History of Wyoming/Wyoming since 1945

Wyoming since 1945




Since 1945, there have been a multitude of developments in Wyoming that have had both positive and negative impacts on the economy. During wartime there was a large demand for Wyoming’s oil, coal, lumber, and meat. After the war, the economy remained stable due to increased tourism and the discovery of two valuable minerals; Trona and Uranium. Trona was discovered in 1947 during routine oil drilling in southwestern Wyoming, and Uranium was discovered in 1951 during a geological survey in the Powder River basin. During the 1960's a new steel plant was constructed near Sunrise, which in turn acted as a catalyst in the development of Atlantic City. Two new power plants were opened to capitalize on Wyoming’s abundance of coal. This promised to be a steady market for coal, which had suffered slow-downs in the 1950’s. Wyoming a strong history of involvement with Natives from all over the state, dating back to the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. These strong cultural ties influence an immense amount of controversy within the state. In accordance to the reservation system and native population Wyoming's most important economic contributions have always come in the form of minerals, cattle, and tourism which is why Wyoming has been labelled as a “cowboy” state.

From War to Peace


After 1945, Wyoming began its transition into a peacetime state. This transition was largely symbolized by the shutting down of the Heart Mountain relocation camp, which was closed in November of 1945. Originally constructed in 1941 and opened in 1942, the Heart Mountain relocation center housed roughly 14,000 Japanese Americans throughout its duration, with as much as 11,000 people living there at a single time, making it the third highest populated area in Wyoming. Many Japanese Americans were reluctant to leave and begin their lives anew. Outside of the camp, local resentment of the Japanese made it particularly difficult to blend in with society again. However, the nearby towns of Cody and Powell allowed for former members of the internment camp to work in their towns.

Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

Throughout the 40's and 50's, Jackson Hole became a topic of dispute. John D. Rockefeller owned the land and had given it up to the park service to be turned into a national monument. The difficulties facing conservationists was partly due to increasing commercial exploitation of the area. Many fought the idea of a national recreation area in Jackson because it meant that 221,610 acres of land would be unavailable for taxation and settlement. However, by the 1950’s, conservationists had their way, and Jackson Hole became part of the Grand Teton National Park. The establishment of Grand Teton national park in 1950 ended a 30-year controversy over attempts to extend federal government control in Northwestern Wyoming and many inhabitants saw federal control, as a means of preservation. After World War II, when gas and tires became more readily available to civilians, tourism to the national park increased significantly. Since 1963, Grand Teton has attracted more people year round than its Northern neighbor, Yellowstone National Park, attracting 500,000 more tourists per year. The Grand Teton National Park has also attracted Hollywood productions on occasion, with movies being shot in Jackson Hole in the shadow of the Tetons. Movies such as "The Mountain Men" starring Charlton Heston in 1980, as well as the iconic training montage in the Hollywood classic "Rocky IV" staring Sylvester Stallone in 1985 have both been shot in Jackson Hole. The National park service along with John Rockefeller JR. preserved some of the most spectacular scenery in North America.

File:Wind River Reservation

Wind River Reservation


The Wind River Indian reservation is a native reserve located in central Wyoming with a population of approximately 11,000 and is the seventh largest Indian reservation in the country. The reserve spans 2.2 million acres, 70 miles east to west and 55 miles north to south. The Wind River Reservation is located along a water corridor and it provides a spiritual connection for the native dwellers. It was established on July 2nd, 1863 in the Fort Bridger Treaty, but was later revised to its current location in 1868. This treaty gave them a total of 44 million acres of land in Wyoming; it has now been reduced to its present size of 1.9 million acres. The Reservation is primarily home to two groups of native tribes, the Arapaho (4,500) and the Shoshone (2,500). They both retained the buffalo hunting tradition but they kept their separate cultural beliefs. The land had been traditionally held by the Shoshones for many centuries and the tribe had no intention of leaving it. Originally, the Arapaho were intended to have their own land and were put on the Shoshone land temporarily. When the U.S. government made it clear that Native Americans would be required to live on designated reservations, the Eastern Shoshone were allowed to choose the location of their permanent home. They chose to settle in the “Warm Valley of the Wind River,” which was their wintering area. However, when a new administration came to power in Washington, the relocation effort was abandoned, so in 1937 the reserve was recognized as being jointly owned by the two tribes. This caused conflict initially, as the tribes were forced to compete for food sources and good land, but they now manage to coexist with virtually no issues. Historically, this area has had a tremendous significance on American culture, as it was the home of the tribes that helped guide explorers Lewis and Clarke on their expedition of the Western United States. It is said that they were able to get along with the foreigner explorers based on the fact that they were always at war with every plains tribe. In fact, the cemetery located on the reserve is the final resting place of the famed Sacajawea, their guide and interpreter.

