WYOMING, the Cowboy State

What to see

Yellowstone Yellowstone NP
West Yellowstone Western entrance
North Loop Norris Geyser Basin - Mammoth Hot Springs
South Loop East Madison Junction - Norris Junction - Sulphur Cauldron - Fishing Bridge
South Loop south Firehole - Midway Geyser Basin - Old Faithful - West Thumbs - Lake Lewis
Grand Teton NP history and overview
Jackson the Teton Pass
Sundance Black Hills - Devil's Tower
Article the Yellowstone Super Volcano
Other Pages other states | articles

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This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: West Mountain - Part 1

In the travel series View America, West Mountain - Part 1 covers Montana and Wyoming. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 150 full-sized photos.

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WYOMING is known as the Cowboy State, and also as the Equality State, because it was the first state that granted women the right to vote. Its name is a contraction of the Indian word Mecheweamiing (on the plains), which was the name of the Wyoming Valley in northern Pennsylvania. In 1890 Wyoming joined the U.S. as the 44th state. The capital and largest city is Cheyenne.

Its surface is 253,000 km2, but one third consists of the Rocky Mountains. Wyoming ranks last in manufacturing and population, since the latter consists of some 500,000 inhabitants, with a density of two per km2. Approximately 20% of the state is forested, and the highest mountain is Gannett Peak with 13,809 ft (4,209 m).

Half of the Wyoming territory is owned by the federal government, and the state contains many parks. Yellowstone National Park, with its numerous volcanic springs and geysers (and its Super Volcano...), is located in the state's northwest. It was founded in 1872 as the first national park. The sources of the Missouri/Mississippi, Columbia and Colorado rivers are located in Wyoming.

The state possesses large natural resources. Mining and agriculture still play an important role, but natural gas and tourism have become equally important. Its main attraction is the unusually beautiful scenery in the Wyoming mountains. There are two major nature parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.

Devil's Tower National Monument is a spectacular volcanic rock formation. The Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo is one of the largest rodeos in the world, and it takes place in July. At that, in the Cowboy State every Sunday undoubtedly somewhere a rodeo takes place!

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Yellowstone National Park is spread out over Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It is world famous for its many spectacular views of geysers, hot springs, canyons and fossil forests. The name Yellowstone comes from the translation of the Minnetaree Indian word "mi tsi a-da-zi" for the yellow cliffs along the Yellowstone River.

Yellowstone National Park is actually a volcanic plateau, surrounded by mountains of more than 9,800 feet (3,000 m) high. Next to the Yellowstone River the park also contains the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Lake, which is the highest mountain lake in North America. Yellowstone has the world's largest concentration of geysers, with more than 300 geysers, hot springs, mud volcanoes and so-called fumaroles, or holes from which gas and steam escape. You'll find a list of all the geysers on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Yellowstone_geothermal_features

Yellowstone 1 Yellowstone 2

Northern Loop

Norris Geyser Basin

The Norris Geyser Basin is the largest and most volatile geyser basin in Yellowstone. The most spectacular geyser is obviously the Steamboat Geyser, which can explode with the world's highest water column. It spouts a phenomenal 300 to 400 feet high (90 to 120 m), which is three times higher than Old Faithful. However, its eruptions are unpredictable and the last one dates from 23 May 2005. In between the geyser bubbles regularly, with an occasional belch...

Next to this blockbuster, there are several other geysers to see, including the beautiful Emerald Spring. A little ahead, you'll find Yellowstone's Geothermal Museum. The entire basin is definitely worth seeing!

Steamboat geyser Emerald Spring

Mammoth Hot Springs

The headquarters of the entire park are located in Mammoth Springs, at an elevation of 6.239 feet (1,900 m), and its Visitor Center was the first one to be built. Over the years and through the mighty push of tourism Fort Yellowstone developed into a village, with houses for the employees and the Rangers, shops, hotels, lodges, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Mammoth Hot Springs is actually a hill, on top of which is a massive hot spring, which is extremely photogenic. Every day, it generously spouts thousands of gallons of water over several colorful terraces. The deposited minerals are described as "Travertin", of which some two tons are deposited every day.

The carefully constructed and wide wooden walkway is rather steep, so that somewhat older tourists can add a few liters of sweat to the Springs on their journey to the top... The exploration continues with a visit to the Upper Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs, that sports a huge colored block, called the Orange Spring Mount, and the final discovery of this thermal basin is Angel Terrace.

Mammoth Springs 2 Mammoth Springs 3
Mammoth Springs 4 Mammoth Springs 5

Southern Loop east : Madison to Yellowstone lake

Madison Junction

In Madison Junction (6,806 ft-2,074 m) the tourist will almost immediately spot several buffalos, of which more than 3,500 roam around freely, and obviously the cameras will start rattling immediately. The landscape in this part consists almost entirely of pine trees. In 1988 a disastrous forest fire destroyed almost two thirds of the park area, and thousands of dead and burnt trees lie haphazardly on the ground.

To better simulate the workings of nature as fully as possible, on purpose they have never been removed, so that new lessons can be learned. Twenty years after the forest fire a new generation of pine trees stood ready to replace the burnt trees.

Yellowstone : southern Loop

Madison Junction

Sulphur Cauldron, Mud Volcano, and Artist Point Canyon

The road from Canyon Village to Fishing Bridge runs along the Yellowstone River, which yields splendid views. En route we stopped for another photo session in Sulphur Cauldron, where one is immediately treated to the overpowering smell of sulfur, that escapes from the bubbling sulfur geyser. Next to it you'll find the Mud Volcano, that is a mud geyser.

