Geography and Landforms:

Wyoming is bordered by Montana on the north and Utah and Colorado on the south. On the east, Wyoming is bordered by South Dakota and Nebraska. On the west, Wyoming is bordered by Idaho and Utah. Wyoming is the second "highest" state in the US, having a mean elevation of 6,700, second only to the state of Colorado.

Major rivers in Wyoming include the Bighorn, Green, Belle Fourche, Powder and North Platte River.

Wyoming is where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. The Continental Divide runs through Wyoming from the northwest to the south central border. Rivers east of the Divide drain into the Missouri River and toward the Atlantic Ocean. West of the Continental Divide, rivers drain into the Columbia or Colorado River and toward the Pacific Ocean.

There are three major geographical land areas in Wyoming: The Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and the Intermontane (meaning "land between the mountains) Basins. The Great Plains form the eastern part of the state and are characterized by short-grass prairie. This area receives little rainfall. The Rocky Mountains cover most of the state of Wyoming and are a series of rugged mountain ranges, including the Big Horn Mountains, the Laramie Range, the Absaroka Range, the Granite Range, the Tetons and the Wind River Range. The highest point in Wyoming is Gannett Peak found in the Wind River Range. The Intermontane Basins are relatively flat areas between the mountain ranges. These areas have short grasses and are mostly treeless.


Since the 16th century, a number of governments have claimed parts of what is now the State of Wyoming. The national flags of France, Great Britain, Mexico, Spain, Texas, and the United States have flown over the Wyoming Territory, as well as the territorial flags of the Dakotas, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

The US acquired the land comprising Wyoming from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. John Colter, a fur-trapper, is the first white man known to have entered the region. In 1807 he explored the Yellowstone area and brought back news of its geysers and hot springs. In 1811, Colter returned for further exploration, and in 1812, Robert Stuart explored most of the route that would later become the Oregon Trail. Although fur traders traveled throughout the areas west of the Mississippi River during this time, only the strongest and most self-sufficient could survive the mountains and the isolation of this area. Some of the earliest of these "mountain men" were Thomas Fitzpatrick, James Bridger and Jedediah Smith. Captain B.L.E. de Bonneville organized a large expedition in 1832 and his were the first wagons to go through the South Pass.

The first permanent trading post in Wyoming was Fort William, begun in 1834, and later renamed Fort Laramie. By the 1840s, the route west through Wyoming was under fairly frequent use by caravans of pioneers headed toward Oregon. As the fur trade declined, many of the former trappers and mountain men settled along the Oregon Trail and provided horses and supplies to the migrants.

Robert Stuart pioneered the Oregon Trail across Wyoming in 1812-1813 and, in 1834, Fort Laramie, the first permanent trading post in Wyoming, was built. Western Wyoming was obtained by the US in the 1846 Oregon Treaty with Great Britain and as a result of the treaty ending the Mexican War in 1848.

When the Wyoming Territory was organized in 1869, Wyoming women became the first in the nation to obtain the right to vote. In 1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first woman governor in the United States.


Wyoming's towering mountains and vast plains provide spectacular scenery, grazing lands for sheep and cattle, and rich mineral deposits.

Mining is the state's most important industry, and Wyoming lands are estimated to contain 1.4 trillion tons of coal, the largest coal resources in the US. The world's largest surface coal mine complex is located near Gillette. In addition, Wyoming leads the nation in the production of bentonite and trona. It is second in the nation in its uranium deposits. Wyoming also contains a wealth of gemstones including jade, moss agate, rubies, jasper, bloodstones, diamonds, and peridot.

Although mining produces a larger amount of the state's income, the majority of the state's residents make their living in farming or ranching. In 2000, Wyoming ranked second in the US in wool production, and third in sheep and lambs. The state also has more than 1.5 million cattle. Large grazing lands are required because the grass is sparse in Wyoming, and the average ranch in the state is larger than in any other state except Arizona. Crops grown in the state include wheat, oats, sugar beets, corn, barley and alfalfa.

Wyoming's other natural resources make it a great tourist destination. There are 15,846 miles of fishing streams and 297,633 acres of fishing lakes supporting 31 species of game fish. Big game hunters come to the state for its elk, deer, moose, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear, grizzly bear and mountain lions. There are also a large number of rodeos, roundups and frontier celebrations along with numerous "dude" ranches that draw vacationers in great numbers.

First Inhabitants:

People were living in the area we now call Wyoming more than 12,000 years ago. These people were probably part of the Clovis culture. In the next two to four thousand years, there is evidence of other cultures living and moving through this area including people who hunted big game, including animals that no longer exist, like the wooly mammoth.

One site that offers us more questions than answers about the early inhabitants of Wyoming is the Medicine Wheel, near Lovell. The Wheel, actually an arrangement of white stones forming a 70-foot diameter wheel with spokes, has been dated by archaeologists as being about 7,000 years old. Scientists believe it may have been built as an astronomical observatory, or to mark the equinox, but no one knows for sure who built it or why. However, the Crow Indians, as well as other Plains Indian tribes, believe the wheel is a sacred religious site that was constructed by their ancestors "before the light came, by people who had no iron." Today, the site is being studied, but steps have been taken to respect the Native Americans' access to the site for religious rituals.

