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
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 has two metropolitan areas, the Casper metropolitan area and the Cheyenne
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
1906 President Theodore Roosevelt made Devils Tower the first national
1910 Engineers completed Shoshone (now Buffalo Bill) Dam.
1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first woman governor in the United
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.