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Definition: Wyoming from Collins English Dictionary


1 a state of the western US: consists largely of ranges of the Rockies in the west and north, with part of the Great Plains in the east and several regions of hot springs. Capital: Cheyenne. Pop: 501 242 (2003 est). Area: 253 597 sq km (97 914 sq miles) Abbreviation: Wyo, Wy or with zip code WY

Summary Article: Wyoming
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

State in western USA, one of the Mountain States, bordered to the east by Nebraska and South Dakota, to the north by Montana, to the west by Montana, Idaho, and Utah, and to the south by Utah and Colorado; area 251,488 sq km/97,100 sq mi; population (2010) 563,626; capital Cheyenne. Wyoming's nickname stems from its reputation for firsts in granting rights to women, including voting, jury service, and the holding of public office. The state is famous for the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains which dominate the landscape and are the setting of Yellowstone National Park. It is the most sparsely populated state in the USA. The state's most important products are petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Cattle ranching is the most significant agricultural activity, and products include wool, sugar beet, and dairy produce. Other major cities are Casper, Laramie, Gillette, Rock Springs, and Sheridan. Wyoming was home to indigenous people, including the Crow, Cheyenne, Sioux, Arapaho, and Shoshone, and was not visited by whites until the early 19th century, when it was explored by John Colter. It was acquired by the USA in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Fort Laramie, a trading post, was settled in 1834. Wyoming became a territory after the Union Pacific Railroad arrived in 1867–68. Wyoming was admitted to the Union in 1890 as the 44th US state.

Physical Wyoming lies where the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains meet. The Continental Divide crosses from the northwest to the south-central border of the state, and rivers to the west drain into the Pacific and to the east into the Atlantic. There are three major land regions in the state.

The Great Plains in the east are part of the North American interior plain, stretching from Canada to Mexico. They are covered by short prairie grass which makes good grazing for sheep and cattle. Little rain falls on the plains but irrigation has made parts of the area into fertile farmland. The Black Hills, which lie in the northeast of Wyoming, are shared with South Dakota.

The vast ranges of the Rocky Mountains extend from north to south across Wyoming. They include the Bighorn Mountains in the north and the Laramie Range stretching from Colorado in the south, with a wide plateau between them. The Absaroka Range lies to the east of Yellowstone Park, and the Wind River Range to the south features Wyoming's highest point, at Gannett Peak (4,207 m/13,804 ft). Near the western border lies the Gros Ventre, Salt River, Snake River, and Wyoming ranges, and the spectacular Teton Mountains rise vertically for around a mile from the Jackson Hole Valley just to the south of Yellowstone. Further mountain ranges in the south of the state include the Sierra Madre and Medicine Bow.

The Intermontane Basins are the relatively flat areas between Wyoming's mountain ranges and include the Bighorn and Powder river basins to the north and the Wind river basin in the centre. In the southwest are the Green River, Great Divide, and Washaki basins. The basins provide short grassland and low plants for grazing, but are on the whole quite dry. Part of the Great Divide basin, which lies along the Continental Divide, is called the Red Desert – the little rain that falls there soaks away into the red soil.

Three great rivers, the Missouri, the Colorado, and the Columbia, originate in the Wyoming mountains. The Green River, major source of the Colorado, flows south from its origins in the Wind River Mountains to Utah, while the Snake River starts in the Absaroka Mountains and flows west into Idaho. It joins the Salt River and flows eventually into the Columbia. In the southwest of Wyoming the Bear River rises, flowing into the Great Salt Lake in Utah. There are many spectacular canyons and waterfalls in Wyoming, including the Laramie River Canyon, Shoshone River Canyon, and the Wind River Canyon. Waterfalls include the Upper and Lower falls of the Yellowstone River.

There are numerous high, cold mountain lakes in Wyoming, including the Yellowstone, the Shoshone, and the Fremont lakes. Yellowtail Dam in Montana has created a massive lake in the northeast of Wyoming, and Flaming River Gorge Dam in Utah backs up the Green River into Wyoming for 48 km/30 mi.

Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 and now a World Heritage Site, is the oldest and most visited national park in the USA. It covers 8,983 sq km/3,469 sq mi and lies on a basalt plateau (average height 2,010–2,500 m/6,600–8,200 ft) in the northwest corner of Wyoming, spilling over a little way into Idaho and Montana. The park features geysers (including Old Faithful), thermal springs, fumaroles, and mud volcanoes and has spectacular scenery and wildlife.

Features Wyoming's historical sites reflect its status as a Wild West region. The state's main pioneer history and railway history sites include Independence Rock, one of the most important landmarks on the pioneers' journey west along the Oregon Trail; Fort Bridger, founded in 1843 by legendary mountain man James Bridger; Fort Fred Steele, near Rawlins, established originally to protect crews working on the Transcontinental Railroad; the Connor Battlefield State Historic Site, where General Patrick Connor attacked Chief Black Bear's village, and Platte Bridge Battlefield, on the Oregon Trail near Casper – sites both marking battles of 1865; Wyoming Pioneer Museum in Douglas; Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne; the Laramie Plains Museum housed in Ivinson Mansion, built in 1892; Old Trail Town with historic buildings and a frontier museum in Cody; Frontier Days Old West Museum in Cheyenne; and the Museum of the Mountain Men, in Pinedale, focused on the 19th-century fur trade and its heroes.

Natural history and palaeontology are major interests in Wyoming. Museums include the University of Wyoming Geology Museum in Laramie, the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne, and the Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs; and the Tate Museum at Casper College with geological, mineralogical, and dinosaur fossil exhibits. Fossil Butte National Monument, near Kemmerer, presents fossilized desert flora and fauna. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center has a large collection of dinosaur fossils. Anthropology and archaeology are also important. The Plains Indian Museum in Cody is part of the state's important museum complex, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and houses one of the largest collections of Plains Indian art and artefacts in the USA. Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site is a prime mule deer and trout habitat, with American Indian petroglyphs and pictographs.

Other sites of interest in Wyoming include the Wyoming Territorial Park, Laramie, where the Wyoming Territorial Prison, built in 1872, housed outlaws, including Butch Cassidy; the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, with arms dating back to the 16th century; the historic state capitol in Cheyenne (1886); Governor's Mansion state park; the University of Wyoming at Laramie; Trail End, a Flemish Revival-style mansion at Sheridan, the former home of Governor John B Kendrick; and numerous ghost towns, of which the most famous is South Pass City, near Lander.

Sacred American Indian sites in Wyoming include Mato Tipila, or Devil's Tower, a volcanic rock formation near the Belle Fourche River, and Bighorn Medicine Wheel.

Geological sites and spectacular wilderness areas are Wyoming's chief attractions and include the Grand Teton Range; the Wyoming Rockies; Snake River Canyon; and the Big Horn Mountains. Hot Springs State Park, Thermopolis, has the world's largest hot springs.

Culture Wyoming has a very low population density and, although many in Wyoming are descended from pioneers and ranchers, the state's population is now largely urban. Cowboy culture remains important, however. The population is largely white. Although American Indians make up 2.4% of the state's total population (2010), they live mainly on the Wind River Indian Reservation, covering an area 8,990 sq km/3,470 sq mi in central Wyoming. The Eastern Shoshone Indians have settlements at Fort Washakie, Wind River, and Crowheart in the northern and western parts of the reservation. The Northern Arapaho Indians have settlements at Ethete, Arapahoe, and St Stephens in the southeastern part.

Many smaller Wyoming museums contain examples of regional Western art. The Whitney Gallery at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody has an extensive collection of this genre. The University of Wyoming Art Museum is the only broad fine arts collection in the state. The National Museum of Wildlife Art is at Jackson Hole.

Wyoming Symphony Orchestra is based in Laramie. Music festivals in Wyoming include Grand Teton Music Festival; Laramie Peak Bluegrass Festival; Oyster Ridge Music Festival; and Wyoming and Alta–Targhee Bluegrass Festival. Jackson hosts an annual Wildlife Film Festival.

Wyoming's culture is influenced by cowboy traditions, and rodeos are held regularly throughout the state. Dude ranches (ranches designed for tourists) are popular, and help to preserve traditional cowboy skills. The most important festival in Wyoming is the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world's largest outdoor rodeo. Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo is held each August in Douglas. Other large festivals in Wyoming include the International Climbers Festival, an annual Beartrap Festival, and other mountain men and fur-trapping festivals.

