their herds. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association, an organization controlled by the "cattle barons," hired detectives to protect its interests.
The Johnson County War. Violence broke out in north-central Wyoming in 1892. The established cattlemen were convinced that their herds were being looted. They had no proof to identify the rustlers, but they had strong suspicions. The operators of the large ranches prepared a list of suspects and decided to kill the men on the list. They brought in about 25 gunmen from Texas and made up a force of about 55 men. This force, called the Invaders, was formed in Cheyenne and secretly left for Johnson County. Along the way, the Invaders encountered two men who were allies of the small ranchers at a cabin of the KC Ranch near Buffalo. The two men were killed by the Invaders.
Information about the killings reached Buffalo, the seat of Johnson County, and a group of armed men was formed to stop the Invaders. The two forces met on the TA Ranch, but federal troops arrived in time to prevent a bloody battle. The Invaders were taken to Cheyenne for trial. However, important witnesses failed to appear at the trial. The Invaders were released, and the "war" ended.
Trouble again broke out on the range in the early 1900's. Cattlemen and sheepmen argued over grazing rights. The cattlemen claimed that their animals would not feed on land that had been grazed by sheep. A feud developed as the number of sheep increased. The climax came when cattlemen killed three sheepmen near Ten Sleep in 1909. But tempers cooled, and sheep became an important Wyoming product.
Progress as a state. After 1900, Wyoming's population grew rapidly. The Homestead acts of 1909, 1912, and 1916 provided large areas of free land for settlers under certain conditions. The construction of dams along major streams brought irrigation water to some areas of the prairie. Crops grown on this land increased the agricultural wealth of the state. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt made Devils Tower the first national monument. Tourism became more important as railroads and improved roads made it easier for people to reach such scenic areas as Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole.
Wyoming's first oil boom came in 1912 in the Salt Creek Field north of Casper. Oil companies built pipelines and refineries to handle the crude oil. By 1918, Casper had become a bustling center of business and finance.
In 1924, Wyoming voters elected the nation's first woman governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross. In 1933, Ross became the first woman director of the U.S. Mint.
Wyoming faced deep economic hardships well before the Great Depression of the 1930's began. Unstable economic conditions in Wyoming during the early 1920's included the failure of many banks, which became a nationwide feature of the Great Depression in the next decade. During the depression years of the 1930's, Wyoming's economy was helped by increasing oil production and by various government construction projects. These included the Kendrick Project, which provided both irrigation water and new hydroelectric capacity. The project, on the North Platte River, included Alcova, Kortes, and Seminoe dams.
The mid-1900's. Wyoming's economy boomed during World War II (1939-1945). The war brought great demands for the state's coal, lumber, meat, and oil. Economic development continued after the war, and tourism increased.
New industrial growth in Wyoming resulted from the mining of two minerals, trona and uranium. Sodium carbonate, the key ingredient of trona, has many uses in the chemical industry and in the manufacture of glass.
Oil drilling in southwestern Wyoming had shown that trona lay over 1,500 feet (457 meters) under the surface of the earth in the Green River Basin. A mine shaft was sunk there in 1947, and mining of trona began. Output increased rapidly during the 1950's. During the 1960's, two chemical companies built huge plants near the town of Green River to be used for the mining of trona and the production of sodium carbonate.
The first major uranium discovery in Wyoming occurred in 1951. Large deposits of uranium were found in the Powder River area. After the findings were published early in 1952, uranium was discovered in many areas throughout the state. By the late 1950's, Wyoming ranked third among the states in known uranium reserves.
Many companies expanded their operations in Wyoming during the 1960's. A steel company built a new iron ore processing plant near Sunrise. Another firm revived the ghost town of Atlantic City by opening an iron mine and building a processing plant there. Trona operations near Green River continued to grow. Oil and natural gas exploration also expanded, with the greatest activity in the Powder River Basin. Electric companies built generating plants that use Wyoming's huge coal deposits as fuel. The plants are at Glenrock, Kemmerer, Rock Springs, and Wheatland. Coal production dropped during the 1950's after railroad locomotives switched from coal to diesel power, but it began to rise again in the 1960's.