Wind River Reserve in Perspective
    The Wind River Indian Reservation is also important in Wyoming's history due to the fact that it was the first time that the Native Chief was able to negotiate for land that the tribe wanted. Chief Washakie is known as the legendary chief who was able to choose the land for his people; it was the only reservation chosen by any native group.  As most Native Chiefs were, Chief Washakie was a warrior first, then later took on the position of peacemaker for the tribe. He was able to see that in order to preserve his tribe's legacy he had a better chance of negotiating for land than defending the land against the new power of the settlers. The Chief was able to negotiate with the federal government during the formation of the Fort Bridge Treaty to have the land that would most benefit the tribes. Chief Washakie believed that it was the most beneficial to be on peaceful terms with the settlers rather than feuding with them. The white community had a strong relationship with the Chief, eventually naming a fort after him; this fort is now the oldest fort on the reservation. This also assisted in keeping the peace between the native and settler populations. As well as peace there is often war when there is government involvement in moving tribes around. In 1866, the displaced Crow tribe was forced to move into the Shoshone Wind River Reservation tribe's hunting territory. Chief Washakie sent a warrior messenger to the Crow Chief Big Robber explaining the predicament. Washakie told him that the Shoshone would allow the Crow tribe to hunt the Owl Creek Range as long as they left the Wind River Mountains to the Shoshone. Chief Big Robber believed that his tribe was better if not equal to the Shoshone and killed the warrior messenger. He sent a message back to Washakie stating he would hunt wherever he pleased. Washakie responded by gathering his allies and launched a surprise attack on the Crow tribe that lasted five days. Washakie was superior however out of the utter respect he had for Chief Big Robber, for his bravery, instead of scalping him he took out his heart and placed it at the end of his lance. This event gave Crowheart Butte its modern name. Among the local tribes the battle between Washakie and Big Robber distinguished who had control of the reservation. 

Despite its cultural significance, the Wind River reservation today stands as an appalling example of native poverty. Before 1945, the reservation flourished economically as it owned much of the land that the Wind River Basin is located on. This basin contains traces of an assortment of valuable natural resources, such as gold, coal, uranium, natural gas and oil. Due to the high value of these resources, it was an area of mining through the late 19th century and into the 20th. However, due to these extreme mining efforts, the resources of the basin have been all but extracted. In 1920, there was approximately 290,495 tons of coal extracted. Compare this with the 18,511 tons in 1942 and the mere 1,534 tons in 1960 and it is clear that the resources of the area are nearly depleted. The main development still functioning today is the energy industry that developed following World War II. A large oil boom created most of the revenue for the Wind River Reserve following World War I. The development on the reservation led to certain industries being produced throughout the community; first ranching, and then farming. Today that foundation is still in place, but to a lesser extent. Farming, for instance, has become more institutionalized. With the lack of economic opportunity in the area comes a lack of interest in maintain it. The governments gave the overseeing power to religious groups. The church was in charge of setting up schools, hospitals and other government buildings on the reserves that would assist their development. This also assisted in keeping the peace between the native and settler populations. In 1945 the Shoshone Episcopal Mission School (nicknamed “Robert’s Mission” for its founder Reverend John Roberts) was shut down. This school was located on land personally donated by Chief Washakie and was said to be sacred land. With a lack of decent education, living conditions on the reserve began to gradually decline.

