Wyoming's western half is mostly covered by the ranges and rangelands of the Rocky Mountains
, while the eastern half of the state is high-elevation prairie
called the High Plains
. It is drier and windier than the rest of the country, being split between semi-arid
climates with greater temperature extremes. Almost half of the land in Wyoming is owned by the federal government
, leading the state to rank 6th by area and fifth by proportion of a state's land owned by the federal government.
Federal lands include two national parks—Grand Teton
—two national recreation areas, two national monuments, several national forests, historic sites, fish hatcheries, and wildlife refuges.
Wyoming's economy is driven by tourism and the extraction of minerals such as coal
, natural gas
, and trona
. Agricultural commodities include barley, hay, livestock, sugar beets
, wheat, and wool. It was the first state to allow women the right to vote
and become politicians, as well as the first state to elect a female governor. Due to this part of its history, its main nickname is "The Equality State" and its official state motto is "Equal Rights".
It has been a politically conservative state since the 1950s, with the Republican
presidential nominee carrying the state in every election since 1968
A notable exception is Teton County
, which has achieved notability for being Wyoming's most Democratic
county and the only county in the state to be won by a Democrat in every election since 2004
Autumn in the Bighorn Mountains
Wyoming's climate is generally semi-arid
(Köppen climate classification BSk
), and is drier and windier in comparison to most of the United States with greater temperature extremes. Much of this is due to the topography of the state. Summers in Wyoming are warm with July high temperatures averaging between 85 and 95 °F (29 and 35 °C) in most of the state. With increasing elevation, however, this average drops rapidly with locations above 9,000 feet (2,700 m) averaging around 70 °F (21 °C). Summer nights throughout the state are characterized by a rapid cooldown with even the hottest locations averaging in the 50–60 °F (10–16 °C) range at night. In most of the state, most of the precipitation tends to fall in the late spring and early summer. Winters are cold, but are variable with periods of sometimes extreme cold interspersed between generally mild periods, with Chinook winds
providing unusually warm temperatures in some locations.
Wyoming is a dry state with much of the land receiving less than 10 inches (250 mm) of rainfall per year. Precipitation depends on elevation with lower areas in the Big Horn Basin
averaging 5–8 inches (130–200 mm), making the area nearly a true desert
. The lower areas in the North and on the eastern plains typically average around 10–12 inches (250–300 mm), making the climate there semi-arid
. Some mountain areas do receive a good amount of precipitation, 20 inches (510 mm) or more, much of it as snow, sometimes 200 inches (510 cm) or more annually. The state's highest recorded temperature is 114 °F (46 °C) at Basin
on July 12, 1900 and the lowest recorded temperature is −66 °F (−54 °C) at Riverside
on February 9, 1933.
The number of thunderstorm
days vary across the state with the southeastern plains of the state having the most days of thunderstorm activity. Thunderstorm activity in the state is highest during the late spring and early summer. The southeastern corner of the state is the most vulnerable part of the state to tornado
activity. Moving away from that point and westwards, the incidence of tornadoes drops dramatically with the west part of the state showing little vulnerability. Tornadoes, where they occur, tend to be small and brief, unlike some of those that occur farther east.
Location and size
As specified in the designating legislation for the Territory of Wyoming
, Wyoming's borders are lines of latitude 41°N
, and longitude
104°3'W and 111°3'W (27 and 34 west of the Washington Meridian
Wyoming is one of only three states (the others being Colorado
) to have borders defined by only
"straight" lines. Due to surveying inaccuracies during the 19th century, Wyoming's legal border deviates from the true latitude
lines by up to half of a mile (0.8 km) in some spots, especially in the mountainous region along the 45th parallel
Wyoming is bordered on the north by Montana
, on the east by South Dakota
, on the south by Colorado
, on the southwest by Utah
, and on the west by Idaho
. It is the tenth largest state in the United States in total area, containing 97,814 square miles (253,340 km2
) and is made up of 23 counties. From the north border to the south border it is 276 miles (444 km);
and from the east to the west border is 365 miles (587 km) at its south end and 342 miles (550 km) at the north end.