Wyoming is primarily a place of outdoor recreation, and hiking, hunting, camping, boating, fishing, trail riding, and trapshooting are among the state's most popular leisure activities. Dog sledding, llama trekking, river rafting, and blue-river fishing are popular tourist pastimes. Wyoming also has a number of ski resorts, including at Jackson Hole in Teton Village, Snow King Mountain in Jackson, and Meadowlark near Worland, and attracts many tourists from across the USA each year. Buffalo burgers, elk steak dinners, barbecue, and grill are popular fare in the state.

GovernmentWyoming's state constitution Wyoming's original constitution, adopted in 1889, is still in force today. Amendments to the constitution must be approved by the majority of voters, by the legislature, or a constitutional convention approved by at least two-thirds of the legislature and a majority of voters.

Structure of state government The legislature consists of a 30-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives. Senators are elected for a four-year term and representatives for a two-year term, with no term limits. Wyoming sends one representative and two senators to the US Congress, and has three electoral votes in presidential elections.

The state has favoured Republican party candidates in US presidential elections since 1964.

The governor is elected to a four-year term and may serve no more than two terms in a 16-year period. Republican Matt Mead took the governorship in January 2011. The governor has the right to appoint the attorney general, heads of budget and personnel departments, and other senior officials. The secretary of state, auditor, superintendent of public instruction, and the treasurer are elected by the voters with the same term limitations as the governor.

The Supreme Court has five justices appointed for eight-year terms, one of whom serves as chief justice. It is the highest court in the state and also hears appeals from the trial courts.

Wyoming has 23 counties, each governed by a board of three or five commissioners elected for four-year terms. There are 99 incorporated municipalities. Most cities have a mayor-council government, except Laramie and Casper, which are run by city managers.

Economy The state is a major producer of coal, petroleum, natural gas, and uranium.

Cattle ranching is the most important agricultural activity and over 80% of the agricultural income is generated by livestock and livestock products. Wyoming is also one of the leading states in sheep and wool production. Crops account for the rest of the state's agricultural product and include sugar beet, hay, wheat, barley, beans, and corn.

Manufacturing is largely committed to the processing of the state's mineral and agricultural resources. The main chemical product is soda ash. Important food products are dairy produce, refined sugar, and soft drinks.

Tourism is a major source of income for Wyoming, with millions of tourists travelling to the state year-round for its scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities.

HistoryOriginal inhabitants There is archaeological evidence of over 12,000 years of occupation in Wyoming. Groups of people who have been identified are the Clovis (12,000 years ago), Folsom (10,000 years ago), and Eden Valley, big-game hunters of the early period (8,000 years ago). Southwest of Lusk, near the state's eastern border, evidence has been found of the remains of 1,036 sq km/400 sq mi of prehistoric stone quarries known as the Spanish Diggings, where quartzite, jasper, and agate were mined. Artefacts of these materials have been found as far away as Ohio and the Mississippi Valley.

After these peoples came mixed hunter-gatherer groups. The historic American Indians in the region were nomadic Plains Indians from the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Percé, Shoshone, and Ute tribes.

Exploration Fur trappers are thought to have visited Wyoming in the 18th century, but it was not until the early 19th century that proper exploration began. One of the earliest explorers was fur trapper John Colter, who in 1807 encountered towering waterfalls and steaming geezers in the Rocky Mountains area, later to become Yellowstone Park, and named it Colter's Hell in his reports. In the 1820s and 1830s, the fur trade was organized by General William Ashley, who established a yearly rendezvous of trappers at which Ashley's company traded goods for furs. The rendezvous became an important event for the trappers, not only as an opportunity for trade but as a useful social gathering and information exchange.

In 1832, a trapping party 100-strong came to the area, led by Captain Benjamin de Bonneville. They discovered oil in the Wind River basin in 1833. A fort was established in 1834 by William Sublette and Robert Campbell and named Fort William, later to become Fort Laramie, the first trading post. Among the trappers, explorers, and traders who first roamed the area were mountain men such as Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Davey Jackson, and Jedediah Smith.

