Wyoming (state), in the western United States. It is bordered by Montana on the north, South Dakota and Nebraska on the east, Colorado and Utah on the south, and Utah, Idaho and Montana on the west. The land within these borders was first called Wyoming in 1865, when a member of the Congress of the United States from Ohio suggested that a new territory be carved from Dakota, Utah, and Idaho territories.
The name Wyoming is a contraction of the Native American word mecheweamiing (“at the big plains”), and was first used by the Delaware people as a name for the Wyoming Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania. Wyoming is known as the Cowboy State and the Equality State. The latter recognizes Wyoming as the first state to specifically give women the right to vote, which it did as a territory in 1869 and retained upon entering the Union. Cheyenne is Wyoming’s capital and largest city.
Wyoming became a territory in 1868 and entered the Union on July 10, 1890, as the 44th state. It has a wealth of mineral and agricultural resources, and in the late 1990s mining and agriculture still played major roles in the state’s economy. During the same period the state ranked 50th among the 50 states in population and 50th in manufacturing. Wyoming is a state of great natural beauty, and each year increasing numbers of tourists are attracted by the state’s unspoiled scenic wonders.
Wyoming ranks ninth in size among the states of the Union, covering 253,337 sq km (97,814 sq mi), including 1,847 sq km (713 sq mi) of inland water. The state has a maximum extent from east to west of 586 km (364 mi) and from north to south of 444 km (276 mi). About one-third of the state is mountainous. Elevations range from 945 m (3,099 ft) along the Belle Fourche River in the northeastern corner of the state to 4,207 m (13,804 ft) atop Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range, part of the Rocky Mountains. The mean elevation is 2,040 m (6,700 ft). The federal government owns 51 percent of the land, much of it in national parks, forests, or preserves.
Wyoming contains parts of four major natural regions, or physiographic provinces, of the United States: the Southern Rocky Mountains, the Wyoming Basins, the Middle Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. The first three are subdivisions of a broader region known as the Rocky Mountain System (see Rocky Mountains); the Great Plains are part of the Interior Plains.
The Great Plains cover most of the eastern third of the state in a strip that broadens from south to north. It is an upland plateau, generally undulating, and in places broken by rough topography, low hills, and isolated buttes. The Black Hills of South Dakota extend into the northeastern corner of the state, their outstanding physical feature being Devils Tower, a volcanic neck vaulting 390 m (1,280 ft) from the floor of the surrounding valley.
Farther south three ranges of the Southern Rocky Mountains extend pronglike into Wyoming from their main massif in Colorado. They are the Laramie Mountains, about 230 km (about 140 mi) long, bordering the Great Plains; the Medicine Bow Mountains, about 80 km (about 50 mi) long, slightly to the west; and the Sierra Madre, about 50 km (about 30 mi) long, even farther west.
The Wyoming Basins, in central Wyoming, comprise a high arid plateau ringed by mountains, except on the northeast, where the region opens out on the Great Plains through a broad gap between the Southern and Middle Rocky Mountains. The basins together cover a somewhat larger area of the state than the Great Plains. General elevations range from 1,800 to 2,300 m (6,000 to 7,500 ft). The region is actually a series of basins broken up by low ridges. Far more striking than the ridges, which rarely rise more than 300 m (1,000 ft) above the surface, are the deep canyons carved in the landscape by millions of years of erosion by streams and rivers originating in the nearby mountains. The basins are drained northward by the Bighorn River, eastward by the North Platte River, and southward by the Green River.
The Continental Divide passes through the Wyoming Basins, but it splits west of Rawlins. The two arms of the divide come together again near the Wind River Mountains, forming the Great Divide Basin. Water in the Great Divide Basin flows to a series of saltflats and ponds in an area known as the Chain-of-Lakes, not to the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. The Continental Divide is essentially treeless in this area, dominated by native shrubs such as sagebrush, greasewood, and saltbush. North America’s largest area of active sand dunes occurs in the region, extending in a linear pattern from northeast of Rock Springs across the Great Divide Basin to south of the Ferris Mountains north of Rawlins.
The Middle Rocky Mountains occupy the northwestern quarter of the state and include the Bighorn, Owl Creek, Gros Ventre, Wind River, Absaroka, and Teton ranges. The highest point in this spectacularly beautiful region is Gannett Peak, in the Wind River Range. The Tetons are some of the most precipitous mountains on the North American continent, rising abruptly along a 60-km (40-mi) front near Wyoming’s western border, with many peaks rising above 3,000 m (10,000 ft). The highest is the Grand Teton, rising 4,197 m (13,771 ft). In the northwestern corner of Wyoming is Yellowstone National Park, a volcanic area containing about 3,000 hot springs and geysers and scored deeply at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. East of the park lies the sheltered, mountain-ringed Bighorn Basin.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
Straddling the Continental Divide, Wyoming is a source area for the waters of the four main drainage systems of the western United States: the Missouri-Mississippi; the Interior, or Great Basin; the Columbia; and the Colorado. Rivers joining the Missouri include the Yellowstone, Bighorn, Powder, and Belle Fourche rivers, which flow north, and the North Platte River, with such tributaries as the Sweetwater and Laramie rivers, which flow east. The Green River, rising in the Wind River Range, drains the greater part of southwestern Wyoming before joining the Colorado. The upper Bear River basin, part of the Interior Basin system, occupies a small section along the western border of the state. Northwestern Wyoming is drained by the Snake River, a major tributary of the Columbia.
The largest natural lake in Wyoming and probably the largest at its altitude (2,357 m/7,733 ft) anywhere in the United States is Yellowstone Lake, which covers an area of 339 sq km (131 sq mi) and has a maximum depth of 98 m (320 ft). Just to the south lies the second largest lake in Wyoming, Jackson Lake, with an area of about 100 sq km (about 40 sq mi). Jackson Lake has been enlarged by a dam on the Snake River. Fremont Lake, located north of Pinedale, is one of the state’s most spectacular lakes and was formed by glaciers that retreated as the climate warmed about 12,000 years ago. Some of Wyoming’s reservoirs are of impressive size. They include the Pathfinder, Seminoe, Glendo, and Boysen reservoirs and the huge reservoir on the Green River created by Flaming Gorge Dam.
Wyoming has a continental climate, characterized by moderately warm summers at low elevations, long and cold winters, and generally low amounts of precipitation. Average July temperatures range from about 17° C (about 63° F) in Yellowstone National Park, in the mountainous northwest, to 20° C (68° F) in Cheyenne, in the southeast. January averages are -7° C (19° F) in the national park and -3° C (27° F) in Cheyenne.
The basins, which lie in the rain shadow of mountains, are very dry, with an average annual precipitation of about 250 mm (about 10 in) or less; the Great Plains region has an annual average of about 380 mm (about 15 in), and the Black Hills region receives slightly more. Thunderstorms and hailstorms are relatively frequent in summer. The annual snowfall ranges from about 500 mm (about 20 in) in the Bighorn Basin to well over 5,100 mm (over 200 in) in the higher mountains, where annual precipitation can be 1,140 mm (45 in) or more. A distinctive climate feature is the high and persistent winds of the Wyoming Basin.
The growing season in Wyoming diminishes generally from east to west, from more than 120 days in the Plains region to less than 80 days in the mountainous northwest.
Eastern Wyoming, like much of the Great Plains, has soils that are quite fertile. However, only 5 percent of the state is cultivated because of low amounts of annual precipitation and the cool growing season that prevails over much of the area. Known as mollisols and aridisols in the lowlands, the soils have developed under grasslands and shrublands dominated by plants such as blue grama, western wheatgrass, Indian ricegrass, and sagebrush. When plowed, the soils can be very susceptible to wind erosion. Irrigation usually is necessary to achieve economically valuable harvests, though it is practiced on only about 3 percent of the state’s land area. Most of the irrigation occurs on the fertile alluvial soils that have developed along streams and rivers. Mountain soils are known as inceptisols, alfisols, and mollisols. They tend to have more sand and gravel particles mixed in with the finer silt and clay particles. Because of more rain and snow at higher elevations, mountain soils usually support forests.