The Great Plains
meet the Rocky Mountains
in Wyoming. The state is a great plateau
broken by many mountain ranges
. Surface elevations range from the summit of Gannett Peak
in the Wind River Mountain Range
, at 13,804 feet (4,207 m), to the Belle Fourche River
valley in the state's northeast corner, at 3,125 feet (952 m). In the northwest are the Absaroka
, Owl Creek
, Gros Ventre
, Wind River
, and the Teton
ranges. In the north central are the Big Horn Mountains
; in the northeast, the Black Hills
; and in the southern region the Laramie
, and Sierra Madre
The Snowy Range in the south central part of the state is an extension of the Colorado Rockies
both in geology and in appearance. The Wind River Range in the west central part of the state is remote and includes more than 40 mountain peaks in excess of 13,000 ft (4,000 m) tall in addition to Gannett Peak, the highest peak in the state. The Big Horn Mountains in the north central portion are somewhat isolated from the bulk of the Rocky Mountains.
The Teton Range in the northwest extends for 50 miles (80 km), part of which is included in Grand Teton National Park
. The park includes the Grand Teton
, the second highest peak in the state.
The Continental Divide forks in the south central part of the state in an area known as the Great Divide Basin
where water that precipitates onto or flows into it cannot reach an ocean—it all
sinks into the soil and eventually evaporates.
Several rivers begin in or flow through the state, including the Yellowstone River, Bighorn River, Green River, and the Snake River.
Much of Wyoming is covered with large basins containing different eco-regions, from shrublands to smaller patches of desert.
Regions of the state classified as basins contain everything from large geologic formations to sand dunes and vast unpopulated spaces.
Basin landscapes are typically at lower elevations and include rolling hills, valleys, mesas, terraces and other rugged terrain, but also include natural springs as well as rivers and artificial reservoirs.
They have common plant species such as various subspecies of sagebrush
and grasses such as wheatgrass
, but basins are known for their diversity of plant and animal species.
The first Fort Laramie
as it looked before 1840 (painting from memory by Alfred Jacob Miller)
Several Native American groups originally inhabited the region now known as Wyoming. The Crow
, and Shoshone
were but a few of the original inhabitants white explorers encountered when they first visited the region. What is now southwestern Wyoming became a part of the Spanish Empire
, and later Mexican territory, of Alta California
, until it was ceded to the United States in 1848 at the end of the Mexican–American War
trappers from Québec and Montréal ventured into the area in the late 18th century, leaving French toponyms such as Téton and La Ramie
. John Colter
, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
, itself guided by French Canadian Toussaint Charbonneau
and his young Shoshone wife, Sacagawea
, first described the region in 1807. At the time, his reports of the Yellowstone
area were considered to be fictional. Robert Stuart
and a party of five men, returning from Astoria
, discovered South Pass
in 1812. The Oregon Trail
later followed that route. In 1850, Jim Bridger
located what is now known as Bridger Pass
, which the Union Pacific Railroad
used in 1868, as did Interstate 80
, 90 years later. Bridger also explored Yellowstone and filed reports on the region that, like those of Colter, were largely regarded at the time as tall tales
Once government-sponsored expeditions to the Yellowstone country began, reports by Colter and Bridger, previously believed to be apocryphal, were found to be true. That led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park
, which became the world's first national park
in 1872. Nearly all of Yellowstone National Park lies within the far northwestern borders of Wyoming.
On December 10, 1869, territorial Governor John Allen Campbell
extended the right to vote to women, making Wyoming the first territory and, later, United States state, to grant suffrage
to women. Wyoming was also a pioneer in welcoming women into politics. Women first served on juries in Wyoming (Laramie
in 1870). Wyoming had the first female court bailiff (Mary Atkinson
, Laramie, in 1870), and the first female justice of the peace
in the country (Esther Hobart Morris
, South Pass City, in 1870). As well, in 1924, Wyoming became the first state to elect a female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross
, who took office in January 1925.
