Seminoe and Kortes dams, both located in a remote stretch of northern Carbon County, Wyo., were constructed in the 1930s and 1940s primarily for the production of hydropower. While power plants at both dams still generate electricity, the area is frequented by tourists, especially fishermen who travel to the renowned Miracle Mile, just downstream from Kortes Dam, to catch trout.
Geology & Natural History
Browse Articles about Geology & Natural History
|Indian geography in Wyoming||Gregory Nickerson|
|Jensen, Henry, oral history||Dana Van Burgh|
|Knight, Samuel H.||Alexandra Hullinger|
|Kortes Dam, History of||Annette Hein|
|Lance Creek Oil Field||Rebecca Hein|
|Leonard, Zenas camps on Laramie River 1831-32||Hollis Marriott|
|Lincoln County, Wyoming||Jessica Clark|
|Mitchell, Finis, Wind River Mountains hiker and conservationist||Rebecca Hein|
Geology & Natural History
Boysen Dam, named for local businessman Asmus Boysen, was constructed on the Wind River in the 1940s to control flooding and to provide irrigation water for agricultural purposes. The dam was completed in early 1953 and its power plant continues to generate electricity today. Boysen Reservoir provides recreational opportunities as well.
Created in 1911 and named for President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln County is perhaps best known for its extraordinary geological history, showcased at Fossil Butte National Monument. The county seat, Kemmerer, Wyo., is the site of the first store opened by James Cash Penney, founder of J. C. Penney & Co., a business that still operates nationally today. Agriculture, mining and oil and gas industries continue to spur the county’s economy.
Wyoming’s bone-dry Bighorn Basin is isolated by its surrounding mountains and watered by crucial rivers and streams. Its history and natural history are rich with discoveries of dinosaurs, oil and gas, and with the traces of its occupants—American Indians, ranch and farm families, railroad families and oil workers.
Samuel H. “Doc” Knight taught geology at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. from 1916 until his retirement in 1963. For a decade he was the only geology teacher, but as his classes began to grow in size and popularity the geology department expanded into a nationally recognized program. He established the university’s science camp in the mountains west of Laramie and revitalized the university’s geological museum. Knight taught an estimated 10,000 students throughout his career and was known to many “Mr. Geology of Wyoming.”
Oil seeps were reported often in the early 19th century in what later became Wyoming; it was sold, for example to Oregon Trail travelers for wagon lubricant. The first producing well in Wyoming Territory was drilled in 1883 at Dallas Dome southeast Lander. Perhaps the state’s best-known historic oil producing region is the Salt Creek Field, north of Casper, which was one of the world’s largest-producing fields in the 1920s. Oil remains an important part of Wyoming’s economy and culture today, and the state is ranked high among the top national producers.
The Powder River Basin sports a colorful history. Bones of bison slaughtered by people, found south of Sundance, Wyo., date back 6,000 years, and northeast Wyoming remained a favorite hunting ground for American Indians into the late 19th century. At that time the Powder River Basin was the scene of violent conflicts between the Indians and U.S. military men. Abundant grass made this region a favored spot for cattle and sheep ranchers. Under the grass is coal—so much of it that about 40 percent of the coal mined in the U.S., comes from the Powder River Basin.
When Thomas Boylan started collecting dinosaur bones on his homestead in 1915, he first envisioned completing a dinosaur skeleton and using it to attract customers to his gas station on U. S. Highway 30 near Como Bluff. However, he was told that he didn’t have enough bones for that. Instead, he used more than 5,700 bones to build a structure that has become known worldwide as the Fossil Cabin. The historic Fossil Cabin was built in 1932 and stands about five miles east of Medicine Bow, Carbon County, Wyo. The cabin has been featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Como Bluff in Carbon County and Albany County, Wyo., is the location of one of the world’s richest quarries of Jurassic dinosaur bones. Paleontologists found excellent dinosaur fossils in greater quantity here in the late 19th century than had ever been known before. These included Allosaurus, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. Many of these specimens are still on display at the Peabody Museum at Yale University, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The site is seldom quarried today, as most of the bones have been removed. Como Bluff is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The abundant vertebrate fossils of the Green River formation in western Wyoming have been known to science since the 1860s. Most are fish, buried in lime-rich mud at the bottom of freshwater lakes about 50 million years ago. Fossil Butte National Monument, west of Kemmerer, Wyo. was created by Congress in 1973 to protect a site extremely rich in these fossils.