The plant life of Wyoming includes about 2,200 species that form a variety of grasslands, desert shrublands, forests, mountain meadows, and alpine tundra. Forests occur on about one-fifth of the state, primarily at higher elevations where the annual precipitation is higher. In the lower mountains, such as in the Black Hills, the forests are dominated by ponderosa pine. Farther west, Douglas fir dominates the forests at lower elevations. The climate is cooler and wetter in the higher mountains, which is favorable for trees such as lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and aspen. The alpine timberline occurs at about 3,000 m (about 9,800 ft) in the northern part of the state, and at about 3,500 m (about 11,500 ft) in the south. Subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, whitebark pine, and limber pine occur only as wind-swept shrubs at the upper limits for tree growth. The alpine tundra above the timberline is dominated by a variety of grasses and other herbaceous plants, some of which also are found in the Arctic tundra. The temperature during the summer in alpine tundra can be quite warm during the day, but frequently it drops to below freezing at night.
Several species of sagebrush are characteristic of much of the lowlands in Wyoming. The most common species, big sagebrush, forms extensive shrublands in the western two-thirds of the state. Western wheatgrass, blue grama, needleleaf sedge, Indian ricegrass, junegrass, scarlet globemallow, fringed sagewort, phlox, milkvetch, rabbitbrush, and pricklypear cactus are also common. The grasslands in the eastern part of the state are dominated by the same species and others, but sagebrush is less common. Greasewood is a shrub that occurs in low areas that have standing water in the spring, but which become dry saltflats later in the summer. In the driest environments, where the annual precipitation is less than 200 mm (8 in), desert shrubs such as saltbush, winterfat, and spiny hopsage occur with various species of sagebrush. Juniper and mountain-mahogany are common shrubs on ridges and in the foothills of the mountains, often occurring with limber pine or ponderosa pine.
The most luxuriant plant growth in the lowlands occurs along streams and rivers, where the soils are wetter for a longer time during the summer. Cottonwood trees and a variety of shrubs, especially willows, are widespread in these riparian environments. Blue spruce, alder, and box elder occur with the cottonwood and willows in some areas.
Wyoming’s diverse habitat allows an abundance of wildlife, with more than 600 species found in the state. Wyoming provides refuge for some of North America’s largest animals, including the moose, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer, grizzly bear, and mountain lion. The largest herds of pronghorns in the world still range over Wyoming’s plains, and large herds of elk find a home in its mountains. Smaller mammals include the fox, mink, coyote, bobcat, jackrabbit, cottontail, otter, beaver, and raccoon. The trumpeter swan, once nearly extinct, can be found in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, along with the white pelican, great blue heron, and California gull. Birds of prey include the bald eagle, golden eagle, osprey, and several kinds of hawks and owls. Other birds include the sage grouse, wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant, Canada goose, and numerous species of ducks. The prairie rattlesnake, the state’s only poisonous snake, is found at lower elevations. Brook, cutthroat, brown, and rainbow trout are found in many mountain streams, although the cutthroat is the only trout native to Wyoming. Bass, walleye, crappie, perch, channel catfish, and others are found in reservoirs at lower elevations.
Federal, state, and local agencies cooperate in the conservation of Wyoming’s natural resources. Land in the Yellowstone area was set aside in 1872 as the nation’s first national park. The first federal timberland reserve, Yellowstone Park Timber Stands Reserve (now Shoshone National Forest), was created in 1891. In 1927 all fish and game were declared state property.
Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department has a long history of success in wildlife conservation. The pronghorn was threatened with extinction in the early 1900s, but habitat improvement and better management has raised the population to more than 400,000 animals. They roam freely across the state at lower elevations and are commonly seen along major highways. The black-footed ferret was thought to be extinct for many years, but a small population of this weasel-like mammal was found near Meeteetse in 1981. When some of the animals began to die because of the disease known as canine distemper, all of the remaining 18 individuals were caught and transported to the Game and Fish Department’s intensive care unit for wildlife. Bred in captivity, the population numbered about 500 animals in 1996. Some have been released with the hope that new wild populations will become established.
The mountain lion, grizzly bear, and gray wolf were the largest mammalian predators throughout the plains and mountains of Wyoming during the early 1800s. The mountain lion is still common, but in the 1990s the grizzly bear in Wyoming numbered only about 250 animals, all in Yellowstone National Park and vicinity. The grizzly is classified as an endangered species in the United States. The gray wolf had been absent from Wyoming for many years, but amid much controversy, was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. The wolf also is classified as an endangered species.
In addition to rare animals, there are at least ten endangered plants in Wyoming, and 45 plants that are found no where else on earth. These plants include Barneby’s clover, desert yellowhead, and Laramie columbine. Recognizing the potential importance of rare plants and animals, various government agencies are working in collaboration with land owners and private organizations to protect the few remaining populations of these species.
Water conservation is essential to Wyoming’s towns, industry, and agriculture. Major federal irrigation projects benefiting the state include the Missouri Basin, North Platte, Riverton, and Shoshone projects. Many smaller irrigation projects, financed by the Small Project Revolving Fund, are located in the Bear River basin of western Wyoming. More than nine-tenths of the state is included in soil conservation districts.
In 2006 the state had 2 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Between 1995 and 2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment increased by 3 percent.
Since its early settlement in the mid-19th century, Wyoming has had an economy based on its natural resources. Cattle ranching and coal mining became major economic activities in the late 19th century. Farming grew in importance in the early 20th century, and the fossil fuel industry was diversified as new deposits of petroleum and natural gas were discovered. Today, mining is the most important sector of the state economy, followed by transportation and utilities. Of growing importance to many communities, and the state as a whole, is the tourism industry. Visitors are attracted during the summer and fall by the state’s extensive national parks and forests, while in the winter many come to the state’s world-renowned ski resorts. The manufacturing sector, however, remains relatively undeveloped.
In 2006, 285,000 people held jobs in Wyoming. Some 37 percent held jobs in the service industries, which include many people catering to tourists. Another 18 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 23 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 9 percent in construction; 10 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 9 percent in mining; 6 percent in farming (including agricultural services) or forestry; 19 percent in transportation or public utilities; and 4 percent in manufacturing. In 2005, 8 percent of Wyoming’s workers were members of a union.
The federal government owns one-half of the land in Wyoming. About 80 percent of Wyoming’s mineral resources are located on this federal land, which is open to private producers who pay a royalty on the riches they extract. The Wyoming state government receives about one-half of the federal royalties. Ranchers are also allowed to lease, and with special permission even fence, federal land to graze their herds.
In 2005 there were 9,200 ranches and farms in Wyoming, with an average size of 1,513 hectares (3,739 acres). Two-thirds of them had annual sales of more than $10,000; many of the remaining one-third were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Agricultural land occupied 14 million hectares (34 million acres), of which less than 10 percent was dedicated to growing crops; most is grasslands and shrublands used for livestock grazing. Farmers rely on irrigation to raise their crops, and 52 percent of the cropland is so watered.
The sale of livestock and livestock products accounts for 86 percent of farm income; the sale of cattle and calves most of that amount. In number of sheep, Wyoming ranks third among the states, behind only Texas and California. Many of the crops raised in Wyoming are used to feed livestock. Alfalfa, corn, and various meadow grasses are the major feed crops. Sugar beets, wheat, barley, dry beans, and potatoes are the leading cash crops.
|A1||Patterns of Farming|
Farms and ranches are located throughout the lowlands. The Great Plains region in eastern Wyoming is cattle-ranching and dryland wheat-farming country, with some irrigated cultivation of alfalfa, corn, and sugar beets. The Bighorn Basin has a similar economy, except that more than 85 percent of the cropland is irrigated. The sagebrush-dominated plains of southern and southwestern Wyoming are used mainly as winter range for livestock that sometimes are moved to higher pastures in summer. Dairying predominates in western Wyoming’s Star Valley. Adjacent to the mountains and national parks it is difficult to separate farming income from tourist income, because many working ranches cater to guests interested in hunting, fishing, horseback riding, wilderness exploration, and the rich diversity of plant and animal life in the region.
