1902 Encyclopedia > Wyoming


WYOMING, a Territory of the United States, is nearly rectangular in shape, having as its boundaries the 41st and 45th parallels of N. latitude and the 27th and 34th meridians west of Washington. South of it are Colorado and Utah; on the west, Utah, Idaho, and Montana; on the north, Montana; and on the east, Dakota and Nebraska. The area is 97,890 square miles.

The surface is greatly diversified. Its mean elevation is great, being probably not less than 6400 feet. The lowest portions of the Territory are along the northern and eastern borders, where in several places the surface is less than 5000 feet above sea-level, while its highest points exceed 13,000 feet. By far the greater part consists of high plains, which are broken by numerous mountain ranges and ridges, which form parts of the Rocky Mountain system. This system enters the Territory in the south-eastern part, and traverses it in a north-west direction. On the south it consists of three members, the Laramie range, which is crossed by the Union Pacific railroad at Sherman, and the Medicine Bow and Park ranges, which separate branches of the North Platte river. These ranges run out and fall down into the plain in the southern part of the Territory, leaving for 150 miles a broad flat plateau to re-present the Rocky Mountain system. The ill-defined sum-mit of this plateau forms the parting between the waters of the Missouri and Colorado. Eastward this plateau slopes to the Great Plains, and westward to the Green river basin, The Union Pacific Railroad traverses it, and therefore the traveller upon this road sees little of the Rocky Mountains except at a distance. Farther north the mountains rise again from this plateau in several ranges. The principal of these is that known as the Wind River range, which in a sense is continued northward beyond the northern boundary of the Territory by the Absaroka range. The former contains the most elevated land in the Territory, its highest peak being Fremont's, with an elevation of 13,790 feet. The latter range is in its southern part a great volcanic plateau, elevated 10,000 to 11,000 feet above the sea, while farther north it is eroded into very rugged mountain forms. About the point where these ranges join, there is a confused mass of mountains of great breadth and considerable height. In this elevated mass rise streams flowing to the Atlantic, the Gulf of California, and the Pacific. The highest peaks of these mountains are those known as the Three Tétons, the most elevated of which, Mount Hayden, has an altitude of 13,691 feet. East of the Wind River and Absaroka ranges, and separated from them by the valley of the Wind River and the Big Horn basin, is the range known as the Big Horn Mountains, which is reputed to contain peaks having an altitude of 12,000 feet. These ranges form the backbone of the Territory. Eastward from the Big Horn and Laramie ranges stretch the plains in an almost unbroken expanse, gently sloping to the eastward from an altitude of about 6000 feet at the base of the mountains, while south-west of the Wind River range is spread the expanse of the Green river basin, through which flows the principal fork of the Colorado.

Rivers. The drainage system of Wyoming is somewhat complex. While the mountainous regions are well watered by numerous streams, the broad valleys and the plains are poorly supplied with streams. Many of those which flow full in the mountains during the entire year run dry in summer upon the plains. None of the streams are navigable. The eastern three-fourths of the Territory is drained by the tributaries of the Missouri to the Atlantic. Of this area the North Platte drains the southern portion of the Rocky Mountain system, together with a large part of the plains lying north and east of it. Farther northward and eastward the plains are drained by the Cheyenne river. The eastern face of the Big Horn mountains is drained by the Powder and Tongue rivers, while from its western slopes, and from the eastern slopes of the Wind River and Absaroka ranges, the Wind River, known lower down in its course as the Big Horn, collects the waters. The Yellowstone, heading in the confused mass of moun-tains about the north end of the Wind River range, flows northward through a beautiful lake, draining the west slope of the Absaroka range. The Snake, or " Mad " river of the early explorers, heading in the same mass of mountains, flows south-westward to seek an exit from them, while the Green, whose sources are in the same elevated country, drains the west slope of the Wind River range, and flows southward through the broad sage-covered expanse known as the Green river basin. In the south-west corner of the Territory is a small area drained by means of Bear river into Great Salt Lake.

Geology. The geological structure of Wyoming is even more complicated than its surface features. In the north-western corner is an area in which volcanic action, as represented in hot springs and geysers, is still alive, while the evidences of volcanic action upon a tremendous scale, in recent geological time, are seen in the form of sheets of lava and volcanic breccia, which are spread over the land, and from which mountain ranges have been carved. Most of this region is comprised in the YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (q.v.), which has been set apart from settlement by the general Government. Many of the mountain slopes show a succession of the stratified formations, from the Triassic downwards through the series. The plains region is mainly floored by Tertiary and Cretaceous formations, as is also the case with the higher plateaus and with the Green river basin.

