Over Wyoming
Articles Blog

Over Wyoming

September 1, 2019

– [Announcer] Your
support helps us bring you programs you love. Go to wyomingpbs.org, click on support and
become a sustaining member or an annual member. It’s easy and secure. Thank you. (gentle banjo music) – Back in 1866, with the spike
about to be driven in the Transcontinental
Rail to bind up a nation, spanning North America, it was time to make
a new territory here, along the spine of the Rockies, west of Dakota,
south of Montana, east of Utah, north of Colorado. This was land not many people
had wanted up ’til then. The men and women living
scattered in this rectangle didn’t have any
representative in Congress, so it was an Ohio legislator
who introduced legislation to create the territory,
and eventually the state, of Lincoln. Well, let’s think about that. A state called Lincoln. Tall, craggy, funny, and smart in a
homespun sort of way, and lonely. We all know that Lincoln
had the loneliest job in the world. And not good-looking. To think of all the things
you could see in that face. (gentle banjo music) But the name Lincoln
didn’t stick. Instead, they chose a
Native American name, from the Delaware
language in Pennsylvania, lovely name, Wyoming, which meant “on the big plain.” – The unfortunate thing
was that no member of the House Committee had
ever been out here before. So when names were
suggested, like Cheyenne or Arapaho or Sweetwater,
a lot of people were a little skeptical
as to how representative it would be for the whole area. And then, of course, when
Lincoln was brought up, I’m sure that there
was some reference made to the newly established
capital of Nebraska. Here is Lincoln in Nebraska, and how would that look? There should be Lincoln,
Lincoln, probably. – [Voiceover] There’s a lot
of Lincoln still in Wyoming. It’s a rough-hewn world with a lot of open space,
a lot of wear and tear, a lot of wild beauty. And just a smattering of people, most of whom like it that way. – [Voiceover] There are
teepee rings and horses and beautiful rock formations, and the wild horses would
come and stand in the road and just look really
grouchy at us. That’s they Wyoming I love. – [Voiceover] There are some
wonderful places in Wyoming. – [Voiceover] Makers of
wilderness area, you know. There’s no roads, there’s no
electricity, there’s nothing. I mean, you wanna go in, it’s leather. Either saddle leather
or shoe leather, like, one of the two. – [Voiceover] There
are also some just pretty dreadful
places in Wyoming. – [Voiceover] If
you live in Wyoming, you know the phrase well. It’s a small town
with long streets. People don’t think
much of traveling 100s of miles to see, well, the neighbor. A rancher raising heifers
in the Green River country on the west side of Wyoming has friends who
trail their livestock near Devil’s Tower and far away, northeast Wyoming. You know your neighbors, however far flung, because there aren’t
that many of them. They work in coal mines,
they fish on the rivers, they drive the big trucks,
they dance the Cowboy Swing. It’s a big, various
place, Wyoming, not easy to get
your hands around. But we’re gonna give it a try. We’re going to see if we
can grasp the whole of it. That’s what Agnes
Wright Spring did back in the 1920, driving
an old Model T on, well, on roads that were nothing like the blacktop we have today. We’re going to do
it differently. We’re gonna take to the
air for this journey. But we’ll have Ms.
Spring’s voice with us, because she wrote
timelessly about Wyoming. – [Voiceover] “There is a
fascination about the vastness “of the plains, the
ruggedness of the mountains, “the uncertainty
of the far horizon, “the crispness and
cleanness of the air, the brilliance of the sunshine, “that holds those who come “and that draws them
back if they leave.” Agnes Wright Spring. – [Voiceover] This is the way
most people enter Wyoming, on wheels, on big blacktop. Many come through
on Interstate 80, east-west, to cross the
southern width of the state. I-80, the great cinching belt of the nation. – [Voiceover] Wyoming is a
place that people pass through to get from one
place to another. Wyoming, not as a destination but as an area of transition. – [Voiceover] But before
there were semis and RVs and now and then
a brave bicycle, there were bears and bison and bands of
Shoshone and Arapaho and other tribes. – Our wandering
around wasn’t limited to just borders or fences. Being able to go north and find where the buffalo were, or being able to travel south, where it was warmer, or
meeting up with other bands, that was the way of
our grandfathers. – [Voiceover] And
in the 19th century, a new band arrived, large numbers of
non-native immigrants, pushing west, looking for
a way across the mountains, and finding it in Wyoming. – Wyoming is really the key to the peopleing
of the continent, which differentiates
it from states, both to the north and the south. That basin and range
structure has provided more access, both
north-south and east-west, than almost any other
state outside of, you know, the
typically flat areas of the America Midwest
and Great Plains. – [Voiceover] The
immigration through Wyoming reached its height
in the 19th century, first with the military,
then wagon train, then with the