Lumbering is not as important in Wyoming as it is in neighboring Montana and Idaho. Operations are small and scattered, although locally significant. The primary commercial trees are ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and Douglas fir. Federal law mandates that the harvesting of wood in national forests be done in a way that does not cause declines in environmental quality or the abundance of rare plants and animals.
In 1997 Wyoming ranked fourth among the states in the value of coal production, fifth in natural gas production, sixth in petroleum output, and 12th in nonfuel mineral output.
Natural gas is Wyoming’s most important mineral. Gas production totaled 51.4 billion cu m (1.8 trillion cu ft) annually in 2006. Sweetwater, Campbell, Sublette, and Fremont counties are the leading natural gas-producing counties. Found with the natural gas is helium, of which the state is the country’s second largest producer, after Kansas.
Coal is the state’s second most important mineral by value. Extensive coal reserves underlie one-half of the state, and Wyoming’s coal contains little sulfur, which makes it desirable as a low-polluting coal fuel. In 2006 production reached 405 million metric tons, nearly all of which was strip-mined. Campbell and Carbon counties are by far the leading coal producers.
The value of petroleum extracted in Wyoming had declined by the mid-1990s to less than one-half the value pumped in the mid-1980s. Still, the state produced 53 million barrels in 2006. Most of the state’s 23 counties produced some oil, but Campbell, Park, Natrona, Hot Springs, Fremont, and Sweetwater counties produced the most. There are large reserves in the Powder River Basin and in the Overthrust Belt in the southwest.
Valuable nonfuel minerals include sodium carbonate (soda ash), used primarily in the manufacture of glass, bentonite, a type of clay used in drilling oil wells, and helium gas. Wyoming is the nation’s leading producer of both sodium carbonate-bicarbonate and bentonite. The bentonite is mined mainly in Crook County and in the Bighorn Basin. Other important minerals are gemstones, particularly diamonds, and construction stone, including limestone and marble.
Uranium mining was important through the 1970s, and Wyoming is the nation’s largest domestic source. In the early 1980s, however, uranium production virtually ceased because of the slump in the nuclear energy industry caused by the public outcry over the high cost of building nuclear power plants and the hazards involved in operating them.
Manufacturing plays a relatively minor role in the Wyoming economy. The leading industries, ranked by the value added by manufacturing, are the chemical industries, petroleum refineries, food processors, the makers of industrial machinery, and wood product manufacturers. Casper, because of its oil refineries, is the state’s leading industrial center. Flight instruments and testing equipment are manufactured at Cheyenne. The Star Valley is a center for the dairy industry. Sugar beets are refined at plants in Torrington, Worland, and Lovell. Although Wyoming has experienced some industrial expansion in the second half of the 20th century, the state is primarily a supplier of raw materials for industries based in other states.
Nearly all of Wyoming’s power supply comes from thermal plants using locally mined, low-sulfur coal. These include the huge Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs, the Kemmerer plant in southwestern Wyoming, and two plants along the North Platte River. Hydroelectric power is also produced in Wyoming, chiefly as a by-product of federal dams for irrigation, although they generate only 2 percent of the state’s electricity. Most of Wyoming’s major hydroelectric plants are on the North Platte River.
Wyoming’s income from tourists grows steadily each year. Its national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, annually attract millions of visitors, who also come to ski in winter, to hunt in fall, and to sample cowboy-style living on dude ranches. Many others come to enjoy fishing, camping, and hiking in the national forests and on other easily accessible federal lands. Competition for tourists among the states within the Rocky Mountain region is keen.
|G||Transportation and Trade|
Historically, southern Wyoming has provided two east-west routes across the Continental Divide that have been used by every means of land transportation, from covered wagons to modern automobiles and railroads. One of these routes, the Oregon Trail, follows the valleys of the North Platte and the Sweetwater rivers crossing the divide at South Pass, 2,301 m (7,550 ft) high in central Wyoming. The path taken by the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails, it is now less important than a route farther south that crosses the divide west of Rawlins at an elevation of 2,189 m (7,178 ft). The southern route, known originally as the Overland Trail, parallels the path of the Union Pacific Railroad. Three of Wyoming’s five largest cities are located on this first transcontinental railroad, including Cheyenne, the state’s transportation center.
In 2004 the state had 2,997 km (1,862 mi) of railroad track. Coal comprised 95 percent of the tonnage of all rail goods originating in Wyoming.
The principal auto route in Wyoming is Interstate 80. Interstate 25 is the chief north-south route. In 2005 the state had 44,576 km (27,698 mi) of highway, including 1,471 km (914 mi) of the federal interstate highway system.
Wyoming had 7 airports in 2007, many of them private airfields. The major cities were all served by airports, although none of them are considered busy by national standards.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF WYOMING|
In the 2007 national census, Wyoming ranked 50th in the nation, with a total population of 493,782. The number of residents increased by 8.9 percent from the 1990 population of 453,588. Wyoming was one of the fastest-growing states in the country during the 1970s, but its population decreased in the 1980s in part as a result of a slowdown in the state’s mining-dependent economy. Population density was 2 persons per sq km (5.3 per sq mi) in 2006. Only Alaska was less densely populated. In recent decades, Wyomingites have been moving away from isolated farm areas, and, by 2000, 65 percent lived in cities or towns. Overall, Wyoming remains a land of wide-open spaces checkered by about 100 municipalities, mostly small towns with a few medium-sized cities.
In 2006 only six cities had a sizable population: Cheyenne (55,314), Casper (52,089), Laramie (25,688), Rock Springs (19,324), Gillette (23,899), and Sheridan (16,429). Cheyenne, the state capital, is a commercial, industrial, and transportation center and a gateway to the Rocky Mountains. It is the site of the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, an important United States defense arsenal. Casper is located in the heart of Wyoming’s oil fields. With its refineries and oil-field equipment industry, it is the state’s chief manufacturing and wholesale trade center. Laramie is the home of the University of Wyoming and several museums, including the Ivinson Mansion, and a park that features the recently restored Territorial Prison as well as displays dedicated to the lives of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, of the late 1800s. Rock Springs, Gillette, and Sheridan are smaller trade centers for mining, agriculture, and associated enterprises.
Although more than 50 nationalities are represented in some of the mining communities, such as Rock Springs, 92.1 percent of the people are of European descent. Native Americans make up 2.3 percent of the state’s total population. A majority of them live on the Wind River Reservation, 900,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) in west central Wyoming, the home of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes. Some 0.8 percent of the population is black, 0.6 percent is Asian, 0.1 percent is Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and 4.3 percent are of mixed heritage or did not report race in the 2000 census. Hispanics, who can be of any race, represent 6.4 percent of the population.
A majority of Wyoming’s church members are Protestants. Among the largest denominations are the Methodists, the Mormons, the Presbyterians, and the Baptists. About 18 percent of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic church.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
The first school in Wyoming was established at Fort Laramie in 1852. In 1869 the territorial legislature passed Wyoming’s first school law, one of the earliest in the United States to provide for a system of free public schools supported by general taxation. Further legislation, enacted four years later, emphasized uniformity of curricula and standardization of requirements for teacher certification. It laid the groundwork for the present system of public education in Wyoming, enacted by the first state legislature in 1890. A constitutional amendment, enacted in 1948, provided for the establishment of a statewide property tax for the support of public schools. The state system of public education is supervised by a state superintendent of public instruction and a state board of education.
Education in Wyoming is compulsory for children from the age of 7 to 16. Of the state’s children, only 2 percent attend private schools. In the 2002–2003 school year Wyoming spent $10,313 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 13.3 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state, 90 percent had a high school diploma, the fifth best rate among the states.
