Wyoming - home to more deer and antelope than people. The vast expanse of sky touching the horizon as far as the eye can see, broken only by wildlife, clouds and mountain ranges,makes this state's Delaware Indian name that means "on the great plains" self-explanatory.
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Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park
One of the best examples of unspoiled wilderness can be found in Yellowstone National Park, which became the world's first national park in 1872.
Back in 1807, the total visitation to Yellowstone - other than the Indians who traveled through the region on their way to other hunting grounds - was one lone white trapper named John Colter. Colter's reports of holes that shot steam and boiling water out of the ground and a river which ran over the rocks so fast it boiled were so unbelievable to people back East that they nicknamed the area "Colter's Hell."
Wyoming is a place where there are still cowboys and Indians, where people wave as they drive past, and where the countryside is unspoiled, wild and open.
Today, the 10,000-plus thermal features in Yellowstone continue to fascinate tourists and geologists alike. The most famous of those geysers, hot pools and mud pots is Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts approximately every 75 minutes up to 40 meters in the air.
The famous Old Faithful Inn, one of the largest log structures in the world, is located just a few meters from the geyser. Rooms in the inn are very reasonably priced. It is recommended that people make reservations two months in advance, although rooms can sometimes be found on arrival due to cancellations. Accommodations in the original "historic" portion of the inn are usually booked a year in advance.
Geysers aren't Yellowstone's only draw; the wildlife continues to mesmerize visitors. The park is what a zoo could never be - a free-roaming habitat for bears, coyotes, moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, buffalo, osprey, eagles and wolves.
Just south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park, where the spectacular Teton Mountains jut abruptly from the valley floor with no gentle foothills. The Tetons are a geologically young nine-million-year-old mountain range. Seven of the peaks exceed 3,600 meters, and the Grand Teton is the state's second-highest peak at 4,197 meters.
Area: 97,914 square miles (253,597 square kilometers)
Within the Grand Teton National Park, there is a profusion of activities for any inclination: mountain climbing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Located within the park are also a number of guest ranches that will suit any taste.
The town of Jackson is just eight kilo-meters south of Grand Teton National Park. Jackson has been made famous by the elk antler arches that surround the town square, wooden sidewalks, and the world-renowned Million Dollar Cowboy Bar with bar stools made of saddles.
Mingled with the Old West are over 30 art galleries and museums that make Jackson a renowned western art and cultural center. The newest addition to this collection is the spectacular National Museum of Wildlife Art with its collection of wildlife paintings and sculpture. The ultra-modern facility sits high atop a bluff overlooking the National Elk Refuge.
Musicians from symphonies, conservatories and orchestras across America come to play in the Grand Teton Music Festival from June through August, and the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival has become an outstanding cultural event in mid-September.
Jackson puts on another hat every winter-that of a major ski town with three resorts. The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at Teton Village boasts one of the longest vertical drops of any ski resort in America. The new aerial tram, opened in 2008, will be open winter and summer and will rise 1,258 meters. The tram will whisk 100 lucky souls to the top of the rendezvous in about 10 minutes. Fifty percent is expert terrain with couloirs and cliffs to challenge the most extreme skier. Jackson Hole is a full-service resort that offers skiing and instruction for every level of skier. A variety of excellent cross-country ski trails are also located in and around Teton Village.
On the west side of the Tetons, Grand Targhee Ski Resort averages over 12.6 meters of snow annually, most of it champagne powder. Also announcing plans for expansion and improved skier services is Snow King, "the town hill," which allows skiers to end their runs in the town of Jackson.
Jackson is a perfect winter headquarters for the regional visitor. In addition to world-class downhill skiing, the area features cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Tours of the National Elk Refuge, where 7,500 elk converge for free hay, are popular during the winter months as well as tours of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The art galleries, museums, outstanding restaurants and world-class shopping just add to the winter experience.
Traveling south along the western border of the Cowboy State, the visitor comes to Fossil Butte National Monument, one of two national monuments in the state. Here, an amazing collection of freshwater fossil fish has been discovered and continues to provide data for scientific explorations. You don't have to be a scientist to take home a fossil; nearby businesses allow people to dig for their own.