Another prehistoric site that shows evidence of Wyoming's earliest residents is the remains of stone quarries near the town of Lusk. These quarries, called the "Spanish Diggings" show how people mined quartzite, jasper and agate for use in making tools. We know people made and traded these items, because artifacts made of Wyoming minerals have been found as far away as the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys.

By the time white settlers and explorers arrived in Wyoming, several nomadic tribes, known collectively as the Plains Indians, were living in the areas. These tribes included the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute tribes. One Indian reservation remains in Wyoming today. It is home to over 5,000 Shoshone and Arapaho Indians.

Books Related To Wyoming

C is for Cowboy: A Wyoming Alphabet - Eugene Gagliano
(978-1585360970) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Wyoming.

The Case of the Missing Cutthroats - Jean Craighead George
(978-0064406475) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 3
Spinner catches a rare trout and tries to find its place of origin in the mountains near the Snake River in Wyoming.

Dinosaur Hunter - Elaine Marie Alphin
(978-0064442565) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 470, ESL level: 2
A young boy learns how to fight swindlers after he finds dinosaur remains on his Wyoming ranch and eventually gets to sell them to fossil hunters.

The Haymeadow - Gary Paulsen
(978-0440409236) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 1010, ESL level: 4
John's summer on a Wyoming sheep ranch results in greater maturity and independence.

My Friend Flicka - Mary O'Hara
(978-0061374630) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-8, Lexile: 960, ESL level: 2 - 3
A young boy loves his horse Flicka and learns responsibility through caring for her in this classic novel of horses, ranch life, and difficult fathers.

Paint the Wind - Pam Munoz Ryan
(439-873622) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-8, Lexile: 780, ESL level: 3
Maya has a chance to relocate to her family's Wyoming ranch, and she finds she has a knack with horses that lead her to some exciting adventures.

Scumble - Ingrid Law
(978-0142419625) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, Lexile: 900, ESL level: 4
Ledge learns to control his gift of mystical powers to help his family's ranch while a fledgling reporter is attempting to reveal family secrets.

Walker's Crossing - Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
(978-0689842610) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 830, ESL level: 3 - 4
Ryan's brother's decision to join a local militia movement conflicts with his hopes to become a cowbow in Wyoming.

Famous Citizens:

Jackson Pollock
Born Paul Jackson Pollock in Cody, Wyoming, Jackson Pollock first studied painting in Los Angeles. He then moved to New York City where he held his first solo show in 1943. Known for his abstract and surrealist art, his work was widely known and exhibited internationally. Instead of using a traditional easel for his work, he would place his canvas on a wall on the floor and pour or drip paint on it from the can. Instead of using brushes, he used trowels or knives to apply his paint. He is generally believed to be one of the pioneers of the Abstract Impressionism movement and one of the most important figures in American art in the late twentieth century.

Nellie Tayloe Ross
Although she was born in St. Louis, Missouri, Nellie Tayloe Ross is best known for being the first woman to be elected governor in the United States, doing so in the state of Wyoming. She later served four years as director of the United States Mint.

Chief Washakie
Born in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, Chief Washakie was perhaps the most famous of all the Eastern Shoshone leaders. He was known both as a warrior and a statesman, and played a prominent role in the development of the territories of Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. He served as a scout for the US Army, and encouraged his people to help the pioneers who were traveling through Wyoming.

James G. Watt
Born in Lusk, Wyoming, James Watt was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Many environmentalists and conservationist worried that Watt's policies on National Parks and on environmental policy would do more harm than good to the United States' natural resources.

Capital: Cheyenne
Entered Union: July 10, 1890
Population: 584,153
Area 97,814
Bird Western Meadowlark
Flower Indian Paintbrush
Nickname: Equality State
Governor Matthew Mead

Places to Visit in Wyoming: (Click the links to learn more.)

Buffalo Bill Historical Center - Cody
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center interprets the experiences of the American West and includes a museum dedicated to Buffalo Bill himself, a Plains Indian exhibit, the Cody Firearms Museum and the Draper Museum of Natural History.

Museum of the Mountain Man - Pinedale
The Museum interprets the romantic era of the Mountain Man and the historical significance of the western fur trade. There are exhibits on western exploration, the early settlement of western Wyoming and the fur trade, and the museum is the site of the Green River Rendezvous, a recreation of events that brought fur traders together on an annual basis to trade and socialize.

Washakie Museum - Worland
The Washakie Museum provides visitors the opportunity to relate to the lives of the earliest settlers of the area from thousands of years ago with its Colby Site, a display of the earliest mammoth kill site in North America. There are exhibits honoring the wagon train settlers of the 19th century, and displays devoted to the culture of the Sheepeater Shoshone Indians.

Yellowstone National Park - Yellowstone National Park
Located in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is the first and oldest national park in the world. The park includes Old Faithful Geyser along with over 10,000 other hot springs and geysers. There are also grizzly bear and wolf, as well as free-ranging herds of bison and elk.