Wyoming

Cities

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Wyoming

Wyoming is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. The 10th largest state by area, it is also the least populous and least densely populated state in the contiguous United States.

Wyoming’s climate is generally semi-arid and continental (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 80 and 90 °F (27 and 32 °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.

Location and Size

As specified in the designating legislation for the Territory of Wyoming, Wyoming’s borders are lines of latitude 41°N and 45°N, and longitude 104°3’W and 111°3’W (27 and 34 west of the Washington Meridian)—a geodesic quadrangle. Wyoming is one of only three states (the others being Colorado and Utah) 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 and longitude 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 and Nebraska, 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.

Natural Landforms

Nevada is almost entirely within the Basin and Range Province and is broken up by many north–south mountain ranges. Most of these ranges have endorheic valleys between them.

Much of the northern part of the state is within the Great Basin, a mild desert that experiences hot temperatures in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter. Occasionally, moisture from the Arizona Monsoon will cause summer thunderstorms; Pacific storms may blanket the area with snow. The state’s highest recorded temperature was 125 °F (52 °C) in Laughlin (elevation of 605 feet or 184 meters) on June 29, 1994. The coldest recorded temperature was −52 °F (−47 °C) set in San Jacinto in 1972, in the northeastern portion of the state.

The Humboldt River crosses the state from east to west across the northern part of the state, draining into the Humboldt Sink near Lovelock. Several rivers drain from the Sierra Nevada eastward, including the Walker, Truckee, and Carson rivers. All of these rivers are endorheic basins, ending in Walker Lake, Pyramid Lake, and the Carson Sink, respectively. However, not all of Nevada is within the Great Basin. Tributaries of the Snake River drain the far north, while the Colorado River, which also forms much of the boundary with Arizona, drains much of southern Nevada. The mountain ranges, some of which have peaks above 13,000 feet (4,000 m), harbor lush forests high above desert plains, creating sky islands for endemic species. The valleys are often no lower in elevation than 3,000 feet (910 m), while some in central Nevada are above 6,000 feet (1,800 m).

Mountain ranges

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, Snowy, and Sierra Madre ranges.

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.

Basins

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, juniper and grasses such as wheatgrass, but basins are known for their diversity of plant and animal species.

Islands

Wyoming has 32 named islands; the majority are in Jackson Lake and Yellowstone Lake, within Yellowstone National Park in the northwest portion of the state. The Green River in the southwest also contains a number of islands.

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.

In 2002, more than six million people visited Wyoming’s national parks and monuments. The key tourist attractions in Wyoming include Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Independence Rock and Fossil Butte National Monument. Each year Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, receives three million visitors.

Transportation

The largest airport in Wyoming is Jackson Hole Airport, with more than 500 employees. Three interstate highways and thirteen United States highways pass through Wyoming. In addition, the state is served by the Wyoming state highway system. Interstate 25 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.

Major Interstates

Wind River Indian Reservation

The Wind River Indian Reservation is shared by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes of Native Americans in the central western portion of the state near Lander. The reservation is home to 2,500 Eastern Shoshone and 5,000 Northern Arapaho. Chief Washakie established the reservation in 1868 as the result of negotiations with the federal government in the Fort Bridger Treaty, but the federal government forced the Northern Arapaho onto the Shoshone reservation in 1876 after it failed to provide a promised separate reservation.

Public Lands

Nearly half the land in Wyoming (about 30,099,430 acres (121,808.1 km2)) is owned by the federal government; the state owns another 3,864,800 acres (15,640 km2). Most of it is administered by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in numerous national forests and a national grassland, not to mention vast swaths of "public" land and an air force base near Cheyenne.

Demographics

Population

The United States Census Bureau estimates the population of Wyoming was 578,759 in 2019, The center of population of Wyoming is in Natrona County. 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 data from the American Community Survey, as of 2018, Wyoming is the only U.S. state where African Americans earn a higher median income than white workers.

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. According to the 2000 census, the largest ancestry groups in Wyoming are: German (26.0%), English (16.0%), Irish (13.3%), Norwegian (4.3%), and Swedish (3.5%).

Languages

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 (0.18%), Russian (0.10%), Tagalog, and Greek (both 0.09%).

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.

Religion

According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, the religious affiliations of the people of Wyoming were: 49% Protestant, 23% Nonreligious or Other, 18% Catholic, 9% Latter-day Saint (Mormons) and less than 1% Jewish. 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.

Sports

Due to its sparse population, Wyoming lacks any major professional sports teams; the Wyoming Mustangs, an indoor football team based in Gillette that began play in 2021, is the only professional team in the state. However, the Wyoming Cowboys and Cowgirls—particularly the football and basketball teams—are quite popular; their stadiums in Laramie are about 7,200 feet (2,200 m) above sea level, the highest in NCAA Division I. The Wyoming High School Activities Association also sponsors twelve sports and there are three junior ice hockey teams, all of which are members of the NA3HL. Casper has hosted the College National Finals Rodeo since 2001.

Education

Public education 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.

Higher Education

Public education 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.

Media

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.

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