Developing after 1945 was the success of the Arapaho ranch located on the Wind River Reservation. Prior to the construction of the Arapaho ranch in 1940, the Arapaho people were impoverished and struggling to meet the success of the Shoshone peoples. The ranch was developed to help instill a sense of business in the Arapaho, and to teach them to be self-sufficient. Initially the ranch ran into problems when the white male manager of the ranch only hired other white male ranch hands. This problem was solved in 1948, when it was decided that the hiring of workers would be left entirely to the native peoples. Soon into the 1950’s the ranch was declared a success after it paid back the $ 476, 217 that it owed to the Shoshone and having acquired around an additional half a million dollars in assets. It is noted that the Arapaho language distinguishes the differences between themselves and other Wyoming tribes, it originates from the Algonquin tribe language.

Ranch on the Wind River Reservation

Between the years 1945 to 1952 the number of livestock owned by the Arapaho more than doubled from roughly 600 to over 1,400. The ranches included cattle and sheep, other livestock was not as important (for example; dairy stock, hogs and chickens). The success continued into the 70’s where the ranch was viewed as a permanent, individually owned business enterprise that did business with many people outside of the reservation.

Today, the reservation is closer to a third world environment than an American territory. Life expectancy on the reserve is just 49 years, which incidentally is 20 years less than in Iraq. Furthermore, the high school dropout rate is at 40% and the unemployment rate is an astounding 80%, a terrifying figure considering the state average of Wyoming is 6%. It is noted that a large amount of delinquent juveniles are from the Wind River Reservation with charges consisting of minor in possession, public intoxication, or driving under the influence of alcohol. Through multiple studies it is estimated that every 3 out of 5 families are well below the poverty line. It is suggested that this is at the fault of the Bureau of Indian Affairs due to the economic shifts and changes in policies that the tribes have zero control of.With statistics such as these in mind, it is abundantly clear that the Wind River reserve is in drastic need of government assistance as well as general awareness from the public on the poverty associated with many reserves all across the country.

The Black 14


The civil rights movement of the 1960's and the racial tensions it created were not exclusive to the most populous states of the country but to every state and city in the United States, including Wyoming. At the time Wyoming was the least racially diverse state in the country. Recent statistics show Whites represent 85.5% of the population followed by Hispanics, American Indians, Blacks and other minorities. Yet despite this racial hegemony, discrimination persisted even with the Public Accommodations Act of 1957 in Wyoming, and civil rights laws passed by congress.

There was however a large representation of African-Americans involved in athletics at the University of Wyoming. This was primarily due to the strong commitment to athletics by the University president George Humphrey. He hired a team of prominent directors, coaches, and scouts led by head coach Lloyd Eaton to bring prospective athletes from across the country to play for the school's football team. In 1969, the Wyoming Cowboys were set to play the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars, a university located in Utah, a state where 62% of the population is Mormon. Before the game on Friday, October 17th, 14 of the African-American players requested a meeting with coach Eaton to discuss the policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (known more colloquially as the LSD Church or the Mormon Church) and how they planned to protest these policies by wearing black arm bands in the next game, commonly used as a symbol of mourning in the athletic world, in this case it was intended to symbolize the suppression of their inalienable religious rights. The Coach's response was to suspend all 14 players from the team. The policies of the church claimed that men of colour could not become priests, and were denied the right to worship in other areas of the church. The suspension brought athletics into the issue of civil rights. The University of Wyoming received considerable coverage for denying the students their first amendment rights and its reputation was severely damaged, though they claimed the suspension was disciplinary and in no way reflected the suppression of their rights or indifference to their situation.

It was due to this incident that all but one of the fourteen men left the university. Yet despite the discrimination and animosity, ten of the fourteen would go on to graduate from college and of those ten, four went on to have careers in the National Football League, most notably Tony McGee who played eleven seasons for three different teams, and Tony Gibson, who played for the New England Patriots. Despite these impressive careers, the issue was not truly settled until June 1st 1978 when the President of the Church changed Mormon doctrine to enable men of all colours to be priests.

American Bison In Hayden Valley.