In 1960, Wyoming became the headquarters of the first operational long-range missile squadron in the United States. This squadron ranks as one of the largest missile installations in the world. The control center for the missile squadron is Francis E. Warren Air Force Base located just outside Cheyenne.
Recent developments. Between 1970 and 1980, Wyoming's population grew by about 42 percent, one of the highest rates in the nation. Large numbers of people moved to Wyoming to work in the state's rapidly developing mining industries. An Arab oil embargo in 1973 and 1974 reduced supplies, and raised prices, of petroleum in the United States and other countries. Wyoming's coal industry then grew as alternate energy sources were required. New coal mines were opened, and abandoned mines were reopened. The boom in coal helped lead to other economic growth in the state.
Wyoming's sudden population growth caused housing shortages and other problems in mining communities. During the 1970's, the state legislature approved new taxes on minerals to provide funds to help communities deal with their problems.
Wyoming began experiencing economic problems during the 1980's. Important uranium discoveries in Canada and Australia reduced the demand for Wyoming's uranium. Also, the nuclear energy industry, which uses uranium, has continued to develop slowly in the United States. Many Wyoming uranium mines and mills closed down. Americans also became more conservation-minded and reduced their use of coal and oil.
In the 1990's, Wyoming's production of coal and some other minerals increased. Tourism also grew in the state in the 1990's, benefiting the economy. Today, state leaders are trying to find ways to broaden the economy and make it less dependent on mineral production.
The 1980 United States census reported that Wyoming ranked 49th and Alaska 50th among the 50 states in population. The 1990 census showed that Alaska had passed Wyoming, leaving Wyoming last in population.
Places to Visit
Following are brief descriptions of some of Wyoming's many interesting places to visit:
Devils Tower National Monument, in northeastern Wyoming, is a volcanic tower that stands 867 feet (265 meters) above its base. In 1906, United States President Theodore Roosevelt established Devils Tower as the nation's first national monument.
Fort Laramie National Historic Site, near the town of Fort Laramie, was a fur-trading center and later a military post. The fort helped protect pioneer wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. A number of the original buildings at Fort Laramie have been restored.
Fossil Butte National Monument, 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Kemmerer, has the fossilized remains of fishes and plants that lived in the water which covered the area about 50 million years ago.
Grand Teton National Park lies in northwestern Wyoming. The majestic Teton Mountains rise sharply from the floor of a beautiful valley called Jackson Hole. One of the nation's most popular ski resorts lies in the Jackson Hole region of the park. Several lakes lie along the east side of the mountains. Visitors can see many kinds of wild animals, which are protected there. See GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK. Hell's Half Acre, west of Casper, is a rugged 320-acre (129-hectare) depression where wind and water have created unusual rock gullies, ridges, and towers. The canyon is located near the South Fork of the Powder River.
Wildlife Refuges. Wyoming has six major wildlife refuge areas where visitors can watch animals and birds in their natural surroundings. The largest area is the National Elk Refuge near Jackson. Federal waterfowl refuges include Pathfinder north of Rawlins, Bamforth and Hutton Lake near Laramie, and Seedskadee near Green River.
Wind River Canyon, south of Thermopolis, offers motorists a scenic drive between the Bridger and Owl Creek mountains. Cliffs rise 2,000 feet (610 meters) above the river. The canyon walls are interesting because of the rock formations exposed where the river cut through the mountains.
Yellowstone National Park, in northwestern Wyoming, is the world's oldest national park and one of the largest ones in the nation. Its spectacular beauty and unusual attractions were recognized by early explorers.
Yellowstone became a national park in 1872. The most notable features of the park include the world's largest geyser area, spectacular towering waterfalls, hot springs, deep canyons, and excellent fishing. See YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK. National Forests. Five national forests in Wyoming provide timber and serve as recreation areas. Shoshone, in northwestern Wyoming, is the largest forest. Other forests entirely in Wyoming are Bighorn, near Sheridan, and Medicine Bow, near Laramie.
Wyoming shares two of its national forests with bordering states. The Black Hills forest is shared with South Dakota and Bridger-Teton with Idaho.