The state-supported University of Wyoming, the only four-year institution of higher education in Wyoming, opened in Laramie in 1887. In 2004–2005 the state had 8 public and 1 private institution of higher learning. They included the two-year institutions Casper College, in Casper; Eastern Wyoming College, in Torrington; Sheridan College, in Sheridan; Northwest College, in Powell; Central Wyoming College, in Riverton; Western Wyoming College, in Rock Springs; and Laramie County Community College, in Cheyenne.
The largest library in Wyoming is the William Robertson Coe Library of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The second largest is the Wyoming State Library in Cheyenne. There were 23 tax-supported public libraries in 2002. Each year the libraries circulate an average of 7.8 books for every resident.
The University of Wyoming Art Museum in Laramie features contemporary art, American art, and a diverse array of ethnographic material. The Wyoming State Museum and the Wyoming State Archives are in Cheyenne. The state maintains historical museums in Fort Bridger and South Pass City, the Wyoming Pioneer Memorial Museum in Douglas, and the American Heritage Center on the University of Wyoming campus. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art are located in Cody. Western art is also exhibited at the Bradford Brinton Memorial, in Big Horn, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, in Jackson. The Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie has been restored with state and local funds, and is a popular attraction for visitors with an interest in the Old West. The prison is part of the Wyoming Territorial Park, which includes the National U.S. Marshals Museum and exhibits provided by other groups. Fort Laramie National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, attracts those interested in the history of the Oregon Trail, Pony Express, and United States Cavalry. In Pinedale, the Museum of the Mountain Man features exhibits about life in Wyoming before the opening of the Oregon Trail.
Some 48 newspapers are published in Wyoming, including 5 dailies. The first newspaper in Wyoming was the Daily Telegraph, first published in Fort Bridger in 1863. The most widely read newspaper is the Casper Star-Tribune, published in Casper. Also influential is the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, published in Cheyenne. Jackson is home to two prize-winning weekly newspapers.
The first commercial radio station in Wyoming, KDFN, at Casper, was licensed in 1930. Cheyenne’s television station, KFBC, was the first in the state and began broadcasting in 1954. In 2002 there were 27 AM and 31 FM radio stations and 8 television stations operating in Wyoming.
|E||Music and Theater|
Cowboy ballads, the folk music of the Western plains, are an important part of Wyoming’s cultural heritage. Many of the songs were introduced by Texans who herded the longhorns north to Wyoming in the great cattle drives of the 1870s and 1880s. Some are still sung on the range; others form the basis of popular Western music heard at county fairs, dances, and other social gatherings in the state.
Interest in classical music is centered in Laramie, at the University of Wyoming, which maintains an oratorio chorus, choir, symphony orchestra, and smaller ensembles. Cheyenne and Casper support civic symphony orchestras, and local groups often sponsor community concerts at which professional singers and musicians appear. The Grand Teton Music Festival features classical music and is held each summer at Teton Village in Jackson Hole.
Wyoming’s first theatrical troupe reached Cheyenne by stagecoach from Colorado in 1867. In the early 1900s almost every Wyoming town had its own opera house, where dramatic, variety, and musical performances were given. At present, interest in the theater is fostered by the University of Wyoming. There, students present a series of popular plays and experimental productions each season. There are also amateur and semiprofessional dramatic groups in Casper, Cheyenne, and other cities, and at the community colleges.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
When the explorer John Frémont first saw the mountains of Wyoming in 1842, he remarked that it seemed as if “Nature had collected all her beauties together in one chosen place.” Each year countless visitors to Wyoming must agree, as they enjoy its magnificent forests and parks, use its excellent facilities for camping, climbing, and hunting, or fish along its crystal-clear streams. Wyoming’s Wild-West past heightens its color and interest. The state is one of the most popular vacationlands in the United States and a mecca for all Americans who relish the outdoor life.
|A||National Parks and Forests|
Two of the most famous and spectacular parks in the United States are located in Wyoming. Yellowstone National Park, the largest and oldest in the nation, has most of its acreage in the state. Grand Teton National Park is located directly south of Yellowstone. The federal government also manages nearly 3.8 million hectares (9.3 million acres) of forestland in Wyoming. Four national forests, the Shoshone, Medicine Bow, Bridger-Teton, and Big Horn, lie wholly within the state. Five others, Targhee, Wasatch, Black Hills, Ashley, and Caribou, have additional acreage in other states. All nine forests permit hunting, fishing, picnicking, camping, and boating. In addition, Wyoming has a number of national recreation areas, wilderness areas, and wildlife preserves, the most famous of which is the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole. The magnificent Bighorn Canyon, near Lovell on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains, is missed by many visitors, but is easily viewed from paved highways in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
The state of Wyoming maintains several recreational facilities. The world’s largest hot springs are located at Hot Springs State Park, at Thermopolis. In the mid-1990s Wyoming had 22 state parks and historic sites. Many of the parks have facilities for fishing, boating, camping, and picnicking. The largest is Boysen State Park, in central Wyoming.
|C||National Monuments and Historic Sites|
The National Park Service administers two national monuments in Wyoming. One, Devils Tower National Monument, a volcanic rock formation near the Belle Fourche River, is primarily of scenic interest. The other, Fossil Butte National Monument, near Kemmerer, contains the fossils of fishes that lived in the area about 50 million years ago, when the region was a seabed. Fort Laramie National Historic Site recalls Wyoming’s vivid past, for many of its buildings were used in the l9th century when Fort Laramie was the most important military post on the Oregon Trail. The state of Wyoming has also restored or rebuilt a number of forts important in Wyoming’s history. These include Fort Bridger, founded in 1843 by mountain man James Bridger, and Fort Fetterman, built in 1867 and named after an army officer who had been killed by Native Americans in the previous year. Platte Bridge Battlefield, on the Oregon Trail near Casper, and Connor Battlefield Historic Site, near Sheridan, mark battles of 1865. South Pass City, near Lander, is a ghost town that has been restored by the state and attracts visitors interested in life in a gold-mining town of the late 1860s.
Other interesting places to visit are Independence Rock and Register Cliff, landmarks on the Oregon Trail for l9th-century pioneers, thousands of whom inscribed their names on them. Hole-in-the-Wall is a gorge 56 km (35 mi) long in central Wyoming that long served as a hideout for outlaws some of whom ended up in the Territorial Prison in Laramie.
|D||Sports and Leisure|
Wyoming’s mountains, plains, forests, lakes, and streams offer ideal conditions for all types of outdoor recreation. Hiking, hunting, camping, boating, fishing, horseback riding, golf, and tennis are popular activities. Trapshooting, rifle, and pistol clubs are common, and skiing has developed into a major recreational activity. Wyoming’s ski areas include Jackson Hole, in Teton Village; Snow King Mountain, in Jackson; and Meadowlark, near Worland. Dude ranches—resorts at which visitors participate in traditional cowboy activities—and rodeos are also popular. Cheyenne Frontier Days is one of the largest rodeos in the world and draws the finest rodeo stock and riders.
In addition to county fairs and festivals, many of Wyoming’s most interesting events center around the traditions of its frontier-era residents. One of the oldest rodeos in the nation takes place during Cheyenne Frontier Days, held annually during the last full week of July. Other important rodeos include the Cody Stampede Rodeo and the Sheridan Rodeo, also held every July. However, every Sunday is rodeo day somewhere in the Cowboy State. The Wyoming State Fair is held each August in Douglas. The fur trapping days of the early 1800s are commemorated each year at the Fort Bridger Rendezvous on Labor Day, on Fort Bridger, and the Green River Rendezvous during the second week of July, near Pinedale. During these festivals, visitors participate in events that involve Native Americans and modern-day mountain men.
Wyoming’s state constitution went into effect in 1890, at the time Wyoming was admitted to the Union. It has been amended many times. Amendments may be proposed in the state legislature or at a special constitutional convention convened with the approval of both the legislature and a majority of the Wyoming electorate. Proposed amendments carry only if more than half the voters at the election vote for them. An amendment approved in 1968 sets procedures for citizens to follow to initiate legislation.