Transcontinental Railroad. For many travelers then and now, the first stop entering Wyoming was, and is, often Cheyenne, one of the state’s
two big cities. (chuckles) Well, 60,000 people is big in Wyoming. Then came the Union
Pacific construction camp, and cattle and sheep
and mining and wealth. Cheyenne became the
territory capital in 1869. The cattle barons fattened
their cattle and wallets on the open range, until the terrible
winter of 1887. When ranchers have less
to do in the winter, many of them come down to serve in the part-time legislature. Another legacy of ranching is Frontier Days, the biggest outdoor
rodeo in the world for over a century. Wagon trains, railroads
and automobiles traveling west over
the snowy range in Medicine Bow National Forest. But mountain bikers,
campers and climbers stop to clamor on the rough skin of the Vedauwoo rocks. Cars began crossing
the continent from ocean to ocean
a century ago. Coming through this Wyoming Pass on the Lincoln Highway. Then it’s down onto
the Laramie Plains, another high, windy flatland where the heifers and
pronghorn antelopes wander, and another rough
and ready shot-up railroad boom town of
the 1860s, Laramie, now transformed into the state’s sole university town. It’s a boom town again, a growing university housing
modern research facilities, seven colleges, and 13,000 undergraduate and
graduate students. The state’s off and on
booming energy economy has a lot to do with
the university’s growth. And for many in Wyoming, it’s where they get
their first exposure to the big, wide world, intellectually and socially. – It’s different in
Laramie, because I do feel like there, in terms of
international students and professors, there
is a bigger group here. Here in the west, people
are in their houses, they’re in their cars, they
aren’t out in the world quite in the same way that
they would be in India. But whenever I’ve talked to
the Indian students here, or even a lot of the
international students, they say Wyoming’s
incredibly welcoming. People are really
interested in knowing, I mean, I think because
they do stand out, because they are different, people ask about where they’re
from, what their accent is, what food they’re eating. They’re very curious
in a way that I think, again, in a big city,
people, sort of, it’s easy to just be a
little indifferent to it because you have so many
people from all over. – [Voiceover] And not
far from the glittering, modernized campus, remnants
of the old Wyoming, which is really not that old when you think about it, remain. Butch Cassidy didn’t got to UW, but he had a room nearby. – [Voiceover] “Crumbling stumps
and logs of old fir presses, “ruts were deep by
rumbling wagon wheels, “arrow-strewn battlefields, “tumbled down shaft houses
and rotting sluice boxes, “broken aerial tramway castles
that whine in the wind, “ox yokes and
rusty beaver traps. “The past presses so
closely on the present.” Agnes Wright Spring. – [Voiceover] The
southeast corner of Wyoming has remnants of all the things that shaped Wyoming
historically. The artifacts of
Indian settlements, the logging camps,
mining, ranching, the energy industry. A few of these
town, like Rawlins, have thrived, thanks
to the Interstate and energy development. But small rural towns
off the main routes are withering all over America. – [Voiceover] Medicine
Bow is an extraordinary little place because, of
course, it was made famous in Owen Wister’s
novel The Virginian. But it was also a very
important railroad stop on the Union Pacific line. And during the boom years, it was constant,
people coming out and wanting to get
the city council to authorize new developments in one direction or another. The local people, like
local people everywhere in Wyoming in the
boom and bust towns, would be saying,
“Well, this time, “this boom is gonna last. “So we can afford to authorize
new housing developments “and new water and
sewer facilities,” and it’s a bittersweet
sort of memory because a lot of us in
the back of our minds, we’re hopeful that this
was going to be the boom that would last. But reflecting on
Wyoming’s history, you almost always have
to come to the conclusion that there’s a pattern that we can be expecting. – [Voiceover] Owen Wister
put Medicine Bow on the map by evoking an Old
West buried in time, maybe real, maybe not. Just down the road,
at Como Bluffs, there’s more buried history, prehistory, really, giant, largely intact
dinosaur bones. Of the east-west
north-south corridors that make Wyoming
topography unique, many are carved by water, which in the days
of the dinosaurs was much more abundant. Directions are confusing. Rivers flow north,
east, south, west, eventually to oceans, but never in a straight line. We’ll try to follow. But before the journey, relax. Indian tribes here,
long before Europeans, designated Hot Springs
a magical place, a peaceful spa for R&R, in Saratoga, Hobo
Hot Springs is free, open to all, and
right by the river. A river which, by the way, is Blue Ribbon trout
stream, the North Platte. – That’s how we
migrated all over. In our world here,
the Arapaho people, this land is sacred. Even the (speaks
foreign language), the water. We got lakes here close by, we got the rivers here. They are all sacred. – [Voiceover] The
