Alcova Dam, a Bureau of Reclamation project, was completed in 1937. The reservoir opened in 1938 and a power plant was completed in 1955. The $20 million dam project didn’t achieve the high expectations of immense wealth that were forecast at the time of its inception, but continues to provide irrigation water for farmers and ranchers and generates hydropower for the area. Alcova Reservoir offers fishing, boating, camping and swimming opportunities for visitors.
Geology & Natural History
Browse Articles about Geology & Natural History
|Knight, Samuel H.||Alexandra Hullinger|
|Kortes Dam, History of||Annette Hein|
|Lance Creek Oil Field||Rebecca Hein|
|Lincoln County, Wyoming||Jessica Clark|
|Mitchell, Finis, Wind River Mountains hiker and conservationist||Rebecca Hein|
|North Platte River Basin||Emilene Ostlind|
|Oil business, early emigrant trails||Allan Fraser|
|Oil Fields, Five of Wyoming’s historic||Rebecca Hein|
Geology & Natural History
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.
Western Wyoming’s Green River drains 4,000 miles of forested mountains and high desert, home to migrating wildlife, grazing cattle, a few thousand people, and in recent decades a booming natural-gas business. Since prehistoric times, people have worked to balance the basin’s resources for their own benefit — and that struggle continues today.
Remains of at least seven mammoths, probably from a meat cache dating back more than 11,000 years, were found when the Colby Mammoth site east of Worland, Wyo., was excavated by a crew under Wyoming State Archaeologist George Frison in the 1970s.