Wyoming Need to Know: Essential Travel and Lifestyle Tips


Wyoming, also known as the Equality State or Cowboy State, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and rich history that captivates visitors and locals alike. As the tenth-largest state in the USA, Wyoming covers a vast landscape full of unique geographical features, from the high-elevation prairies to the stunning Red Desert. Its history is deeply rooted in Native American culture, and the name of the state itself is derived from a Native American expression meaning “at the big plains.”

This diverse state is not only large in size, but it also has the smallest population of any American state, with a little over 578,000 residents. Despite its small population, Wyoming plays a crucial role in the nation’s economy and cultural heritage. It is home to numerous national parks that enchant visitors with their pristine wildlife and breathtaking views. Additionally, Wyoming’s rich history and traditions offer an authentic glimpse into the Old West, making for an unforgettable experience for all.

Key Takeaways

  • Wyoming is the tenth-largest state with the smallest population
  • The state’s name originates from a Native American expression referring to its vast plains
  • Wyoming offers both rich history and diverse natural scenery, with numerous parks and wildlife areas

History and Statehood

Formative Years

Wyoming’s history can be traced back around 13,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric Native American settlements found in the region. Later, in the mid-18th century, French Canadian brothers François and Louis-Joseph de la Vérendrye explored the northeastern corner of what would become Wyoming, looking for a route to the Pacific Ocean.

Wyoming’s place in United States history began with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, as part of the vast land acquired from France. This expansive territory would subsequently be divided to create several states over the years.

Path to Statehood

By the late 1880s, both the Democratic and Republican parties in Wyoming Territory agreed that it was time for their territory to become a state. In response, a Constitutional Convention was held, and statehood debates took place in 1889 and 1890. These events would culminate in Wyoming becoming the 44th state to join the Union on July 10, 1890.

Wyoming achieved a notable milestone by being the first U.S. state to allow women to vote, a significant early victory for the women’s suffrage movement. This progressive action demonstrated the emerging state’s commitment to equality and fairness, positioning Wyoming as a trailblazer in American history.

Throughout its path to statehood, Wyoming demonstrated a rich history of Native American culture, exploration, and the pursuit of political representation. Today, the state’s history serves as a testament to the perseverance and dedication of the individuals who contributed to its growth and development.

Geography and Landscape

Natural Features

Wyoming, the 10th largest state in the United States, is a landlocked state located in the western part of the country. It is bordered by Montana to the north and northwest, South Dakota and Nebraska to the east, Idaho to the west, Utah to the southwest, and Colorado to the south. The state has a mean elevation of 6,700 feet (2,040 meters) above sea level, which makes it the second highest state in the US after Colorado.

Wyoming is home to several national parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, is famous for its geysers and hot springs, especially the iconic Old Faithful geyser. Grand Teton National Park, in contrast, is renowned for its stunning mountain landscapes, encompassing the jagged peaks of the Teton Range and the beautiful Jackson Hole valley. Another unique geological feature is Devils Tower, a striking monolith that rises nearly 900 feet (270 meters) above the surrounding terrain.

The state’s geography is predominantly made up of three distinct landscapes: the Rocky Mountains to the west, the Bighorn Mountains in the central part, and the High Plains to the east. The Wind River Range, located in the west-central part of the state, is another notable mountain range featuring high alpine lakes, granite peaks, and vast wilderness areas. Wyoming’s diverse landscapes also include arid basins and deserts, such as the Red Desert in south-central Wyoming.

Climate and Terrain

Wyoming’s climate can be described as semi-arid and continental, with cold winters and warm summers. The western and higher altitude areas experience more precipitation, while the eastern plains are generally drier. Temperature variations can be significant, due to the state’s elevation and topography. Wyoming’s High Plains are characterized by vast expanses of rolling prairie and grasslands, while the Bighorn Mountains and Rocky Mountains areas feature rugged terrain with snow-capped peaks, dense forests, and meandering rivers.

Popular tourist activities in Wyoming are closely tied to its spectacular landscape, such as hiking and camping in the numerous mountain ranges or exploring the several national parks and monuments. The popular ski resort town of Jackson Hole is situated near the base of the Teton Range, offering world-class skiing and snowboarding opportunities during the winter season. Wildlife viewing is another major attraction in Wyoming, particularly in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, where visitors can observe bears, bison, wolves, moose, and elk in their natural habitats.

Government and Politics

State Governance

Wyoming, known as the Equality State, has a rich history in politics and government. The capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne, which serves as the epicenter for state governance. The government structure consists of three branches: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. This structure is similar to the federal government, in order to provide checks and balances between the branches.

Wyoming is divided into 23 counties, each having its own local governance and administration. These counties facilitate the implementation of state laws, and manage various local affairs. Wyoming has a strong focus on the concepts of local control and self-governance, which are essential in managing its vast rural areas and small communities.

Political Milestones

One of the most notable milestones in the state’s history is the election of its first female governor. Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first woman to be elected as a governor in the United States on January 5, 1925, breaking new ground for women in politics. Wyoming has a legacy of pioneering women’s rights, as it was also the first territory to grant women the right to vote and hold public office, back in 1869, even before it attained statehood and joined the union.