The state’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for a four-year term. The governor may veto laws or individual items of appropriations measures passed by the state legislature. The legislature may override the governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote in each house. Other elected officials in the executive branch of the state government include the secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, and superintendent of public instruction. All are elected for four-year terms and serve on the administrative boards governing the state. All elected officials are limited to serving two four-year terms in a 16-year period. In case of a vacancy in the governorship, the secretary of state serves as acting governor until a new governor is inaugurated following the next general election.
The state legislature consists of a Senate of 30 members and a House of Representatives of 60 members. Senators are elected for four-year terms, and representatives are elected for two-year terms. General sessions of the legislature, lasting up to 40 days, convene on the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years. Budget sessions, lasting up to 20 days, convene on the third Monday of February in even-numbered years. The governor may call special legislative sessions at other times. The state constitution limits the legislature to meeting no more than 60 days (except for special sessions) in the two-year period for which members of the House of Representatives are elected.
The highest state court in Wyoming is the supreme court. The court consists of five justices retained for eight-year terms. The justice closest to the expiration of an eight-year term serves as the chief justice. The major trial courts in the state are the district courts, where judges serve six-year terms. Supreme court and district court justices are selected by a nominating committee, which chooses the names of three qualified lawyers in the state each time an opening on the bench occurs. The three names are submitted to the governor, who chooses one to serve for the next year or until the next general election. At that time the person appears unopposed on ballots, where voters have a choice to “retain” or “not retain” the justice. Lower state courts include justice of the peace courts and police courts.
Each of Wyoming’s 23 counties is governed by a board of county commissioners, who are elected for four-year terms. Other elected county officials include the county clerk, treasurer, assessor, attorney, sheriff, and coroner. Most of the municipalities in Wyoming have the mayor and city council form of municipal government. However, Casper, which is the second largest city, and Laramie, the third largest, are both governed under the council and city manager form of government.
Wyoming has one member in the U.S. House of Representatives and two members in the U.S. Senate. The state has three electoral votes in presidential elections.
Native Americans have lived in Wyoming for over 11,000 years. In 1975 archaeologists uncovered a site dating back 11,200 years in which the remains of prehistoric mammoths were found next to bone tools, projectiles, and knives. Another site shows evidence of prehistoric people mining quartzite, presumably to use for tools.
The principal Native American groups of Wyoming were the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Blackfoot, Crow, Shoshone, and Bannock. Many of these groups had similar lifestyles, based on the Great Plains culture. They were nomads, living in small groups of up to 100 people, hunting primarily Plains bison. In order to trap the animals, Native Americans built corrals made of brush and poles near steep bluffs or ravines. Then they drove bison herds toward the corral. When the bison entered the corral, men hiding behind the walls chased the bison over cliffs.
In the middle of the 17th century, Native Americans of the Great Plains began to use horses. These animals provided the Native Americans greater mobility because they could carry more goods, and they could transport the young and the elderly with greater ease. Horses also became an important tool for bison hunting. A fast and well-trained group of horses could drive a herd of buffalo over a cliff so that the Native Americans did not have to build a corral. Native American groups with the most horses were often the most prosperous. Many Native American groups stole horses from one another to improve their hunting or to weaken their neighbors’ claims on adjacent hunting grounds.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, some Native Americans from the Northeast began migrating west to the Great Plains as white settlers took their land. As the plains became more populated, rivalries intensified among different Native American groups. The Cheyenne and the Arapaho probably came into the Great Plains region in the 18th century from North Dakota or Minnesota. These traditional allies lived on the eastern plains of Wyoming. The Sioux, who relocated from Minnesota and Wisconsin, also hunted in the eastern plains of Wyoming. By the early l9th century the Crow people were based in the Bighorn Mountains. The Blackfoot, who were antagonistic toward the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, and Sioux, occupied the Snake River country and the Three Forks of the Missouri River in Montana. In the mountains of western Wyoming roamed the Shoshone and Bannock. Other tribes who at one time hunted in the Wyoming country included the Ute, the Flathead, the Nez Perce, and the Kiowa. Access to the best buffalo lands was determined by warfare.
|B||Exploration and Trade|
Although for many years after the European discovery of America no European set foot in Wyoming, the area was often included in European territorial agreements. It is possible that Spaniards may have traveled through Wyoming in the late 16th or early 17th century or that the French trader François de La Vérendrye and his brother Louis-Joseph may have reached the Wyoming country in about 1743.
Wyoming Territory was included in three important land transactions. First, in 1803 France sold the United States a vast expanse of land, known as the Louisiana Purchase, which included portions of Wyoming east of the Rocky Mountains. In 1848 parts of Wyoming became part of Oregon Territory. In 1848 the United States acquired parts of Wyoming under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which settled the Mexican War between the United States and Mexico. In the course of its history, Wyoming’s boundaries were changed some 30 times. Parts of Wyoming were also in Washington Territory, Idaho Territory, Montana Territory and Dakota Territory. Throughout these years of active map changing, most of its land remained unknown and unexplored.
In 1805 President Thomas Jefferson sent out the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the land to the west of St. Louis, Missouri. One of the members of this expedition, American John Colter, became the first white man known to have explored Wyoming. In 1806 Colter was released from the expedition to enter the trapping business. Colter entered Wyoming in 1807 and probably discovered such landmarks as Jackson and Yellowstone lakes, but his trapping efforts were unsuccessful and in 1810 Colter returned to Missouri.
In 1811 an expedition organized by the Pacific Fur Company and led by Wilson Hunt Price traveled through northern Wyoming to take charge of a trading post being built at Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River. A party returning from Astoria in 1812, led by Robert Stuart, was the first to follow what would become the Oregon Trail, a historic trail that crossed the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. The trail was used by thousands of settlers headed for Oregon country. Stuart’s party found the South Pass, an easy route through the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Wyoming.
The fur trade was not organized in Wyoming until the 1820s. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company, established by General William Henry Ashley and Andrew Henry, began to send trappers into the Wyoming country in 1822. The first company expedition sent to Wyoming was wrought with difficulties. The party lost cargo when its boat got caught on a snag in the Missouri River; later the group lost 14 men to a Native American attack.
Trappers in Wyoming did not establish strategic forts or trading posts, but instead met annually, starting in 1825, often on the Green River to exchange goods and replenish supplies. Trappers led a lonely, solitary life and the rendezvous system, as the annual meetings were called, gave mountain men an occasion to socialize, drink, and gamble. In the 1830s as beaver supplies diminished in present-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, trappers from other fur trading companies, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the American Fur Company, began to trap in Wyoming territory. Mountain men continued to assemble at the annual rendezvous until the 1840s when the beaver population had almost disappeared because of overtrapping.
Among the trappers who worked for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and explored the rich Wyoming region were James Bridger, Robert Campbell, David Jackson, Jedediah Strong Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Kit Carson, and two of the Sublette brothers, William and Milton. Smith and Fitzpatrick, approaching the South Pass from the east in 1824, marked the route that became part of the Oregon Trail. The mountain men publicized the pass and used it regularly. William Lewis Sublette and Robert Campbell built Wyoming’s first permanent settlement, Fort William, on the Laramie River in 1834. Soon the fort acquired the name of Laramie, named for an early trapper, Jacques la Ramie. Sold to the American Fur Company in 1835, Fort Laramie was a chief meeting place for Native Americans and trappers in the area and a stopping point for westward travelers. In 1849 the fort was sold to the United States government and became the second military post on the Oregon Trail. Fort Bridger, a supply post opened by James Bridger and Louis Vásquez in 1843 on Blacks Fork of the Green River, also became a famous landmark on the trail. Taken over by the U.S. government in 1857, it served as a military post until the late l9th century.
A number of missionaries heading for the Pacific Coast traveled through the Wyoming country in the 1830s. Reverend Samuel Parker preached Wyoming’s first sermon at the 1835 Green River rendezvous. Trapper guides led missionaries Henry Harmon Spalding and Marcus Whitman, accompanied by their wives, over the Oregon Trail in 1836. A Jesuit priest, Father Pierre Jean de Smet, celebrated Wyoming’s first Roman Catholic mass in 1840. During the 1840s an increasing stream of emigrants made their way through Wyoming on the way to settlement in Oregon or California. A party led by John Bidwell left the Oregon Trail at Bear River and crossed the desert to California in 1841, inaugurating the California Trail.