Due to its civil-rights history, one of Wyoming's state nicknames is "The Equality State", and the official state motto is "Equal Rights".
Wyoming was the location of the Johnson County War
of 1892, which erupted between competing groups of cattle ranchers. The passage of the federal Homestead Act
led to an influx of small ranchers. A range war
broke out when either or both of the groups chose violent conflict over commercial competition in the use of the public land.
Economy and infrastructure
According to the 2012 United States Bureau of Economic Analysis report, Wyoming's gross state product
was $38.4 billion.
As of 2014 the population was growing slightly with the most growth in tourist-oriented areas such as Teton County
. Boom conditions in neighboring states such as North Dakota
were drawing energy workers away. About half of Wyoming's counties showed population losses.
The state makes active efforts through Wyoming Grown, an internet-based recruitment program, to find jobs for young people educated in Wyoming who have emigrated but may wish to return.
The mineral extraction industry and travel and tourism sector are the main drivers behind Wyoming's economy. The federal government owns about 50% of its landmass, while 6% is controlled by the state. Total taxable values of mining production in Wyoming for 2001 was over $6.7 billion. The tourism industry
accounts for over $2 billion in revenue for the state.
Historically, agriculture has been an important component of Wyoming's economy. Its overall importance to the performance of Wyoming's economy has waned. However, agriculture is still an essential part of Wyoming's culture and lifestyle. The main agricultural commodities produced in Wyoming include livestock (beef), hay
, sugar beets
, grain (wheat and barley), and wool
. More than 91% of land in Wyoming is classified as rural.
Wyoming is the home of only a handful of companies with a regional or national presence. Taco John's
and Sierra Trading Post
, both in Cheyenne, are privately held. Cloud Peak Energy
in Gillette and U.S. Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: USEG) in Riverton are Wyoming's only publicly traded companies.
Mineral and energy production
- Coal: Wyoming produced 277 million short tons (251.29 million metric tons) of coal in 2019 which was a 9 percent drop from the year before.Wyoming's coal production peaked in 2008 when 514 million short tons (466.3 million metric tons) was produced. Wyoming possesses a reserve of 68.7 billion tons (62.3 billion metric tons) of coal. Major coal areas include the Powder River Basin and the Green River Basin.
- Coalbed methane (CBM): The boom for CBM began in the mid-1990s. CBM is characterized as methane gas that is extracted from Wyoming's coal bed seams. It is another means of natural gas production. There has been substantial CBM production in the Powder River Basin. In 2002, the CBM production yield was 327.5 billion cubic feet (9.3 km3).
- Crude oil: Wyoming produced 53.4 million barrels (8.49×106 m3) of crude oil in 2007. The state ranked fifth nationwide in oil production in 2007. Petroleum is most often used as a motor fuel, but it is also utilized in the manufacture of plastics, paints, and synthetic rubber.
- Diamonds: The Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine, located in Colorado less than 1,000 feet (300 m) from the Wyoming border, produced gem quality diamonds for several years. The Wyoming craton, which hosts the kimberlitevolcanic pipes that were mined, underlies most of Wyoming.
- Natural gas: Wyoming produced 1.77 trillion cubic feet (50.0 billion m3) of natural gas in 2016. The state ranked 6th nationwide for natural gas production in 2016. The major markets for natural gas include industrial, commercial, and domestic heating.
- Trona: Wyoming possesses the world's largest known reserve of trona, a mineral used for manufacturing glass, paper, soaps, baking soda, water softeners, and pharmaceuticals. In 2008, Wyoming produced 46 million short tons (41.7 million metric tons) of trona, 25% of the world's production.