In the Rock Springs/Green River area, the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop Tour is a self guided driving tour offering history, beautiful scenic vistas, and a profusion of wildlife. As the name suggests, wild horses are abundant along the loop tour, and Sweetwater county is home to some of the largest wild horse herds in the world. Other wildlife to watch for while traveling on the loop tour includes antelope, desert elk, coyotes, hawks, and eagles. The loop has several scenic overlooks to view prominent geological features, including Pilot Butte, Killpeker Sand Dunes, and Boar's Tusk.
As travelers go east across southern Wyoming, they will experience not only the diverse geology that makes the state famous, but also some interesting historical sites associated with the "tracks across Wyoming" that provide access to the western United States via the Overland Trail, Union Pacific Railroad, Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) and the modern-day Interstate 80. A number of scenic byways will add a little time, but offer rewarding experiences for the cross-state visitor.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area promises not only quality, year-round trout fishing, but also great boating and water skiing on the 144-kilometer-long lake. Flaming Gorge earned its name because of the unusual color within the many rock formations that have been sculptured by the wind and water and continue to change with the seasons.
For other hot fishing spots, try the North Platte with the Grey Reef 20 minutes southwest of Casper. This blue ribbon stretch between Grey Reef and Casper was named, "the best big trout fishery in the world" by American Angler Magazine. Top fly fisherman and celebrities have fished these pristine, well-managed waters of teh North Platte. If lake fishing for trout, walley, carp, or perch is more your style we suggest Alcova, Pathfiner and Seminoe Reservoirs - all within a short drive from Casper. The Big Horn and Snowy Range Mountains offer excellent high-mountain streams for brook, rainbow, brown or cutthroat trout.
After an exciting day of catching fish, be sure to enjoy the many entertaining, all-American evening activities in Casper. Catch a Casper Ghosts minor league baseball game or a Wyoming Calvary indoor football league game. Watch and listen to any one of the many eclectic live bands at various venues throughout town. Catch a play put on by community theatre groups or Casper College students or a performance by the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra. For an intense adventure rent a kayak and shoot Casper's Whitewater Course on the North Platte River through downtown.
Green River and Rock Springs trace their histories to the coming of the railroad, and the Sweetwater County Museum in Green River recalls this important page in American history. Dinosaur buffs won't want to miss Dr. Charlie Love's magnificent collection of dinosaur replicas and the paleontological displays at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs.
Heading east, visitors will encounter a one-of-a-kind geological phenomenon as they cross the Red Desert. The Continental Divide splits here and encompasses the Great Divide Basin. There is no drainage into nor out of this high altitude desert.
In Central Wyoming, Fremont Canyon at Alcova Lake near Casper offers challenges to geologists and rock climbers, from inexperienced to skilled. Hell's Half Acre, the site of much of the film "Starship Troopers" is a natural work of art carved into the earth.
At Creston Junction, interstate travelers have the opportunity to slip south via Wyo. 789 to Baggs where Butch Cassidy and his gang liked to spend their ill-gotten riches. Drivers can now enjoy the newly-reconstructed Wyo. 70 out of Baggs. This byway provides access to an old gold and copper mining district, traverses Wyoming's single largest stand of aspen, and eventually ends in Encampment, home of the Grand Encampment Museum.
But that isn't all. Visitors can spend a few hours or a few days in the small resort community of Saratoga, which features outstanding fishing, river floating, camping, hot mineral waters at the Hobo Pool, and golf.
Then it's on to Laramie through the spectacular Snowy Range via Wyo. 130. Trout fishing, hiking and camping are good summer activities in these snow-topped mountains, although temperatures in the evening will usually require a jacket. In the winter, the Snowy Range offers outstanding cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowmobiling, in addition to winter carnivals at Encampment and Saratoga.
For those who stay on Interstate 80, Rawlins is a gateway to outstanding fishing and outdoor recreation at nearby Seminoe State Park. A tour of the Historic Frontier Prison is a must on the travel itinerary!
Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming, is also the site of the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site.
The Wyoming Territorial Prison was built in 1872 and is the only prison in which outlaw, butch Cassidy, was incarcerated. The prison is open daily from May through October. The Historic Ivenson Mansion is a spectacular Victorian style home that houses the Laramie Plains Museum and offers a collection of Victorian fixtures and furnishing, and the largest collection of Wyoming Territorial Prison hand-carved furniture from early Laramie history.