Aspects such as these have contributed to Wyoming’s prominence in both state and national politics, despite its relatively small population. The state’s commitment to the values of local control, self-governance, and gender equality continues to shape its unique political landscape and influence its role in the nation.

Economy and Resources

Wyoming, the least populous state in the United States, boasts a diverse economy with solid foundations in both the energy and agriculture sectors.

Energy Sector

Wyoming’s energy sector is a significant contributor to its economy, with mining, oil, and gas playing vital roles. The state is one of the largest producers of coal in the country, supplying a sizeable amount of the nation’s total output. Apart from coal, Wyoming is also home to significant reserves of oil and natural gas. These non-renewable resources form a crucial aspect of the state’s revenue sources and employment.

Although the energy sector faces challenges with declining demand for fossil fuels, Wyoming is exploring growth opportunities in renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, to mitigate potential economic impacts.

Agriculture and Ranching

Wyoming’s agriculture and ranching industries make up another key pillar of the state’s economy. The expansive rangelands provide ideal conditions for livestock grazing, and over two-thirds of the state’s land area is dedicated to this purpose. Among the state’s highest valued commodities are:

  • Cattle and calves
  • Hay
  • Hogs

Wyoming’s nickname, “the Cowboy State,” is directly tied to its ranching heritage. Many ranches showcase the state’s deep cultural connection to the industry, and it has also given rise to the popular rodeo events that draw crowds both locally and internationally.

Despite its modest population size, Wyoming’s economy and resources make a vital contribution to both state and national markets, thanks largely to its thriving energy sector and centuries-old tradition of agriculture and ranching.

Culture and Heritage

Native American Influence

Wyoming’s rich cultural heritage is influenced significantly by its Native American roots. Various tribes, including the Shoshone, Arapaho, and Crow, have called this region home for centuries. Today, visitors can gain insight into their cultures and histories at places like the Wind River Reservation in Riverton, which showcases impressive art, language preservation efforts, and ongoing historical research into Native American culture. Additionally, Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark in Bighorn National Forest commemorates the importance of tribal traditions and spirituality in the area.

Traditions and Festivals

Wyoming’s popular image as the “Cowboy State” is deeply rooted in its Western history and cowboy culture. Rodeos are an iconic entertainment staple in the state, and the largest rodeo event is the Cheyenne Frontier Days. Held each summer in Cheyenne, this event encapsulates the essence of rodeo sportsmanship and ranching traditions. Other notable events celebrating Wyoming’s Western heritage are county fairs, the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas, and Jubilee Days in Laramie.

Various other cultural events throughout the state feature:

  • Live music
  • Traditional crafts
  • Native dance performances
  • Storytelling sessions

Famous personalities originating from Wyoming include abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock and Dana Perino, a prominent television host and former White House Press Secretary. Their achievements have contributed to Wyoming’s cultural landscape and continue to inspire future generations.

Overall, Wyoming’s culture and heritage represent a vibrant blend of Native American influences and Western traditions that can be experienced through various festivals, artistic achievements, and historical landmarks.

Wildlife and Natural Reservations

National Parks and Forests

Wyoming is home to several renowned national parks and forests which showcase its natural beauty and diverse wildlife. Two of the most famous parks are Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Yellowstone is widely known for its geysers, such as the iconic Old Faithful, and its incredible hot springs. Grand Teton National Park offers breathtaking alpine terrain with impressive peaks, pristine lakes, and abundant opportunities for recreation.

In addition to these national parks, Wyoming also boasts numerous National Forests, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. These forests provide essential habitat for a variety of wildlife species and allow visitors to explore vast wilderness areas.

Wildlife Habitat

The state of Wyoming is renowned for its diverse wildlife and the vast amount of land dedicated to their conservation. The following is a brief list of some of the native species and their typical habitats:

  • Bison: Often found in grasslands and meadows, bison are the largest land mammals in North America. They can be seen in areas such as Yellowstone National Park.
  • Elk: These large ungulates inhabit many parts of Wyoming, from the forests of the national parks to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Wyoming’s habitat conservation efforts are supported by various organizations, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and state agencies. Together, these groups work to ensure the protection and preservation of the state’s remarkable wildlife and natural ecosystems.

Tourism and Recreation

Wyoming offers a diverse range of tourism and recreational opportunities. The state is well-known for its stunning natural beauty, with numerous national parks, monuments, and outdoor activities to explore and enjoy. This section covers some of the most popular outdoor ventures and landmarks you should consider visiting on your trip to Wyoming.

