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Historic Spots & Monuments

John Wesley Powell: Explorer, Thinker, Scientist and Bureaucrat

In 1869 and 1871, John Wesley Powell led two expeditions from Wyoming Territory down the Green and Colorado rivers. These and other explorations brought him to a profound understanding of how the West’s aridity limits its economic prospects. He directed the U.S. Geological Survey from 1881-1894, and his ideas still affect land and water policy today. 

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Encyclopedia | During the Civil War, varying companies of soldiers from five states served at Fort Halleck on the Overland Trail in what’s now south-central Wyoming. They defended stagecoach stations, passengers, freighters and emigrant trains. Some died in blizzards, some witnessed a legal hanging and some lynched an African-American ambulance driver.
Encyclopedia | Nearly 1,100 Wyoming servicemen, representing every county, died in World War II. As in other states, Wyoming’s people gained a stronger sense of being part of the nation thanks in part to war bond drives, scrap metal drives, book drives, victory gardens—and their loved ones’ service at home and overseas.
Encyclopedia | Coal production at the Union Pacific mines at Reliance, Wyo., north of Rock Springs peaked at 1.4 million tons per year in the early 1940s. The mines are closed now but a vast steel-and-concrete tipple remains. Visitors are welcome, with a caveat: Stay out of the interior.
Encyclopedia | 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.
Encyclopedia | In October 1941, the Allies struggled in World War II while daredevil parachutist George Hopkins was stranded on Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming, pulling public attention away from the war. Expert climbers guided Hopkins down after six days.
Encyclopedia | Authorized by the territorial legislature in 1886 and designed initially by architects from Ohio, the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne has been expanded twice and, beginning in 2016, totally renovated. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, it is among the best of Wyoming’s historic buildings.
Encyclopedia | 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. ​​
Encyclopedia | The Bighorn Medicine Wheel and its surrounding landscapes on Medicine Mountain in the northern Bighorns make up one of the most important Native American sacred sites in the United States. Twenty years of compromise and conflict on how best to preserve the site involved several governmental agencies and elders representing 16 tribes.

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