Historical monuments and markers often enrich our travels with information on a local place, person, or event—but each marker also hints at the thinking of whoever set it there in the first place. The formal marking of historic spots in Wyoming dates back before statehood, and the process continues today.
Parks, Forests & Public Lands
Browse Articles about Parks, Forest & Public Land
|Alcova Dam and Reservoir||Annette Hein|
|Anderson, A.A.||John Clayton|
|Archeology, alpine in Wyoming||Rebecca Hein|
|Arthur, Chester A. and 1883 trip to Yellowstone||Dick Blust, Jr.|
|Bell, Tom, High Country News editor and publisher||Marjane Ambler|
|Blackwater forest fire, 1937||Kerry Drake|
|Boundary, western Wyoming, survey of, 1874||Lucia McCreery|
|CCC, Wyoming||Kerry Drake|
|Civilian Conservation Corps, Wyoming||Kerry Drake|
|Clay, John and the Swan Land and Cattle Company||Rebecca Hein|
Parks, Forests & Public Lands
Wyoming traces its outfitting industry to an 1899 law requiring out-of-state hunters to hire guides. Guiding clients like Charles “Spend-a-Million” Gates eventually became good business, bringing wealth to the West and protecting wildlife from the slaughter of earlier generations, all while starting a gradual, statewide shift toward tourism and service economies.
During World War II, the U.S. Army operated two large and 17 smaller prisoner of war camps in Wyoming. Prisoners worked on farms and in the camps, often for private employers, who paid a going rate for local wages. Some prisoners became friends with their supervisors, others with the farm families they worked for.
Stephen Leek’s efforts to save the starving elk of Jackson Hole came at a time when survival of the species was very much in doubt. The founding of the National Elk Refuge in 1912 was one result—a huge achievement. But feeding wildlife in herds leads to disease, we now know. And Leek himself was a decidedly complicated man.
In July 1895, a posse of non-Indians, mostly outfitters, attacked a peaceful band of Bannocks south of Jackson Hole. The Indians believed they were legally hunting elk their Idaho reservation, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state law overrode their treaty rights, a huge blow to tribal sovereignty. In 2019, the court finally upended that ruling, in a case involving a Crow Tribe member, also hunting in Wyoming and off his reservation.
The federal government finally entered the irrigation business in 1902, after it became clear that large infusions of public funds were needed to build projects big enough to be effective in the arid West. The eventual result was a dozen dams across Wyoming, but crop agriculture here remains scarce.
The National Park Service’s Mission 66, initiated in 1956, modernized facilities, built new ones, built roads and added dozens more parks and historic sites. In Wyoming, architects designed buildings meant to enhance visitors’ experiences while protecting the wonders they came to see. The results recast Americans’ relationships with natural beauty.
Chester A. Arthur, the first president to visit Yellowstone, traveled there in 1883 by stage and horseback from the railroad at Green River through the Shoshone Reservation and Jackson Hole. The trip generated political pressure to preserve the park in its natural state—and to stave off commercial development.
In 1904, when the Old Faithful Inn opened in Yellowstone Park, it was seen as a treasure: rustic and luxurious, breathtaking yet casual. It came to be a symbol of Yellowstone, and its building style, called parkitecture, spread quickly to other national parks, dude ranches, state parks and small museums.