Resource Economy of the 21st Century


Wyoming contributed to sustaining a substantial part of the agricultural sector in the United States for most of the 20th century. Specifically, this is evident within the cattle industry. After WWII, there were rapid migrations towards Western states and consequently, the market for cattle had expanded greatly. In 1947 the vast state of California acquired more cattle from Wyoming then from the prominent cattle states, such as Illinois and Iowa. Wyoming's dominance in the beef industry is apparent in land use statistics following the war. Mid-20th century Wyoming, saw approximately 40 percent of the state's 97,914 square miles being used for farm and ranch land. By the 50's however, there seemed to be a shift in focus on new and undiscovered sources of energy. Economic development for the state of Wyoming was hindered during this time period as it maintained great focus on rural agriculture. Clinging to the image of the cowboy, the state lacked the strong business image necessary to survive in the contemporary economic realm. In reality, only 4 percent of the population worked on ranches or farms. Post-war era witnessed a migration from rural farm land to the urban areas. This was due in large part to the lack of job opportunity and long periods of drought which swept Wyoming during the 50's. These population shifts were successful in creating new markets and expanding those previously established. The oil industry continued to flourish undeterred, men returning from WWII took positions in many of the new and existing oil refineries throughout the state. Cheyenne's Frontier Refinery and Sinclair facilities were the sources of job creation for hundreds of returning veterans. During this period came the discovery of large deposits of uranium in Southern Campbell county and deposits of Trona near Green river. By this time ambitious entrepreneurs and businessman flooded the state and began drilling for undiscovered minerals. The deepest well in the country was drilled in West poison Spider Field at 14,309 feet. The discovery of uranium led to a modern day gold rush, uranium exceeded coal in production for the first time during the early 50's. . Uranium is the main ingredient in nuclear weapons, and the Cold War was an era in which the United States was in a nuclear arms race with Soviet Russia. This entailed that any state who had large deposits of Uranium would prosper. Wyoming fell in this category as multiple mining expenditures were launched to find this ingredient. Wyoming experienced economic productivity from these ventures but the pursuit of uranium proved to be a double edged sword. These mining areas were not safe or suitable communities for citizens and as more ventures took place; the population in the immediate area decreased. When the uranium ventures ended, a period of decline took place as the communities then became empty and unproductive. For example; Jeffrey City, Wyoming had a population of four thousand prior to becoming a hotbed for uranium mining. After the venture, only 25 percent of the population remained.

Wyoming's dependency on natural resources for economic growth continued during the 70's. Refineries in Casper, Thermopolis, Sinclair, Cheyenne, Newcastle, Greybull provided revenue for the expansion of urban areas throughout the state. Refineries under the command of Texaco, and Standard Oil produced million of barrels of oil, these large companies established offices in nearby counties. The oil embargo in 1973 by Arab countries saw the sharp increase in price for gasoline. Oil exploration increased in the state, multi-national corporations saw the attraction of Wyoming and the opportunities it provided. Coal became crucial during this time due to the increasing demand by electric power plants. Wyoming was the 3rd fastest growing state in the United States from 1970 to 1980, the population increased 41 % from 332,416 to 469,557. This drastic increase in population also presented many social issues for the state. Lack of available housing, schools unable to adapt to the influx of new students, demand for social services, increase in crimes, lack of law enforcement officers. The State government was brought in to help with the mass social disorganization. Even in the midst of relative economic prosperity in the mineral production industry and a great boom specifically in the 1970s, greater industrial growth did not occur and the boom did not last. Between 1981 and 1996 over half of the jobs in the mining sector were lost, due largely to the lack a major urban centre that was necessary to sustain the business economy.

Wyoming's economy in the 21st century is driven primarily by tourism, natural resources, and agriculture. Starting out as a predominantly agricultural society during the 19th century the state has become increasingly dependent on the extraction of non-renewable resources to fuel its economy, including coal, natural gas and a variety of ores such as copper and gold. Agriculture however still plays an important role in the state, more than a means of production, it represents a way of life for the citizens of Wyoming.

Approximately 90% of land in Wyoming is described as rural, 37% of the states population live in rural communities of 2500 people or less, their primary source of income is through farming of crops and livestock. The State consists of 11,000 farms with the average farm size at 2,726 acres.The population of livestock far exceeds the amount of people in the state, recent estimates suggest over one million cattle, and more then 800,000 sheep. It is also one of the top producers of beef in the country. Although the beef industry suffered a set-back during the 80's due to increased public demand for healthier food, and lean meat, the industry has since revamped its efforts in providing a variety of products which take into account the concerns of the customer. The value of Wyoming's agriculture industry is around 943 million dollars making it the third largest industry in the state.