- Wind power: Because of Wyoming's geography and high-altitude, the potential for wind power in Wyoming is one of the highest of any state in the US. The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project is the largest commercial wind generation facility under development in North America. Carbon County is home to the largest proposed wind farm in the US. However, construction plans have been halted because of proposed new taxes on wind power energy production.
- Uranium: Although uranium mining in Wyoming is much less active than it was in previous decades, recent increases in the price of uranium have generated new interest in uranium prospecting and mining.
Unlike most other states, Wyoming does not levy an individual or corporate income tax
. In addition, Wyoming does not assess any tax on retirement income earned and received from another state. Wyoming has a state sales tax
of 4%. Counties have the option of collecting an additional 1% tax for general revenue and a 1% tax for specific purposes, if approved by voters. Food for human consumption is not subject to sales tax.
There also is a county lodging tax that varies from 2% to 5%. The state collects a use tax
of 5% on items purchased elsewhere and brought into Wyoming. All property tax
is based on the assessed value of the property and Wyoming's Department of Revenue's Ad Valorem Tax Division supports, trains, and guides local government agencies in the uniform assessment, valuation and taxation of locally assessed property. "Assessed value" means taxable value; "taxable value" means a percent of the fair market value of property in a particular class. Statutes limit property tax increases. For county revenue, the property tax rate cannot exceed 12 mills
(or 1.2%) of assessed value. For cities and towns, the rate is limited to eight mills
(0.8%). With very few exceptions, state law limits the property tax rate for all governmental purposes.
held for personal use is tax-exempt. Inventory if held for resale, pollution control equipment, cash, accounts receivable, stocks and bonds are also exempt. Other exemptions include property used for religious, educational, charitable, fraternal, benevolent and government purposes and improvements for handicapped access. Mine lands, underground mining equipment, and oil and gas extraction equipment are exempt from property tax but companies must pay a gross products tax on minerals and a severance tax
on mineral production.
In 2008, the Tax Foundation
ranked Wyoming as having the single most "business friendly" tax climate of all 50 states.
Wyoming state and local governments in fiscal year 2007 collected $2.242 billion in taxes, levies, and royalties from the oil and gas industry. The state's mineral industry, including oil, gas, trona
, and coal provided $1.3 billion in property taxes from 2006 mineral production.
As of 2017, Wyoming receives more federal tax dollars as a percentage of state general revenue than any state except neighboring Montana
As of 2016, Wyoming does not require the beneficial owners of LLCs to be disclosed in the filing, which creates an opportunity for a tax haven, according to Clark Stith
of Clark Stith & Associates in Rock Springs, Wyoming, a former Republican candidate for Wyoming secretary of state.
Major highways of Wyoming
enters the state south of Cheyenne and runs north, intersecting Interstate 80 immediately west of Cheyenne. It passes through Casper and ends at Interstate 90 near Buffalo
. Interstate 80
crosses the Utah border west of Evanston
and runs east through the southern third of the state, passing through Cheyenne before entering Nebraska near Pine Bluffs
. Interstate 90
comes into Wyoming near Parkman
and cuts through the northeastern part of the state. It serves Gillette
and enters South Dakota east of Sundance
U.S. Routes 14
, and the eastern section of U.S. 20
all have their western terminus at the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park and pass through Cody
. U.S. 14 travels eastward before joining I-90 at Gillette
. U.S. 14 then follows I-90 to the South Dakota border. U.S. 16 and 20 split off of U.S. 14 at Greybull
and U.S. 16 turns east at Worland
while U.S. 20 continues south Shoshoni
. U.S. Route 287
carries traffic from Fort Collins, Colorado
into Laramie, Wyoming
through a pass between the Laramie Mountains
and the Medicine Bow Mountains
, merges with US 30 and I-80 until it reaches Rawlins, where it continues north, passing Lander. Outside of Moran
, U.S. 287 is part of a large interchange with U.S. Highways 26, 191, and 89, before continuing north to the southern entrance of Yellowstone. U.S. 287 continues north of Yellowstone, but the two sections are separated by the national park.