Outdoor Activities

Wyoming’s extensive wilderness areas give travelers a chance to indulge in various outdoor activities. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Skiing: The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort attracts skiers from all over the world, offering excellent powder and varied terrain.
  • Camping: Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park provide numerous campgrounds and backcountry sites for nature enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in the great outdoors.
  • Hiking: There are hundreds of hiking trails across Wyoming, with notable ones being the 9 best trails in Yellowstone National Park and various paths in the Grand Teton National Park.
  • Fishing & Boating: The Snake River offers thrilling water-based activities like fishing and boating, giving you a chance to take in Wyoming’s beauty from a different perspective.
  • Hot Springs: Wyoming contains numerous natural hot springs, such as the ones found throughout Yellowstone National Park, where visitors can relax and enjoy the therapeutic benefits.

Landmarks and Monuments

Wyoming’s rich cultural and natural history has led to the creation and preservation of several notable landmarks and monuments. Some of the must-see spots are:

  • Yellowstone National Park: Famous for its geothermal features, wildlife, and the iconic Old Faithful geyser, it is a location not to be missed.
  • Grand Teton National Park: With its breathtaking mountain vistas, Grand Teton National Park offers an unforgettable experience to nature lovers.
  • Devils Tower National Monument: Recognized as the first national monument in the United States, Devils Tower is a geological marvel with cultural and spiritual significance for the region’s Native American tribes.
  • Fossil Butte National Monument: This well-preserved site displays an extensive assortment of prehistoric fossils, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to learn about ancient life in Wyoming.

By engaging in the variety of outdoor activities and landmarks available, tourists can fully immerse themselves in the wonders of Wyoming and its natural beauty.

Unique State Symbols

Wyoming, also known as the Equality State, boasts a variety of unique state symbols that represent its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. One of the most recognizable symbols is the state flower, the Indian Paintbrush. This vibrant red flower can be found throughout Wyoming’s diverse landscapes, adding a splash of color to the picturesque scenery.

Another noteworthy symbol is the state tree, the Cottonwood. These trees can grow to impressive heights and are commonly found near rivers and streams. Cottonwoods have long been an essential resource for both wildlife and humans in the region.

Wyoming also prides itself on its fascinating state dinosaur, the Triceratops. This formidable herbivore roamed the region millions of years ago, and its fossils have been discovered across the state. The Triceratops, known for its distinctive horned face, is a testament to Wyoming’s rich prehistoric past.

The soothing song of the meadowlark, Wyoming’s state bird, provides a delightful soundtrack for anyone exploring the state’s natural wonders. This cheerful bird, with its striking yellow breast adorned with a black “V,” is commonly found in open grasslands, fields, and prairies.

Another critical state symbol is the sagebrush, Wyoming’s official state shrub. This hardy plant thrives in the arid conditions of the West and serves as a primary food source and shelter for various wildlife species.

Wyoming’s journey to statehood is also an essential aspect of its identity. It earned the nickname “Equality State” when it became the first territory to allow women the right to vote in 1869. This progressive milestone paved the way for Wyoming’s official admission to the United States in 1890.

In conclusion, Wyoming’s unique state symbols showcase the state’s diverse natural landscape, fascinating history, and commitment to values like equality. These symbols serve as essential pieces of Wyoming’s intriguing cultural tapestry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top reasons someone might choose not to move to Wyoming?

Wyoming’s sparse population and rural nature might not be suitable for everyone. People who prefer urban environments with extensive social amenities and cultural events may find Wyoming less appealing. Additionally, the state’s harsh winters and extreme weather conditions can be challenging for those accustomed to milder climates.

What should potential residents consider before settling in Wyoming?

Before moving to Wyoming, potential residents should consider the availability of job opportunities, as the state’s economy is predominantly driven by mining, tourism, and agriculture. It’s crucial to determine if one’s career goals align with the industries present in the region. Furthermore, Wyoming’s cost of living, education opportunities, and access to healthcare facilities should be thoroughly researched before deciding to settle there.

What are the primary advantages and disadvantages of living in Wyoming?

Wyoming offers some noteworthy advantages, such as low taxes, an affordable property tax rate, and beautiful landscapes. The absence of state, personal income, or corporate taxes make it highly attractive for individuals and businesses alike. However, one of the main disadvantages includes the state’s limited job opportunities, as it heavily relies on specific industries such as mining and agriculture.

Can you describe the general lifestyle and culture in Wyoming?

Wyoming’s lifestyle is majorly influenced by its vast landscapes, outdoor recreation opportunities, and a close-knit community feeling. The state is known for its emphasis on conservation and wildlife preservation, and its residents often engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, hunting, and fishing. The culture is generally conservative, and people in Wyoming value self-reliance, hard work, and a strong sense of community.

What are some compelling facts about Wyoming that residents and visitors should know?

Wyoming is rich in history and features several unique attractions. It is the least populated state in the United States and is home to Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park. The state capital, Cheyenne, is the biggest city in Wyoming. Additionally, Wyoming is known for the iconic Devils Tower National Monument and the expansive Grand Teton National Park.

What is the leading attraction that draws people to Wyoming?

Yellowstone National Park is the primary attraction that draws people to Wyoming. With its abundant wildlife, geothermal features, and magnificent landscapes, the park offers a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors. Moreover, outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to the state due to its numerous recreational opportunities, such as hiking, skiing, fishing, and exploring national parks and monuments.