State Parks. Wyoming has a number of historic sites, parks, and recreation areas. For information on the state parks and facilities in Wyoming, write to Director, State Parks and Historic Sites, Barrett Building, 3rd floor, Cheyenne, WY 82002.
Governors of Wyoming
Name Party Term
Francis E. Warren Republican 1890
Amos W. Barber Republican 1890-1893
John E. Osborne Democratic 1893-1895
William A. Richards Republican 1895-1899
DeForest Richards Republican 1899-1903
Fenimore Chatterton Republican 1903-1905
Bryant B. Brooks Republican 1905-1911
Joseph M. Carey Democratic 1911-1915
John B. Kendrick Democratic 1915-1917
Frank L. Houx Democratic 1917-1919
Robert D. Carey Republican 1919-1923
William B. Ross Democratic 1923-1924
Frank E. Lucas Republican 1924-1925
Nellie Tayloe Ross Democratic 1925-1927
Frank C. Emerson Republican 1927-1931
Alonzo M. Clark Republican 1931-1933
Leslie A. Miller Democratic 1933-1939
Nels H. Smith Republican 1939-1943
Lester C. Hunt Democratic 1943-1949
Arthur Griswold Crane Republican 1949-1951
Frank A. Barrett Republican 1951-1953
C. J. Rogers Republican 1953-1955
Milward L. Simpson Republican 1955-1959
J. J. Hickey Democratic 1959-1961
Jack R. Gage Democratic 1961-1963
Clifford P. Hansen Republican 1963-1967
Stanley K. Hathaway Republican 1967-1975
Edgar J. Herschler Democratic 1975-1987
Mike Sullivan Democratic 1987-1995
Jim Geringer Republican 1995-
Important Dates in Wyoming
1807 John Colter explored the Yellowstone area.
1812 Robert Stuart discovered South Pass across the Rocky Mountains.
1833 Captain Benjamin L. E. de Bonneville mapped the Wyoming area and discovered oil east of the Wind River Mountains.
1834 William Sublette and Robert Campbell established Fort William (later Fort Laramie).
1843 Scout Jim Bridger established Fort Bridger.
1867 The Union Pacific Railroad entered Wyoming.
1868 Congress created the Territory of Wyoming. Its first coal mines began operation in Carbon and Sweetwater counties.
1869 The Wyoming territorial legislature gave women the right to vote and hold elective office.
1872 Yellowstone became the first national park.
1883 Wyoming's first oil well was drilled in the Dallas Field.
1890 Wyoming became the 44th state on July 10.
1892 The Johnson County War broke out after a dispute over cattle rustling.
1906 President Theodore Roosevelt made Devils Tower the first national monument.
1910 Engineers completed Shoshone (now Buffalo Bill) Dam.
1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first woman governor in the United States.
1929 Grand Teton became a national park.
1938-1939 Engineers completed Alcova and Seminoe dams.
1951-1952 Major uranium deposits were found in several parts of Wyoming.
1960 The nation's first operational intercontinental ballistic missile base opened near Cheyenne.
1965 Minuteman missile installations were completed near Cheyenne.
1988 Fires damaged large areas of Yellowstone National Park.
ГЕОГРАФИЯ США: ШТАТ ВАЙОМИНГ [НА АНГЛИЙСКОМ]
ГЕОГРАФИЯ США: ШТАТ ВАЙОМИНГ [НА АНГЛИЙСКОМ] [Электронный ресурс]: электрон. данные. - Минск: Белорусская цифровая библиотека LIBRARY.BY, 01 сентября 2005. - Режим доступа: https://library.by/portalus/modules/english/readme.php?subaction=showfull&id=1125586760&archive=&start_from=&ucat=& (свободный доступ). – Дата доступа: 03.06.2020.
ГЕОГРАФИЯ США: ШТАТ ВАЙОМИНГ [НА АНГЛИЙСКОМ] // Минск: Белорусская цифровая библиотека LIBRARY.BY. Дата обновления: 01 сентября 2005. URL: https://library.by/portalus/modules/english/readme.php?subaction=showfull&id=1125586760&archive=&start_from=&ucat=& (дата обращения: 03.06.2020).
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