Regions and administrative divisions
An enlargeable map of the 23 counties of Wyoming
The 23 counties of the state of Wyoming Wyoming license plates
have a number on the left that indicates the county where the vehicle is registered, ranked by an earlier census.
Specifically, the numbers are representative of the property values of the counties in 1930.
The county license plate numbers are:
Cities and towns
Most Populous Wyoming Cities and Towns
In 2005, 50.6% of Wyomingites lived in one of the 13 most populous Wyoming municipalities.
Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas
Wind River Indian Reservation
established the reservation in 1868
as the result of negotiations with the federal government in the Fort Bridger
However, the Northern Arapaho were forced onto the Shoshone reservation in 1876 by the federal government after the government failed to provide a promised separate reservation.
Today the Wind River Indian Reservation is jointly owned, with each tribe having a 50% interest in the land, water, and other natural resources.
The reservation is a sovereign, self-governed land with two independent governing bodies: the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Until 2014, the Shoshone Business Council and Northern Arapaho Business Council met jointly as the Joint Business Council to decide matters that affect both tribes.
Six elected council members from each tribe served on the joint council.
Wyoming terrain map
National Park Service sites map
National recreation areas
National historic trails, landmarks and sites
National fish hatcheries
National wildlife refuges
In 2014, the United States Census Bureau estimated the population's racial composition was 92.7% white
(82.9% non-Hispanic white), 2.7% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.6% Black or African American, 1.0% Asian American, and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
As of 2011, 24.9% of Wyoming's population younger than age 1 were minorities.
According to the 2010 census, the racial composition of the population was 90.7% white, 0.8% black or African American, 2.4% American Indian and Alaska Native, 0.8% Asian American, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 2.2% from two or more races, and 3.0% from some other race. Ethnically, 8.9% of the total population was of Hispanic
or Latino origin (they may be of any race) and 91.1% Non-Hispanic, with non-Hispanic whites
constituting the largest non-Hispanic group at 85.9%.
As of 2015, Wyoming had an estimated population of 586,107, which was an increase of 1,954, or 0.29%, from the prior year and an increase of 22,481, or 3.99%, since the 2010 census
. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 12,165 (33,704 births minus 21,539 deaths) and an increase from net migration of 4,035 into the state. Immigration resulted in a net increase of 2,264 and migration within the country produced a net increase of 1,771. In 2004, the foreign-born population was 11,000 (2.2%). In 2005, total births in Wyoming were 7,231 (birth rate of 14.04 per thousand).
Sparsely populated, Wyoming is the least populous state of the United States. Wyoming has the second-lowest population density in the country (behind Alaska
) and is the sparsest-populated of the 48 contiguous states
. It is one of only two states (Vermont
) with a population smaller than that of the nation's capital.
Note: Births in table don't add up, because Hispanics are counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number.
Live Births by Single Race/Ethnicity of Mother
Since 2016, data for births of White Hispanic
origin are not collected, but included in one Hispanic
group; persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Government and politics
Wyoming State Capitol building, Cheyenne
Wyoming's highest court is the Supreme Court of Wyoming
, with five justices presiding over appeals from the state's lower courts. Wyoming is unusual in that it does not have an intermediate appellate court
, like most states. This is largely attributable to the state's population and correspondingly lower caseload. Appeals from the state district courts go directly to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Wyoming also has state circuit courts (formerly county courts), of limited jurisdiction, which handle certain types of cases, such as civil claims with lower dollar amounts, misdemeanor criminal offenses, and felony arraignments
. Circuit court judges also commonly hear small claims cases as well.
Before 1972, Wyoming judges were selected by popular vote on a nonpartisan ballot. This earlier system was criticized by the state bar who called for the adoption of the Missouri Plan
, a system designed to balance judiciary independence with judiciary accountability. In 1972, an amendment to Article 5 of the Wyoming Constitution, which incorporated a modified version of the plan, was adopted by the voters. Since the adoption of the amendment, all state court judges in Wyoming are nominated by the Judicial Nominating Commission and appointed by the Governor. They are then subject to a retention vote
by the electorate one year after appointment.