Gold in California and rich land in Oregon brought pioneer wagon trains through Wyoming, and the guides who escorted them, including Carson and Bridger, established forts along the way to protect the pioneers from hostile American Indians. After the trading posts and forts had been established, the rendezvous became less important and the last one was held in 1840.

Conflict Three famous pioneer trails crossed Wyoming by the 1840s. They were the California Trail, the Oregon Trail to the Pacific northwest, and the Mormon Trail to Utah. Plains Indians helped the wagon trains to find grazing lands and also traded with the pioneers. Few settlers stayed in Wyoming.

By the end of the 1840s, however, the Sioux were becoming unhappy about the number of people passing through their traditional land, killing or upsetting the game, causing prairie fires, and spreading diseases to the American Indian population. Fighting broke out between the settlers and the American Indians, which often had to be settled by army intervention. Many more American Indians died than settlers. The discovery of gold in Montana meant that settlers followed the Bozeman Trail, crossing the Powder River Basin and passing through more American Indian land. The tribes fought furiously with the interlopers and when the army built Fort Phil Kearny near the Bighorn Mountains in 1866 to protect the Bozeman Trail, the American Indians, led by Red Cloud, surrounded it with war parties in what was called the Circle of Death. Around 150 settlers were killed.

Thousands of organized American Indians from the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux tribes fought battle after battle with the US cavalry, until finally a treaty was signed with Red Cloud and other leaders and Fort Phil Kearny and another two forts were abandoned. The American Indians promised not to interfere with the building of the Union Pacific Railroad through Wyoming.

The troubled peace this treaty brought was disrupted by the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Thousands of white people moved into the sacred Sioux lands in the Black Hills, and the Sioux and Cheyenne fought the new invasion, winning two battles in what is now Montana. The American Indians were outnumbered in the end, some fleeing to Canada and others ending up on reservations. Fighting ended in 1876.

The Equality State In 1869, Wyoming's territorial government was the first in the world to grant female suffrage, and in February 1870, Ester Hobart Morris of South Pass City became the world's first female justice of the peace. Laramie was the site of the first equal suffrage vote cast by a woman, on 6 September 1870. In 1894, Estelle Reel became one of the first women in the USA elected to state office, becoming Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1924, Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first elected woman governor to take office in the USA, then the first to become director of the United States Mint.

Progress During the late 19th century, Wyoming consolidated its progress. In 1883 and 1884 interest in oil was revived by new discoveries at Lander, and explorations were made near Casper, leading to the first oil boom in 1912. Cattle ranching flourished, with wealthy farmers controlling vast areas, but feuds broke out and lives were lost in the 1890s and early 1900s over rustling and grazing rights.

The construction of dams in the 1900s attracted new settlement, and tourism became important as better roads and railways made it easier for tourists to visit the attractions, especially Yellowstone Park.

Wyoming had already hit economic hardships by the time of the Great Depression, but during the depression years the economy was boosted by oil production. The economy boomed during World War II through demands for coal, meat, oil, and lumber. The discovery of trona (of which sodium carbonate is a part) and uranium further boosted the post-war economy, and the coal and oil industries grew out of the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s. The opening of new mines led to a population explosion. Economic problems set in the 1980s, with uranium discoveries in Australia and Canada reducing demand, and the slowing down of the nuclear energy industry. Tourism continued to grow in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and the state continues to try to expand its economic base to become less dependent on minerals.

Famous peoplethe arts Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), painter

science Robert Wilson (1914–2000), physicist; Jay Hayley (1923–2007), psychologist

society and education John Colter (c.1775–1813), trapper and explorer; Jedediah Smith (1798–1831), fur trader and mountain man; Thomas Fitzpatrick (c.1799–1854), trapper and guide; James Bridger (1804–1881), fur trapper and guide; John Bozeman (1835–1867), explorer

politics and lawWashakie (c. 1804–1900), Shoshone chief; Esther Morris (1814–1902), first woman judge; Nellie Tayloe Ross (c.1876–1977), first elected female governor of a state; Dick Cheney (1941– ), vice president of the USA.


Castle Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

Mount Moran, Wyoming

Wyoming – flag

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