A winding side road ends up at Artist Point Canyon. This beautiful and colorful canyon, complete with a waterfall, is simply outstanding. Wonderful scenery and great views!

Artist Point Canyon 1 Artist Point Canyon 2

Southern Loop south : Madison to South Entrance

Firehole Canyon Drive - Fountain Paintpot Trail

The Firehole Canyon Drive is a two-mile-long winding and narrow road, which presents great views over the Firehole River, that runs through the canyon. It also provides a great overview over the river's falls.

The Fountain Paintpot Trail is another excellent spot for an extended photo session of several bubbling geysers, with an incredible color palette!

Firehole Canyon Drive Fountain Paintpot Trail 1

Midway Geyser Basin

The Midway Geyser Basin presents some of the park's most picturesque geysers. They can be extensively examined from close up over a wide wooden walkway. Along the walkway holes and crevices rumble and hiss, and they spray huge clouds of water, mud and steam.

The sight invariably reminds the visitors that three quarters of the park is located over a vast caldera or magma chamber, which erupts about every 600,000 years with an enormously destructive force, called a Super Volcano. Somewhat more annoying is the fact that the last eruption dates from about 600,000 years ago...

The three basins together (Midway, Biscuit and Black Sand) are good for one quarter of all the geysers in the world. The Midway Basin is even more special because it contains the extraordinary hot-water-lake Grand Prismatic Spring, which pumps up nearly 4,000 gallons of water per hour. Until many years ago the Spring erupted as well, but it seems that an unusually vehement eruption damaged its "internal plumbing", and since then it can only "bubble"...

Grand Prismatic Spring 1 Grand Prismatic Spring 2

Biscuit Basin and Black Sand Basin

The somewhat smaller Biscuit Basin provides more views for yet another photo session. The Black Opal Pool may seem somewhat less spectacular after the previous overwhelming vistas, but the scenic Sapphire Pool is a more than worthy competitor.

The Black Sand Basin continues the photo opportunities with the Cliff Geyser, Rainbow Pool, Sunset Lake, and Emerald Pool. Simply overwhelming!

Black Opal Pool 1 Black Opal Pool 2
Sapphire Pool 1 Sapphire Pool 2

Old Faithful

Old Faithful is the most famous of all the geysers in the park. It received its name because it erupts and spouts some 10,000 gallons (40,000 L) of water with the regularity of a clock. The eruptions come every 65 or 92 minutes, depending on the intensity of the previous eruption. The geyser is therefore a rewarding subject for all kinds of publicity.

Its water column reaches a height of more than 100 feet (30 m)! This geyser is so extraordinarily popular that as far back as in the early 1900's a hotel was built nearby to accommodate the many tourists. At present the entire area around the geyser has become a very touristic place, with a gigantic Lodge, a couple of hotels and restaurants, and all the classic touristic paraphernalia.

If during your visit you just happened to miss Old Faithful's eruption, there is no need to worry. There is a "backup" nearby with the Beehive, which is also one of the largest geysers in the world. It also erupts regularly, and during three minutes it spouts a huge column of superheated steam. The entire area around the geysers is lined with wooden sidewalks and even bleachers, so that the spectacle can be seen from different angles.

A splendid additional attraction is the presence of many buffalos, that majestically stroll between and even through the audience, which of course is always good for more pictures...

Old Faithful 1 Old Faithful 2
Old Faithful 3 : buffalos Old Faithful 4 : buffalos

Grand Teton NP


The name of the Grand Teton actually comes from a French trapper, who named this mountain range "Les Tétons", which is French slang for "breasts"... This hiking park offers gorgeous panoramas, and summer activities include horseback riding, mountain climbing, cycling, and river rafting.

Its Visitor Center in Colter Bay is reached fifteen minutes after crossing the northern entrance to Grand Teton National Park. The Oxbow Bend Turnout is the place where the river makes a bend, and it offers a truly majestic panorama, with the massive Teton mountains as a background.

More sights in this beautiful park include the North Jenny Lake Junction Scenic Drive, which despite its impressive name isn't really that outstanding, and the old and picturesque Chapel of Transfiguration, which still holds services.

Grand Teton NP 1 Grand Teton NP 2
Grand Teton : Oxbow Bend Turnout 1 Grand Teton : Oxbow Bend Turnout 2
Grand Teton : Oxbow Bend Turnout 3 Grand Teton : Chapel of Transfiguration

Devil's Tower

Sundance is home to the legend of the Sundance Kid. Highway 14 gradually climbs to an altitude of 5,900 feet (1,800 m), and a little ahead stands Devils Tower National Monument. Between the rolling hills stands a circular monolith that rises some 1,267 feet (386 m) above the surrounding terrain, and that has deep vertical grooves.

For ages the Indians called this monolith Bear Tower, or Home of bears (Crow), or Bear's Lodge (Cheyenne and Lakota). In 1875 an expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge explored the area and discovered the vast monolith. But unfortunately his interpreter garbled the Indian name and translated it as Bad God's Tower. So the colonel named it Devils Tower in his report, and that was exactly what everyone wanted to hear...

Sundance : Devil's Tower 1 Sundance : Devil's Tower 2

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