Expeditions guided by mountain men and led by Lieutenant John Charles Frémont explored the Wyoming country in 1842 and 1843. Frémont published glowing reports of its beauty. In 1847 another trail through the region was pioneered by Mormon emigrants headed for the Great Salt Lake. With the discovery of gold in California in 1848, many thousands more headed westward. The trails through Wyoming had become essential links between the Far West and the states to the east. From 1841 to 1868 an estimated 350,000 to 400,000 emigrants traveled through Wyoming, although very few stayed.
|D||Conflict With the Native Americans|
The streams of emigrants, although headed for Oregon or California, disrupted the life of Wyoming’s Native Americans. White men killed or drove away game, destroyed vegetation along their routes, and hemmed in Native Americans that had traditionally hunted over a large expanse of the Great Plains. In 1841 a Sioux-Cheyenne party attacked and killed Henry Fraeb, a colleague of James Bridger. Infrequent incidents such as this one raised apprehension and mistrust among the whites. As a result, in 1847 the government appointed the first permanent Native American agent for the Great Plains region, mountain man Thomas Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick had two principal tasks: First, he wanted to help resolve problems among the Native Americans of the Great Plains so that white emigrants would not become victims of tribal warfare; second, he needed to establish territorial agreements between the Native Americans and the whites. In 1851 Fitzpatrick and the superintendent of Indian affairs in St. Louis, D. D. Mitchell, announced that a general conference of Native Americans of the Great Plains region was to be held at Fort Laramie. Some groups such as the Pawnee, Comanche, and Kiowa, refused to attend. The Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, and Shoshone, however, gathered at Fort Laramie in September.
An estimated 10,000 Native Americans attended the meeting, so many, in fact that the meeting was moved down to the mouth of Horse Creek on the Platte River. Participants signed a treaty that awarded the Native Americans gifts valued at $50,000 as compensation for the deterioration of the Great Plains bison population and grazing grounds, caused by white immigration. In an effort to reduce intertribal warfare, the treaty also set definite limits for areas in which the different Native American groups would live. Native American participants were also granted annuities over a 50-year period, which was later reduced to a 10-year period by the U.S. Senate.
Relations between Native Americans and whites remained relatively uneventful until 1854 when a Sioux party killed a stray cow. The person to whom the cow belonged reported to Fort Laramie that his cow had been stolen. In response Lieutenant John Grattan led a small force of 29 men to a Sioux village near the fort to investigate the lost cow. The Sioux were asked to surrender but refused. Both sides became apprehensive and shots were exchanged; Chief Brave Bear was killed in the confusion, and the Sioux retaliated by killing Grattan and his men.
For a time, Fort Laramie was practically under a state of siege. Reinforcements arrived and troops escorted stagecoaches and trains through the territory. As a result, travelers continued to be about as safe as they had been during the 1840s. In 1855 and 1856 Colonel William Selby Harney led a number of offensives against the Sioux, in part as an act of revenge against the Grattan massacre. In one instance, Harney led troops to a Sioux camp, demanding that all participants in the Grattan massacre surrender. When the Sioux did not comply, Harney attacked, leaving as many as 85 Sioux dead and taking 70 women and children as prisoners. Harney’s casualties included five killed and seven wounded. For a time the Sioux avoided difficulties with the whites.
When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, however, government troops that had been serving in the Wyoming region were called East to fight for the Union. The area was left with little protection, and conflict again developed between Native Americans and white settlers and travelers. Army detachments were dispatched to the region. So many battles occurred in 1865 that the year became known as the Bloody Year on the Plains. Whites sought access to the gold fields of Montana over the Bozeman Trail. The Sioux, who were aggressive toward the whites, refused to consider any proposals for the negotiation of the status of the Powder River country. A number of army garrisons including forts Reno, Phil Kearny in northeastern Wyoming, and C. F. Smith in Montana, were established in 1866 despite the objections of the Sioux. In December 1866 in the Fetterman fight, Captain William Fetterman and 81 members of his command were killed near Fort Phil Kearny. The following year the forts were evacuated, and the Sioux signed a treaty at Fort Laramie in 1868. They accepted a 57,000 sq km (22,000 sq mi) tract of land in South Dakota west of the Missouri River as the Great Sioux Reservation and were given hunting rights in Montana. Some Sioux, including chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, dissatisfied with the agreement, continued to live in their traditional territory.
In the 1870s prospectors began invading Sioux land in the Black Hills of South Dakota in search of gold. Some Sioux, who resented white encroachment on their land, left the reservation to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, who lived in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming. In 1876 the United States government sent troops, including Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his regiment, to relocate this group back onto the reservation. On June 25, 1876, a Sioux force under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeated Custer’s troops at the Little Bighorn in Montana (see Battle of the Little Bighorn). Their victory resulted in a massive U.S. retaliation and a succession of Native American defeats that reverberated throughout the West. As a result, by the spring of 1877 almost all the Native Americans in Wyoming were settled on reservations.
The Shoshone had also signed a treaty at Fort Bridger in 1868, granting them a reservation in the Wind River region of 900,000 hectares (2.2 million acres). In 1877 the Shoshone leader Chief Washakie agreed to allow the federal government to bring Arapaho, ancestral enemies of the Shoshone, to the reservation for a temporary stay until such time as a permanent reservation could be established for them. The Arapaho remained on the Shoshone territory until 1938 when the federal government granted the Arapaho joint title to the reservation, paying the Shoshone $4 million for the rights.
|E||Coming of the Railroad|
In the mid-1860s the white population of the Wyoming country numbered less than 1,000, most of whom lived around Fort Laramie or Fort Bridger. In 1867, however, the Carissa Lode, a rich gold deposit, was discovered at South Pass. Several thousand prospectors rushed to the area. In the same year the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad reached Wyoming. Coal mines were built along the Union Pacific line through southern Wyoming during construction of the transcontinental railroad. By the time the rails across Wyoming were completed in 1868, the area’s population had reached 11,000. Laborers, merchants, speculators, miners, and adventurers filled the makeshift towns that sprang up along the tracks.
Wyoming had been part of the Oregon Territory (1848), the Washington Territory (1853), the Dakota Territory (1861), the Idaho Territory (1863), the Montana Territory (1864), and again the Dakota Territory (1864). With the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad and the development of the cattle industry, people began to think about the establishment of a separate Wyoming territory. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s first railroad town, became the seat of Laramie County, created in 1867 by the Dakota territorial legislature. Cheyenne’s citizens, however, claimed that it was too hard to govern the Wyoming region from the Dakota territory. General Greenville M. Dodge lobbied the Congress of the United States on behalf of a Wyoming territory and on July 25, 1868, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill creating the Wyoming Territory out of parts of the Dakota, Utah, and Idaho territories. Although the president appointed territorial officers immediately, the Congress did not confirm the appointments. Hence, Dakota laws were enforced in Wyoming until the following year when President Ulysses S. Grant took office and the Congress approved his territorial appointments. John A. Campbell was named the first territorial governor, and Cheyenne became Wyoming Territory’s temporary capital.
The first territorial legislature, which convened in October, 1869, was composed completely of Democrats. The legislature passed laws that protected cattle ranchers’ interests, regulated mining, prohibited gambling, and provided free tax-supported education for all. The legislature also approved laws granting women property rights, the right to vote and hold office, and the right to wages equal to those given to men, provided that the job and qualifications were the same. Legislators hoped that the women’s rights laws would attract more female immigrants to the territory and would give the territory greater publicity on the East Coast. This legislation marked the first time in U.S. history that women were granted such rights and earned for Wyoming the nickname the Equality State.
|G||Livestock on the Open Range|
Completion of the rail lines encouraged cattle ranching in Wyoming by providing access to Eastern markets. During the late 1860s and continuing well into the 1880s, hundreds of cattle ranchers drove their herds from Texas to Wyoming to winter on the public lands before being shipped to market. In 1873 stock owners established the Stock Association of Laramie County to organize the industry and protect their common interests, including reducing freight rates and promoting settlement of the territory. They also organized a cooperative spring roundup and established rules for identifying and branding calves. By 1879 this group had become a territory-wide organization called the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. A number of its members were wealthy absentee owners who lived in other states or in foreign countries and who visited Wyoming seasonally, if at all. The association’s power became so great that it could usually enforce its interests at will. Through the association’s lobbying, in 1884 the territorial legislature passed laws giving the association ownership of all unbranded cattle found during the spring roundup.