North Platte comes out of the Medicine Bowl
Mountains and meanders north and east across the high plains, gathering streams
like the Powder and Sweetwater along the way. In some ways, it marks
the great pathway through the middle
of the continent. A mile wide and an inch deep, that’s one way the
Platte is described. Too thick to drink
and too thin to plow, that’s another. Imagine what that was like, dry, dusty, with not
a lot of usable water, so you kept moving, even with the arduous climb
over the Rocky Mountains ahead of you. Water is scarce in most
of Wyoming, and valuable. “Whisky is for drinking, “water is for fighting over,”
Mark Twain said of the west. So, beginning a century ago, we began damming the Platte. Seminole, Pathfinder, Alcova, between those dams run some
of the best trout water in North America, the
fabled Miracle Mile. If it weren’t for
a stream to follow, it would be easy to get
lost here, even today. The ranches are few
and far between. Only the pronghorn racing
out in the sagebrush know where they’re going. Now and then, though,
a landmark to aim for. Independence Rock,
where travelers in the 1840s carved
their names and messages, for many, the last
message before the journey claimed another life. Then back on the
trail, squinting ahead for the next landmark,
like Devil’s Gate and Split Rock. Who would think to
put a town out here in the middle of the
high plains in Wyoming? Many tried, but
only a few stuck. And here’s one of them, right in the middle of nowhere, a little mountain
and a little city. Well, by Wyoming
standards, a big city. As usual, the first inhabitants
were only passing through. Fur traders in 1812
built a cabin of rock and covered it
with buffalo hides. During the Oregon Trail years, there was a ferry here
to get across the river. And five dollars was
not cheap in the 1840s. Casper was an oil
town, even then. They greased the wagon
wheel hubs from oil seeps. A few decades
later, in the 1920s, Standard Oil built the
largest oil refinery in the world, and Casper grew into the biggest
city in Wyoming. Today, there’s a college, good restaurants, a
diverse population. – I like to refer to the fact
that we have a traffic jam in Casper, and it’s 10 cars. (snickers) And it’s
over in 20 seconds. It has a sense of place for me, that, no matter where I am,
I can look at the mountain and have my bearings. – [Voiceover] And this is
still a big energy town. But that old refinery
got torn down and now, it’s a golf course, and business park,
and wildlife habitat, the Platte River Commons. Old time travelers didn’t stay
long, and we won’t, either. East we go, backtracking
the old immigrant routes where the wonders along the way are not much different
than they were 150 years ago, like Ayres Natural Bridge over LaPrele Creek. The towns, what few there are, grew up along the
waterways here. Wheatland, Chugwater, Glenrock, Douglas, Glendo, Torrington, and Guernsey, places where stagecoaches
took a break, Pony Express riders
watered their horses, and the ruts of covered wagons are etched in the landscape. This was the
gateway to the west, but also of the hunting
grounds of tribes like the Soux, who watched
the buffalo herds thin as white men moved in. Sometimes there was trade, and sometimes
there was fighting. Fort Laramie, at the
confluence of the North Platte and Laramie Rivers,
was the locus. – [Voiceover]
“Immigrants paused here “to rest themselves and
their footsore stock, “to buy supplies or
to wait for others, “to catch up with them
on the way to Utah, “Oregon or California. “49ers hurried through
with gold-fevered eyes “fixed on the horizon. “Pony Express riders
stopped in a swirl of dust, “exchanged horses,
were off again. “Soldiers, outfitted
here for dangerous trips “into the wilderness or
returned wounded and weary, “gamblers, traders,
prospectors, home seekers, “cow punchers,
everyone who trekked “across the plains
knew Fort Laramie.” Agnes Wright Spring. – [Voiceover] It
wasn’t gold or mineral, or certainly not
water, that got anybody to settle in eastern Wyoming. It was grass, tall, undulating grass, rolling on forever through the high
plains and hills, a place where buffalo
really could roam and roam, and where settlers saw their
cattle could do the same. – I think Crook County’s the
best kept secret in Wyoming. We have a small population, rather large land area, with primarily agriculture
as its support. People like to feel open space. We’re the west end
of the Black Hills. We have wonderful fishing, we have superb
white tail hunting. I had no idea that the land would claim me the way it did. My husband had very
strong feelings for it, and I didn’t understand it until I had lived here
for a couple of years, and then began to work outside. It gets in your blood. You are caregiver. You husband the land the way you take care
of your children, because it’s in your care. – [Voiceover] On the one
side of this big, flat basin are the Bighorn Mountains. On the other, the Black Hills, spilling over from South Dakota. These mountains are sacred
to Native Americans, despite the carving of an
occasional face on the rock. But who needs that? The most interesting
piece of rock is over here, on
the Wyoming side, Devil’s Tower, the