Wyoming's political history defies easy classification. The state was the first to grant women the right to vote and to elect a woman governor.
On December 10, 1869, John Allen Campbell
, the first Governor of the Wyoming Territory, approved the first law in United States history explicitly granting women the right to vote. This day was later commemorated as Wyoming Day.
On November 5, 1889, voters approved the first constitution in the world granting full voting rights to women.
While the state elected notable Democrats
to federal office in the 1960s and 1970s, politics have become decidedly more conservative since the 1980s as the Republican Party
came to dominate the state's congressional delegation. Today, Wyoming is represented in Washington by its two Senators, John Barrasso
and Cynthia Lummis
, and its one member of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Liz Cheney
. All three are Republicans; a Democrat has not represented Wyoming in the Senate since 1977 or in the House since 1978. The state has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, one of only eight times since statehood. At present, there is only one relatively reliably Democratic county, affluent Teton
, and one swing county, college county Albany
. In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush
won his second-largest victory, with 69% of the vote. Former Vice President Dick Cheney
is a Wyoming resident and represented the state in Congress from 1979 to 1989.
Republicans are no less dominant at the state level. They have held a majority in the state senate continuously since 1936 and in the state house since 1964. However, Democrats held the governorship
for all but eight years between 1975 and 2011. Uniquely, Wyoming elected Democrat Nellie Tayloe Ross
as the first woman in United States history to serve as state governor. She served from 1925 to 1927, winning a special election after her husband, William Bradford Ross
, unexpectedly died a little more than a year into his term.
Voter registration by county
In 2010, 93.39% (474,343) of Wyomingites over the age of 5 spoke English
as their primary language
. 4.47% (22,722) spoke Spanish
, 0.35% (1,771) spoke German
, and 0.28% (1,434) spoke French
. Other common non-English languages included Algonquian
, and Greek
In 2007, the American Community Survey
reported 6.2% (30,419) of Wyoming's population over five spoke a language other than English at home. Of those, 68.1% were able to speak English very well, 16.0% spoke English well, 10.9% did not speak English well, and 5.0% did not speak English at all.
A 2010 ARDA report recognized as the largest denominations in Wyoming the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons
) with 62,804 (11%), the Catholic Church
with 61,222 (10.8%) and the Southern Baptist Convention
with 15,812 adherents (2.8%). The same report counted 59,247 Evangelical Protestants
(10.5%), 36,539 Mainline Protestants
(6.5%), 785 Eastern Orthodox Christians
; 281 Black Protestants
, as well as 65,000 adhering to other traditions and 340,552 not claiming any religious tradition.
State flower of Wyoming: Indian paintbrush
List of all Wyoming state symbols:
The Rocky Mountain Herbarium at the University of Wyoming
is directed by the state superintendent of public instruction, an elected state official. Educational policies are set by the State Board of Education, a nine-member board appointed by the governor. The constitution prohibits the state from establishing curriculum and textbook selections; these are the prerogatives of local school boards. The Wyoming School for the Deaf
was the only in-state school dedicated to supporting deaf
students in Wyoming before its closure in the summer of 2000.
Before the passing of a new law in 2006, Wyoming had hosted unaccredited institutions, many of them suspected diploma mills
The 2006 law is forcing unaccredited institutions to make one of three choices: move out of Wyoming, close down, or apply for accreditation. The Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization
predicted in 2007 that in a few years the problem of diploma mills in Wyoming might be resolved.
Wyoming's media market consists of 16 broadcast TV stations, radio stations and dozens of small to medium sized newspapers.
There are also a few small independent news sources such as Wyofile.com, a non-profit news site
and Oil City News.
Wyoming is the second least densely populated state overall, behind only Alaska
, which is the least densely populated state but is non-contiguous
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