In Laramie, The University of Wyoming Art Museum and The American Heritage Center are both housed in the award-winning Centennial Complex. The American Heritage Center is primarily an archival center of rare books, historical manuscripts and research materials on American history, culture and more. Every summer, the UW Art Museum offers a new exhibit from its permanent collection of 7,000 works along with traveling exhibitions from such places as the Smithsonian that are designed with the visitor in mind. Admission to both of these sites is free.
In the capital city of Cheyenne, visitors can take another glimpse of western life at the Cheyenne Frontier Daysª Old West Museum, which chronicles one of the world's oldest rodeos - Cheyenne Frontier Days - and is home to the world's largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles and an outstanding collection of western art.
The Wyoming State Museum features historic exhibits depicting the state's diverse history. Housed in Cheyenne's renovated Depot, the new Cheyenne Depot Museum reveals how the railroad shaped Cheyenne and its people. The Nelson Museum of the West includes authentic cowboy and Native American artifacts. Wyoming's colorful history is also showcased in the State Capitol and historic Governor's Mansion.
Just south of Cheyenne, the Terry Bison Ranch offers a variety of visitor services and activities, including tours of the 3,200-head bison herd, wagon rides, horseback riding, full service campground, and the Senator's Restaurant.
Evanston, in extreme southwest Wyoming, has done a particularly good job of restoring and refurbishing its historic downtown area. Visitors will want to take time to visit the restored Union Pacific Depot and the replica of the Joss House, an important religious icon for the Chinese who helped build the railroad across southern Wyoming. Casper is the home of the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. It combines ancient building materials and state of the art electronics to tell the story of emigration on the Mormon, Pony Express, Oregon and California National Historic Trails. Exhibits and information also focus on the Native American heritage of the area and the Bozeman and Bridger trails.
Cheyenne's colorful past and other area highlights are features of the Trolley Tours offered during the summer months by the Cheyenne Area Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown Cheyenne.
Pine Bluffs, Wyoming's eastern gateway, is the home of a major archeological dig being conducted by the University of Wyoming seeking Northern Plains Indian artifacts. The dig and associated museums are open seasonally.
The wagons that traversed the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails across central Wyoming left indelible marks that can still be seen today. These include hip-deep wagon ruts and names carved into Register Cliff, Independence Rock and Names Hill. The remains of forts that have been historically restored can be found at Fort Laramie, Fort Casper, Fort Fetterman and Fort Bridger.
Fort Bridger, located in southwestern Wyoming, was one of two stations on the trail at the onset of the 1847 pioneer journey. The Mormons bought the fort in 1855 to supply emigrant parties. It is now a state historic site with a number of refurbished buildings and residences.
The city of Casper is home to historic Fort Casper, where the museum displays a full-sized replica of the original Mormon ferry used by emigrants when crossing the North Platte River.
Moving to the northeastern corner of Wyoming, one finds America's first national monument, which later starred in a movie. Devils Tower was the alien landing site in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
The 364-meter tower is an unexploded magma plug from a volcano that provides a challenge for rock climbers and a home for a variety of plant and animal life. For those who prefer to see the tower from the ground, a nature trail winds around the monolith; other trails and back country roads take tourists through the rolling Black Hills of both Wyoming and South Dakota, areas that were sacred grounds to the Indians, but were overrun by explorers in a mad search for gold.
Less than 160 kilometers west of Devils Tower, the Big Horn Mountain Range provides a variety of outdoor experiences, including hiking, fishing, snowmobiling, nordic and alpine skiing, and a number of scenic guest ranches. For the historian, the chronicles and relics of the Bozeman Trail and several Indian battles can still be seen in the Buffalo and Sheridan areas.
Fort Phil Kearny, the Fetterman Monument and the Wagon Box Fight are sites associated with the Indian Wars that provided a prelude to the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn, which was "the beginning of the end" for the Native Americans who called this region home. Battles were fought in Johnson and Sheridan Counties, including the cities of Buffalo and Sheridan. All of the sites along the east face of the Big Horn Mountains provide a chronicle to this era of American history.
Sheridan's history includes not only the Indian Wars, but also the Cattle King era, recalled at the Trails End Museum and the nearby Bradford Brinton Museum in Big Horn. This historic downtown includes the King Ropes Museum, a free-to-the-public look at saddle-making at its finest, as well as modern day rope-making. Buffalo, 45 minutes south of Sheridan, has a similar past. It can be viewed at the Jim Gatchell Museum of the West. Buffalo is also famous for the Johnson County Cattle War.