Fauna. The native fauna of Wyoming resembles that of the other north-west Territories. The larger quadrupeds, which were formerly very abundant, and which are now not unfrequently to be met with, are the grizzly, black, and cinnamon bears, the North American panther, the elk, the moose, two or three species of deer, and the antelope. Upon the plains are seen the grey wolf and the coyote, the jack rabbit, the prairie dog, and the gopher. The buffalo, which was formerly extremely abundant upon the plains, is now practically extinct.

Flora. The eastern plains are mainly grass-covered, but as one goes westward the grass gradually disappears, and gives place to artemisia and greasewood. Forests are confined almost entirely to the mountains, although the high plains in the Yellowstone Park, in the north-western corner of the Territory, are covered with timber. The forests are composed of quaking aspen upon the lower slopes, „ > succeeded at greater elevations by pines and spruces, the upper limit of timber in the Territory being about 10,000 feet above the sea.
Climate. Wyoming has, in common with most of the western States, an arid climate. In the arable regions the rainfall is nowhere sufficient for the needs of agriculture, and irrigation is universally practised. The rainfall ranges in this part of the Territory from 8 to 15 inches, being greater in the eastern part and diminishing westward. Upon the mountains it probably reaches, if it does not exceed, 30 inches annually.

The temperature ranges with the elevation. Upon the plains and plateaus and in the valleys (this comprising nearly all the habitable parts of Wyoming) the annual temperature is between 40° and 50° F. Upon the mountains it diminishes until at an altitude of 10,000 feet it reaches approximately the freezing point.

At the last census (1880) the Territory contained 20,789 inhabit- Popula-ants. In 1870 there were only 911S, showing an increase of 128 tioa. per cent. The population is now (1888) estimated at not far from 40,000. As in all frontier communities, a large proportion con-sists of adult males. In 1880 there were 14,152 males to 6637 females. The proportion of the foreign born was large, there being 5850 of this class to 14,939 natives.

The Territory contains eight counties :—Albany (population 4626), Carbon (3438), Crook (239), Johnson (637), Laramie (6409), Sweet-water (2561), Uinta (2879), and Fremont (formed since 1880). The principal cities are Cheyenne, the capital, which is situated upon the plains, near the east base of the Laramie range (population in 1880, 3456); Laramie City, near the west base of the same range (2696); Rawlins, upon the high plateau forming the continental watershed (1451); and Evanston, in the south-west corner of the Territory (1277).

The industries of Wyoming mainly relate to the raising of cattle Cattle and to mining. The former industry is in proportion to the raising, number of inhabitants very large, and has been until recently ex-tremely profitable. The raising of cattle is carried on at slight expense, the cattle being allowed to range freely over the plains, and little provision is made for feeding and shelter, even in winter, as the loss from exposure and starvation is not sufficiently great to warrant the additional expense. In 1880 the number of cattle was returned as 521 213, and sheep as 450,225. In 1887 the report of the governor states that the number of cattle has increased to 753,648, while that of sheep has slightly diminished, being 421,688.

Mines of gold and silver have been worked to a limited extent Mining, near the east base of the Wind River range and in the north-western part of the Territory, and also at the extreme south, in the Park range, but the production is insignificant. On the other hand, the coal mines of Wyoming are very valuable ; they are mainly situated in the southern part of the Territory, at Carbon, Rock Spring, Almy, and Twin Creek, on or near the Union Pacific Railroad. The production in 1886 was 829,355 tons, valued at $2,488,065.

As in other Territories, the government of Wyoming is under the immediate jurisdiction of the United States, the executive and judicial officers being appointed by the president. The treasurer is appointed by the governor. The Territory has a legislature consisting of two houses, the members of which are elected by the people.

The area of Wyoming was in the main included in the Territory of Louisiana, acquired by the United States by purchase from France. The western part was acquired by prior settlement, as was the case with Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It was organized as a Territory in 1868. The progress of settlement has until recent years been very slow, owing to the inhospitable character of the country along its southern border, traversed by the Union Pacific railroad, and to the occupation by Indians of the more fertile districts. Latterly, as the Indians have been removed, settlement has progressed more rapidly. (H. G*.)

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