As the cattle industry expanded, a number of efforts were made by the U.S. government to regulate the use of public land in Wyoming. Large cattle herds required an enormous expanse of land to survive, much more than the 453 hectares (1,120 acres) to which a rancher was entitled by homesteader legislation. In 1879 and 1880 the United States Public Lands Commission proposed that Wyoming ranchers pay five cents an acre for a title to the lands they were using or that they obtain 25-year leases at half a cent per acre per year. Association members voted to maintain the status quo.
Some ranchers requested that their ranch hands file for free homestead land and that they deed it over to their employers. Many individuals did indeed file for property but started their own ranches. The association was opposed to competition from small ranchers and prohibited them from working on the large ranches and owning their own cattle. Small ranchers were denied membership to the association and some were accused of stealing cattle.
The cattle industry reached its height on the open ranges in the middle of the 1880s. An estimated one million cattle grazed the rich grass on the public land, resulting in severe overgrazing. A drought during the summer of 1886 parched the range and the unusually severe winter that followed caused staggering losses among many of the large open-range cattle operations. The severe weather, combined with declining prices in a saturated market for beef, caused a disaster in the cattle industry at the end of the 1880s. Many owners were forced out of business, and cattle ranchers began to move their herds from the overstocked open-range to fenced-in ranches on which they raised hay and other feed crops as insurance against drought and blizzards.
Although cattle grazing dominated the ranges in territorial Wyoming, sheep were also introduced to the region in 1857. Though some cattle ranchers opposed raising sheep on the open range because they believed that sheep grazed too close to the ground and ruined the pastures for cattle, sheep raising continued to expand. By 1910 an estimated six million sheep were raised in Wyoming. Occasional conflicts between sheep and cattle ranchers led to violence. One instance, known as the Spring Creek Raid in Washakie County in 1911 resulted in the deaths of three sheep ranchers and the conviction of several cowboys for murder. Eventually, cattle and sheep coexisted on the range as ranchers learned that the animals could be raised economically on the same ranch.
Between 1880 and 1890 the population of Wyoming had increased from 20,789 to 62,555. In 1888 the territorial legislature requested that Congress pass legislation enabling the territory to draw up a constitution and apply for statehood. Such bills were introduced in Congress, but no action was taken. The territorial legislature, through the urging of territorial governor Francis Emory Warren and the territorial delegate to Congress Joseph M. Carey, authorized a constitutional convention in 1889. The convention, held in September 1889, drafted a state constitution. Some delegates at the convention were concerned that the territory’s legislation allowing women’s suffrage might deter Wyoming’s chances for statehood. Nonetheless, delegates elected to guarantee women the right to vote in the state constitution. Most of the articles to the constitution were drawn from constitutions of other states. The constitution, however, also included an article granting the state ownership and control of all waters in Wyoming.
On November 5, 1889, Wyoming voters approved the constitution at a special election with a low percentage of voter turnout. There was, however, some opposition in Congress to Wyoming’s admission as a state. Among the arguments raised were claims that the territory’s population was still too small to merit statehood, objections to the women’s suffrage provision, and opposition to a constitutional clause making education free and compulsory for children. Nevertheless, on July 10, 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state of the Union. Cheyenne, the largest city in the new state, continued to serve as its capital.
Republican Francis Warren, who had become territorial governor in 1889, was the state’s first governor. Republican Joseph Carey became the state’s first U.S. senator. In 1890 Warren was also nominated to serve as senator from Wyoming. His former position was taken by Amos W. Barber, who served as acting governor until 1893.
|I||Conflict on the Open Range|
The open-range cattle industry, still reeling from the disasters of the late 1880s, was struggling for economic survival in the early 1890s. Many of the ranchers’ difficulties were the result of what had plagued the industry in the earlier decade—absentee ownership, poor management, and overstocking of the range. Nonetheless, many owners of large ranches accused small ranch operators of stealing cattle. Conflict between the owners of small and large ranches came to a head in 1892 when cattle barons hired Texas gunmen and invaded Johnson County to capture alleged cattle thieves. The invaders surrounded a ranch cabin occupied by two men they suspected of stealing cattle. After a standoff lasting most of one day, the two men, Nate Champion and Nick Ray, were killed. County residents, angered by the vigilante behavior, armed themselves and surrounded the cattle ranchers and Texas mercenaries who were holed up in a barn on a nearby ranch. In an attempt to avoid further bloodshed, President Benjamin Harrison sent in cavalry troops to resolve the problem. The cattle ranchers and their hired gunmen were escorted back to Cheyenne for trial. Soon after their arrest, they were set free and no trial was ever held. The incident temporarily damaged the careers of both Warren and Carey who were accused of protecting the large cattle ranchers.
|J||Development of the Mining Industry|
The decision to build the Union Pacific Railroad in central Wyoming was based in part on the significant coal deposits that had been found in the area. The railroad had resources to drive its own trains and could also sell the minerals to other markets. The railroad had uneasy relations with its laborers and usually replaced striking miners with cheaper labor. In 1875 coal miners were advised that their pay would be cut from five cents to four cents a bushel. When the workers protested, they were immediately sent by train to Omaha, Nebraska, and replaced by Chinese workers who were prepared to work for less and did not organize labor unions. For these reasons, the railroad began to employ an increasing number of Chinese workers. Tensions between white workers, Chinese workers, and management led to the Rock Springs Massacre of 1885, in which 28 Chinese were killed by whites, mostly European immigrants, who resented the Chinese workers. By the early 1900s the extraction of mineral wealth had become an important occupation in Wyoming. Coal mines across southern Wyoming allowed the trains to span the state and in 1903 about one-tenth of the state’s workers were miners.
The oil industry also developed at the turn of the 20th century. Oil had been discovered much earlier, but it was not until 1883 that people began to exploit the natural resource. The first oil well was established at Dallas Dome in Fremont County in 1883. During the next two decades, oil was discovered throughout northern and eastern Wyoming. The state’s first oil refinery was built in Casper in 1894. Large-scale exploitation began when the oil fields at Salt Creek, Lance Creek, and Big Muddy were opened during the first decades of the 20th century. The towns of Casper, Glenrock, Evanston, Newcastle, Douglas, and Lusk owe much of their 20th-century growth to nearby oil discoveries. As demand for oil increased, large corporations came to the state to tap its mineral wealth.