The Annual Cody Stampede, July 1-4, brings many of the top professional cowboys to one of the premiere Fourth of July rodeos in the country.
Rodeo is Wyoming's sport, and the classic contest between cowboy and animal can be seen every day during the summer somewhere in the state. In addition to the nightly rodeo in Cody, weekly events are scheduled in Jackson and Pine Bluffs. The professional rodeo season includes major events in Lander, Kaycee, Cody, Laramie, Sheridan, Douglas, Casper, Evanston and the largest outdoor rodeo in the world - Cheyenne Frontier Daysª, which hosts its 113th annual celebration in 2009.
Cheyenne's "Daddy of 'Em All"¨ features nine rodeos, nine night shows, four parades, three free pancake breakfasts, Native American dancers, carnival midway exhibits, and a world-class western and wildlife art show. It also offers an air show by the US Air Force Thunderbirds, a chili cook off, mock gunfights daily, and an authentic melodrama staged in the historic Atlas Theatre. Celebrated every year the last full week in July, the event dominates the entire region. Therefore, it's advisable to make reservations for accommodations by March.
The town of Kaycee hosts one of the cowboys' favorite rodeos in early September. Many of the best bronc riders in the world make an appearance at the Deke Latham Memorial PRCA Rodeo, which also features cowboy poetry and western music. Kaycee is the home of former world champion bareback rider and country music singer, Chris LeDoux.
The College National Finals Rodeo is held in June in Casper. It is the grand finale of college rodeo competitions. Four hundred and fifty male and female athletes from throughout the United States vie for the prestige of being the best in their sport.
Rodeos, however, aren't the only place to see real cowboys. Wyoming is still home to the working cowboy. For the visitor who wants to experience the cowboy life, several working ranches offer an opportunity to be a "real cowboy" for a few days or weeks. For those who aren't that interested in hard work, there are guest ranches that range from "rustic" to five-star resorts.
The real life of Native Americans, as opposed to the fictionalized "cowboy-and-Indian" stories, can be seen on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. The North American Indian Heritage Center, along with several missions, museums and craft shops provide exhibits of the art, history and culture of the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes.
In Laramie, visit the University of Wyoming Geological Museum to see Big Al, the most complete allosaurus skeleton ever found, and a 50-million-year-old garfish, the largest complete freshwater fossil fish on display in the world.
Just north of the Wind River Indian Reservation is Thermopolis and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, which offers a glimpse of the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Enjoy excellent fossil displays and an active dig site where visitors can see and join in an excavation in progress. Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis offers an opportunity to soak in the mineral-rich waters of the world's largest hot spring. Rafting and fishing on the Wind River are available in the spectacular Wind River Canyon.
Wyoming's mountain man heritage is also a colorful part of the state's rich history, and the Fur Trade Era is recalled at a number of rendezvous held throughout the state each year as well as at the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale. Major rendezvous are scheduled at Pinedale (Green River Rendezvous the second week in July), Riverton (1838 Rendezvous in July ), and Fort Bridger (Fort Bridger Rendezvous over labor day weekend). Others are held in Dubois, Jackson, Lander, Laramie and Curt Gowdy State Park near Cheyenne. Visitor Centers are scattered all across the Cowboy State to assist visitors with information regarding all aspects of their Wyoming vacation experience. Year-round centers are located in Cheyenne, Evanston, Jackson and Sheridan, and seasonal operations are situated in Sundance, Pine Bluffs and on the summit between Cheyenne and Laramie. In addition, virtually every community has a visitor information facility operated by the local Chamber or Convention and Visitors Bureau. All are ready to assist the visitor with accommodations, attractions and event information as well as personal itinerary planning.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a number of visitor centers that provide a wealth of information on Wyoming's wildlife resources as well. Interpretive signs have been placed at nearly all Wyoming rest areas to help travelers enjoy the flora and fauna that make Wyoming a unique and beautiful place. Much of Wyoming is free for the looking, and the rest is very reasonably priced.
But Wyoming is more than a travel bargain; it's a chance to see all the things people expect to find in America-mountains, clear water, open spaces, friendly people, and a chance to physically experience nature