Almost half (48%) of the land in Wyoming is owned by the Federal government. Federal agencies exercise heavy control over the state's grazing, logging, and mining, which often leads to conflicts between the different levels of government. Conflicts can also arise in other areas such as issues of wildlife conservation. In 2012, the Federal government dispensed with policies intended to ensure the protection of wolves in Wyoming, citing the increase in population. Wildlife agencies at the state level had worked for years to save the at-risk animal from extinction in the state. This recent lift of protection would allow the hunting and killing of wolves, which would undermine the efforts made during years spent to save the species.

The tourism industry in Wyoming had its early beginnings during the boom of the 70's, however it seemed largely unorganized and reactionary, with hotels and small organizations making some effort to take advantage of the influx of new people arriving in the state. Since then, tourism has become the second largest industry in Wyoming grossing over 2.8 billion dollars annually. In 2010, the total number of tourists increased by 4% bringing in 8.34 million people. The tourism industry also provides employment for over 28,000 people. The main attractions of Wyoming are its national parks, especially Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park. It is estimated that 30% of visitors to the national parks are from overseas. The visitors are attracted to the small towns, friendly people, and the lush green scenery of Wyoming.

Grand Teton National Park

Not surprisingly, Wyoming's largest industry is the natural resources industry. While the 40s and 50s experienced a decline due to alternative fuels available; the 70s saw a boom as new technologies such as strip mining were created. Developments such as the Clean Air Act of 1970 also bolstered this increase. Coal remains as one of Wyoming’s most important staples to this day as Wyoming remains the number one producer of coal in the country; it has 45,055 square miles underlain by coal, producing over 438.5 million tons of coal in 2011, and it represents 40% of total coal production in the country. The mining industry alone provided 16 billion dollars in revenue for the state in 2011. Wyoming is also the leading producer of soda ash, betonite[check spelling] clays, and uranium. 33% of the uranium industry workforce in the U.S is represented by Wyoming. The state also has the largest deposits of trona in the world near Green River, making it one of Wyoming's most valuable minerals.

Wyoming also leads in the production of natural gas and crude oil. Out of the 23 counties in the state, 20 of them are responsible for the production of either crude oil or natural gas. Figures in 2010 show the sale of 53.1 million barrels of crude oil and 2,517 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Wyoming is the 2nd best producer of natural gas and the 7th best producer of crude oil in the country. Wyoming's strong energy industry is the reason for the states continued stability in face of the 2008 financial crisis. Since 2010 the job growth rate of Wyoming has been faster than the U.S average. The unemployment rate continues to decrease from 5.3% compared to the U.S rate of 8.3%. Wyoming has shown its dependency on natural resources to build a stronger economy throughout history, and in order to maintain this growth the state must continue to build and create new industries if its aim is to become a driving force for the 21st century.



Wyoming benefits off sectors such as mining, cattle breeding, and tourism but its lack of diversification has given it scrutiny. Scholars such as Frieda Knobloch have criticized the government for depending too highly on these specific sectors. Moreover, they argue that the federal government owns almost half of the state, which impedes economic productivity. The Federal government's control in Wyoming limits the free market and prevents any competitive gains. This is a huge problem for Wyoming which makes this state fundamentally different than many others. Wyoming was certainly in a better position economically after the Second World War but a diversification of their economy remains to be seen.

The Wagon Wheel Project

US Atomic Energy Commission logo

Wyoming was not home to the typical post-war military nuclear testing; however, the state has its own unique nuclear history regarding Project Wagon Wheel. Through the US Atomic Energy Commission and the El Paso Natural Gas Company, plans were created to use underground nuclear explosions to help extract Wyoming’s natural gas reserves. In the late 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission took interest in obtaining natural gas from the large reservoir in Wyoming. At the time, natural gas was highly valued, thus many corporations saw this obtainment as a smart investment. The Atomic Energy Commission had strong backing for natural gas extraction from oil and gas corporations, and most importantly, the federal government. Wyoming’s nuclear history begins with the El Paso Natural Gas Company buying the vast natural gas fields that lay under Wyoming and specifically under Sublette County. Despite initially being unable to reach gas, El Paso proposed to the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1958 that nuclear energy could be used to help acquire the natural gas. The Atomic Energy Commission quickly sanctioned four nuclear tests throughout the American mid-west under its plowshare program to spread peaceful nuclear energy.