The oil industry in Wyoming was part of a national scandal in the 1920s. The Teapot Dome oil fields, north of Casper, were set aside as a U.S. Navy oil reserve in 1915. Following the election of Warren Harding to the presidency in 1920, jurisdiction over the fields was transferred to the Interior Department. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall secretly leased the drilling rights of the reserve to oil businessman Harry Sinclair in 1922, without authority or competitive bidding. The next year, Fall received a substantial loan from Sinclair. Constituents of Senator John B. Kendrick of Wyoming brought the matter to his attention in 1923, and the U.S. Senate launched an investigation. Fall resigned from his Cabinet post, was convicted of accepting bribes, and was sentenced to a year in prison. In 1927 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Sinclair’s lease was not valid. The Teapot Dome scandal tarnished the reputation of the brief presidency of Harding, who had died before the matter was resolved.
|K||Agricultural Development in the Early 1900s|
Ranching dominated Wyoming agriculture since territorial days, but farming became important in some areas of the state during the beginning of the 20th century. Agricultural development was hampered by the state’s aridity. Dry farming experts encouraged farmers to attempt agriculture without irrigation, particularly in the eastern counties of the state. Dry farming was stimulated by the Dry Farming Homestead Act of 1910, which encouraged farmers to attempt farming without irrigation. Hundreds of settlers came to southeastern and eastern Wyoming to attempt dry farming, but many were discouraged by droughts. After Wyoming achieved statehood, U.S. Senator Joseph Carey proposed legislation to encourage settlement of arid regions in the West. The Carey Act of 1894 ceded federal land to any state willing to participate in irrigation projects. In 1902 the Reclamation Service was established. Its first significant project was Buffalo Bill (Shoshone) Dam, completed in 1910. This dam provided water for irrigating the region around Cody and Powell in the Bighorn Basin. The Bureau authorized six reservoir and dam projects along the North Platte River in Wyoming from 1910 to 1958 (Pathfinder, Guernsey, Alcova, Seminoe, Kortes and Glendo). The Riverton Reclamation Project, initiated in 1906, brought irrigation agriculture to Fremont County. The Bureau also built dams on the Green River and Wind-Bighorn River. With the exception of the Yellowstone River and the Clark’s Fork, most of the state’s waterways have been dammed.
These irrigation projects led to the increase of agricultural production in Wyoming. In fact, homesteading increased in Wyoming from the 1900s until the 1920s. By 1923, however, the farm sector of Wyoming’s economy had declined because of drought and declining prices for commodities. Small, thinly-capitalized banks loaned money to farmers who could not make payments on their loans. Some banks were obliged to foreclose farm loans, but were unable to sell the repossessed properties. The farm decline led to the failure of 25 banks in Wyoming in 1924, five of them on one day. Of the 133 banks operating in the state in 1920, only 34 remained a decade later.
|L||The Great Depression|
Like other states, Wyoming underwent considerable hardship during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Agricultural prices dropped, a number of mines closed down, and oil production declined. Difficulties were increased by a severe and prolonged drought that began in 1926 and continued well into the 1930s. Large areas of land, especially in southeastern Wyoming, where dry farming had been prevalent, were completely dried up.
In 1933 Wyoming became the last state to request financial aid during the Great Depression. In 1934 Congress adopted the Taylor Grazing Act, which was designed to help avoid overgrazing. With the aid of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service some parched regions were reclaimed and returned to use as irrigated pasture land.
|M||World War II|
World War II (1939-1945) provided new markets for Wyoming’s products. Cattle farmers saw demand for beef increase. After World War II, mineral production surpassed ranching and farming, becoming Wyoming’s most important industry. Major new oil discoveries were made in the Bighorn Basin and in northeastern Wyoming. By the end of the war, more than two dozen refineries were operating in the state, including a high-octane aircraft fuel plant at Cheyenne. Wartime demands for coal temporarily raised Wyoming’s annual coal production to 9 million metric tons.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, people of Japanese descent living on the Pacific Coast were relocated inland because they were perceived as a possible threat to the American war effort. As many as 10,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Most had been residents of California, and few established residence in Wyoming after the camp was closed at the end of the war. In 1988 Congress allotted $20,000 in compensation to each living survivor of the Japanese relocation.
|N||Postwar Economic Developments|
The only major military installation, F. E. Warren Air Force Base (formerly Fort D. A. Russell), was a World War II army training base prior to establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s. The Atlas intercontinental ballistic missiles were deployed there in 1959, followed by the Minuteman system in the next decade. In 1982 Warren became home to the MX missile system.
Uranium deposits were discovered in scattered locations throughout the state in the 1950s. By 1956, 34 uranium companies operated in the state; this number declined sharply after a major accident in 1979 at the Three-Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The uranium town of Jeffrey City declined in population from more than 2,000 to fewer than 50 residents in 1980. The town of Shirley Basin, which housed a population of 500 in the 1970s, was abandoned completely in 1993.
Although coal output dropped sharply after the war, development of Wyoming’s petroleum resources boomed in the 1950s and 1960s. The completion of a pipeline through the Green River Basin in 1955 stimulated further exploration. The Arab oil embargo pushed domestic oil prices to record levels in the 1970s, prompting extensive oil exploration throughout Wyoming. Major new fields were found in southwestern Wyoming and in the Powder River Basin. Most of Wyoming’s crude oil and natural gas is pumped out of the state for processing. Consequently, the industry creates significant income for the state, but does not employ a large number of people.
Oil prices dropped sharply in the early 1980s along with the price of Wyoming coal. Many workers in the mineral industry lost their jobs, and many moved away from the state. The state slipped into a protracted economic depression nearly as serious as the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. The state’s population, which had jumped by more than 41 percent from 1970 to 1980, actually declined by 3.4 percent from 1980 to 1990.
|O||Postwar Political Developments|
In the early 1960s, reapportionment of the state legislature became a political issue. Wyoming’s cities, which had grown significantly, were underrepresented in the legislature, which had not been reapportioned since 1933. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1962, which decided that people whose votes were diluted by apportionment could sue in federal court refueled local protests, and the legislature passed a reapportionment act in 1963. However, the act was held unconstitutional. Eventually, after the legislature was unable to agree on another formula, a plan was imposed by the U.S. District Court.
Wyoming has no state income tax. The sales tax, first passed in 1935, produces a significant share of government tax revenue. In 1969 Wyoming passed a mineral severance tax, which collected a percentage of the industry’s profits for the state. The state also created a trust fund to help communities cope with economic dependence and environmental issues related to the mining industry. The 1994 severance taxes on coal, oil, and other minerals brought in nearly $250 million, almost one-third of the state’s budget.
In the 1990s politicians called for diversifying Wyoming’s economy so that it would rely less on the mineral industry. Such campaigns, however, have been met with ambivalence. Many Wyoming natives appear to prefer that the state remain lightly populated and free of industry.
Water rights issues have been important throughout the 20th century. Wyoming’s constitution granted the state ownership over all the state’s water. The State Engineer awards water users permits for water use, and permit applicants are required to prove that they are planning to use the water for a “beneficial use.” Problems arose because the definition of “beneficial use” was unclear. For example, for many years, maintaining fish habitat was not considered a “beneficial use” of water but in 1986, a measure was passed by voters that allowed the State Game and Fish Commission to make such a claim for the water. Since the 1980s, the state has been engaged in lawsuits over water rights with states downstream. Nebraska and Wyoming have had litigation over control of the North Platte River.
The federal government controls close to half of the state’s land area. This land is primarily administered by the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Conflicts between state and federal agencies over land use have a long history in the state. In the late 1920s Wyoming Congressman Charles E. Winter asked Congress to return control over federal lands to the state. Unsuccessful attempts, such as this one, to gain greater control over federal lands have been led by ranchers and individuals from the mining industry. Many other residents, particularly those who enjoy outdoor sports such as hunting, fishing and hiking, generally have opposed these cries for state control over public lands. The issues involving control of public lands remain among the most hotly debated among the people of Wyoming.
|P||Tourism and Conservation|
Visitors come to Wyoming to experience the state’s outdoor attractions. Hiking, mountain climbing, and skiing are some of the more popular activities. The Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone Park are the state’s biggest attractions. Visitors also go to Devils Tower National Monument, old Fort Laramie, and hot springs in the state.
Yellowstone National Park, the bulk of which lies within the state’s borders, was the nation’s first national park, created in 1872, just four years after the territory was established. Following passage of congressional legislation allowing creation of national forests, the area just outside the park’s borders was established as one of the first national forests in the United States. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower as the nation’s first national monument. In 1929 portions of the Grand Tetons were set aside as Grand Teton National Park. Later, after protracted conflict among local residents and Park Service supporters, the federal government accepted gifts of lands from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for inclusion in the national park.
In 1988 a series of devastating forest fires blackened nearly one-quarter of the land area within Yellowstone. Naturalists, however, predicted the burn would turn out to be healthful to the Yellowstone environment. Annual visitation to the park continued to grow. Tourism, hunting, and fishing remain significant industries in the state.