Throughout the 1960s, nuclear blasting practices were conducted to see if these procedures could in fact extract marketable natural gas. Testing sites were situated in both Colorado and New Mexico, and in their trials, the Atomic Energy Commission managed to gather a substantial amount of natural gas. Thus, nuclear blasting procedures were contracted to Sublette County, Wyoming, and this contract was heavily influenced by the El Paso Gas Company. The fourth and largest experimental nuclear test, dubbed project Wagon Wheel by national media, would be located 19 miles south-southeast of Pinedale, Wyoming. El Paso estimated some 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas might be in the region and began designing their largest experimental explosion. El Paso and the AEC planned to explode five 100-kiloton nuclear warheads in a single well from 9 000 – 18 000 feet below the surface. Furthermore, the explosions had to be detonated individually in sequence to conform to nuclear treaties limiting the size of detonations.

Location of Pinedale, Wyoming in Sublette County

Little research had been conducted to examine the consequences of nuclear blasting. Research developed in the late 1960s, and people began to worry about their personal safety, and the safety of their drinking water. As plans for the project began to develop further, people became more skeptical and had a greater concern for the effect of nuclear blasting on their crops, wildlife, and livestock.

The Wagon Wheel Information Committee (WWIC) was formed by a group of concerned citizens who began to educate themselves on the effects of nuclear blasting. The WWIC began to worry tremendously about their beef industry, which contributed heavily to the Wyoming economy. The WWIC discovered that the aftermath of blasting could result in the grass becoming contaminated with tritium, a poisonous substance. In turn, the cattle would consume this grass, and thus contaminate their beef and milk.

Public outcry emerged in March of 1972, as the local government and citizens of Sublette County strongly opposed the federal government’s Wagon Wheel Project. The committee raised questions about the inevitable contamination of wildlife and why El Paso decided to cut costs and burn-off radioactive material instead of safely storing it. The AEC maintained there was a low risk to humans but local opposition continued to mount in Sublette. The WWIC was limited by Wyoming statutes prohibiting votes on public policy so they held an unofficial “straw vote” in November 1972 instead. The results of the pool were overwhelmingly against project Wagon Wheel with 78% of citizens voting against the test. Meanwhile, the WWIC wrote Senator Cliff Hanson formally requesting him to set up a meeting in Washington for February 5th. Ten community citizens of Sublette met with AEC and the Environmental Protection Agency where they demanded Wagon Wheels cancellation and even appeared on the Today Show. The coming winter also brought opposition from Congress where Wyoming’s lone congressman, Teno Roncalio, showed that the previous nuclear tests had been more costly than their possible gas revenue. President Nixon's budget plan did not even provide the project with funds until 1977. The fact that the Wagon Wheel Project was never funded, the combined pressure from the WWIC and Roncalio’s economic arguments helped de-fund the Wagon Wheel project, which never received the government grants it required.

The Wagon Wheel Project further demonstrated the importance of beef for the Wyoming economy. This project could have potentially jeopardized that industry with nuclear fallout and contamination. Project Wagon Wheel also reflects the continuous conflict between local and federal governments in Wyoming after World War II and how local power had some influence in public policy. In 1974 El Paso used the Wagon Wheel shaft to test a form of hydraulic fracturing to acquire gas which ultimately failed sealing off the hole and was never reopened.

Wyoming Tourism


Wyoming tourism began to develop as an industry in the late 1880s, offering a wide range of places to go, things to see, and activities for tourists. Tourism in Wyoming revolves around its natural beauty, wildlife, and its history of ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ with some places called the "last of the Old West".

Wyoming tourism was initiated around 1887 when Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was at its height of popularity, and residents began opening dude ranches.

Yellowstone National Park poster, circa 1938

Dude ranches drew in many Eastern European tourists who wished to experience the mountains; this particular branch of tourism peaked in the early 1900s, and experienced dramatic decline in the 1930s. After World War II, the Wyoming’s tourism industry exploded, allowing it to expand its resources and the variety of activities for visitors. Teddy Roosevelt’s conservationist efforts also helped endorse Wyoming tourism. Teddy Roosevelt named the state the home of the first National Monument (Devils Tower) in 1906. In more recent years, the tourist industry has slowed down. Wyoming residents still continue to enhance tourism within the state by increasing both the number and variety of attractions. Tourists are most often drawn to Wyoming for the natural physical attractions of the state. In 1872, Wyoming became home to Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world. Shoshone Forest and Devils Tower were also appointed the first National Forest (in 1891), and the first National Monument, respectively. The state is home to the town of Jackson Hole, a popular resort valley surrounded by Rocky Mountains, popularized as a tourist destination due to the work of conservationists like Horace Albright. Jackson is home to numerous attractions such as the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, a Lake Lodge, a Mountain Resort, and the National Elk Refuge, where thousands of elk reside each winder. Sleigh rides among the elk take place from mid-December through April. Wyoming is also home to Grand Teton National Park, which attracted more than 2,500,000 people in 1965 alone, as well as many other historical sites, parks, and monuments.

Photo of Devils Tower, 1890 by John C. H. Grabill

Devils Tower is of particular importance to tourism as it attracts over 400,000 people each year. Established on September 24th 1906, in Crook County,the formation rises 1,267 above the surrounding terrain for an overall elevation of 5,112 feet above sea level.

As technology developed, the variety of tourist activities grew. At dude ranches, tourists can horseback ride, canoe or raft, fish, and participate in guided hiking or wilderness pack trips. If visitors are interested in arts and culture, there are many places where they can explore Native American culture and art, cowboy singers, and local craftspeople. There are several fairs and festivals in Wyoming, such as the Annual Celtic Festival, Wyoming Brewers Festival, and Gold Rush Days for cultural explorers, as well as weekly small-town rodeos. For tourists who are more interested in nature, there are several national parks to visit and scenic by-ways for road trips; travelers can also pan for gold, bird-watch, hunt, mountain bike, visit hot springs, and rock hound to experience the outdoors. If visitors are more active and adventurous, ATV riding, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, and cavern tours are available. In the winter, tourists can participate in cross-country and downhill skiing, ice climbing, dogsledding, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Despite the success of many conservationists, who have worked hard to ensure that Wyoming tourist destinations remain places of natural beauty and recreation, there remains an ongoing conflict between conservationism and commercialism.

More recent studies in Wyoming have found that historic sites produce more profit and have a greater positive economic impact than other activities in the state’s tourism industry; however, the state may be slow to develop more sites due to the high cost of doing so. Wyoming residents are still seeking ways to improve tourism and appeal to wider ranges of people. For example, Jackson Hole has introduced new ways of drawing in tourists, through the installment of relaxing spa retreats to typical tourist attractions.



Wyoming utilizes a sales tax while avoiding a state income tax and also implemented a mineral severance tax in 1969, which effectively cuts a percentage of the industries profits. Severance taxes provide nearly one third of the states budget. The constitution of Wyoming unlike others states confers state ownership of water resources, which has resulted in litigation with downstream states over water rights.

Almost 50 percent of the states land is under federal control. Problems between state and federal industries are usually because of corporations desiring further control over federal lands.

Nuclear Weapons


The history of nuclear weapons in Wyoming stems from the creation of the F.E. Warren Air Force base, which has no airplanes. It is however, one of the largest missile command bases in the nation. The first deployment of Atlas missiles were established in 1960. The missiles were scattered in ranching country across southeast Wyoming. The deployment of the first 24 Atlas missiles in Cheyenne did not create much controversy. The base had always been considered a good neighbor, and the federal spending that came along with the base provided a good economic boost for the community. Safety concerns have plagued the base since the early 1980s, with a series of accidents surrounding the MX missiles.

Richard Cheney


In 1978, Richard "Dick" Cheney was elected to Wyoming’s sole seat in the House of Representatives and was re-elected five times. Cheney grew up in Casper, and attended the University of Wyoming. In 1995 Cheney became the president and CEO of the Halliburton Company. Cheney later became Vice President under George W. Bush on the Republican ticket in 2000.