striking landmark that greets visitors as they
come in from South Dakota, and makes them forget (chuckles) all about Mount Rushmore. Doesn’t take a spaceship to make this piece
of rock interesting. It rises out of the
Ponderosa pines and hills like a giant tree stump. But it’s volcanic, the
core of an ancient uplift, perhaps 60 million years ago, stripped down by
time and weather to fluted vertical
columns of hardened magma. Devil’s Tower is what Colonel
Richard Dodge called it after he led the United
States geological survey out this way in 1875. But Native Americans,
who’ve been here a while longer,
call it Mato Tipi, or Bear Lodge, a sacred site. They tell the story
of young women, out gathering flowers,
who were chased by bears and saved by spirits that
pushed the rock beneath them upward, leaving the bears below, clawing at the column. – [Voiceover] If you take
a walk around the base of the tower and you get
on the northern side, it’s very, very quiet there. You can feel a presence. It’s also very silent. And somehow that
spiritual presence seems to take over. – [Voiceover] Then
came the cattlemen, and the coal miners, and the drillers
for oil and gas. Under the grasses of
northeast Wyoming, there are huge coal seams, the ancient remains
of seas and swamps and prehistoric life, now the fuel that
keeps the lights on, the air conditioning humming, and the town of Gillette
in a perpetual boom. – So the mountains rose, and the basins were
sinking simultaneously, from 100 million years ago to about 45 million years ago. The rivers would flow in, they’d quiet down, they’d make huge swamps, and we built up 100s
and 100s of feet of plant material,
which turned into coal. – [Voiceover] Coal and cattle. Sometimes a buffalo herd, sometimes a coal bed
methane drilling rig. As open and empty as the
Power River basin may seem, there’s plenty going on here, between the Black Hills and the Bighorn Range. – [Voiceover] At any
point in Wyoming’s history as either territory or state, there have been more coal miners in the population than
there have been cowboys. And so, by rights, the
symbol on our license plate, instead of a bucking horse, should be a guy with a pickaxe over his shoulder and a hardhat. – [Voiceover] To
outsiders, to tourists, Wyoming may be all about
cowboys and Indians and outlaws and energy. But it’s not that simple. The store in Sheridan
where you buy your calf roping lariat
and hand-carved saddle also serves polo players, and on a visit a few years back, the Queen of England. These towns on the east
slope of the Bighorns, Sheridan, Buffalo, and dots on the map like Ucross, have a sizable population
of artists and writers. Once, sheep ranchers
and cattle barons shot it out in the
Johnson County Wars, and Butch Cassidy hid out
in the Hole In The Wall. Now, there’s Sheriff Walt
Longmire keeping the peace. – Wyoming is one of those places that you can’t ignore. Or if you do, you do
so at your own peril, is the way I kind of look at it. It’s always gonna
be a major character in everything that I write. There are a lot of
stereotypes and cliches that people have about
the American West, and one of them is, you know, “A man’s gotta do what
a man’s gotta do,” and, “Every man for himself,” and, “We solve our own
problems out here, pilgrim,” you know, that kind of thing. And anybody who’s ever
lived in a farming or ranching community knows that you’re more aware
and more dependent on your neighbors in that
situation than you ever would be in a more urban situation. And I think that that’s
one of the hallmarks of the Western lifestyle, that I think is kind of
missing a lot of times in the Hollywood presentations
of that type of thing. In a place like Wyoming,
it’s very different from some place like L.A.
or Chicago or New York, where you can basically
ignore the natural world. There are enough resources
to where you don’t really need to know if
it’s gonna snow that day or rain that day or whatever. You got enough
buildings, enough cafes, where you’ve got
food, you’ve got taxis to take you from place to place. There are lots of
places in Wyoming where you do not
have that luxury. And so, you need to be
aware of the natural world. – [Voiceover] The
Shining Mountains, as they were once
called, now the Bighorns, after the Bighorn sheep
that roam the high craigs, peaks rising over 13,000
feet above sea level. Wilderness beauty, cliffs and forest and waterfalls, a place to get away from
the noise and the crowds, a place to meditate and
to tap a spiritual vein, like plains Indian
tribes who came here before Europeans
and come here still, on vision quests. – Topography is destiny. Wyoming topography
is made up largely of the tops of a bunch
of what used to be really, really big mountains, filled in with the basins, stuff that’s eroded and
washed into the areas between. – [Voiceover] Rivers flow
to all points of the compass in Wyoming. They change direction,
they change colors, and they change names. The Wind River, at
Wind River Canyon, becomes the Bighorn River, and turns north, on its
way to the Gulf of Mexico. South. Usually, it’s a mountain
range that turns a river. But sometimes, the river gets
the better of the mountain, particularly older mountains,
buried in sediment, sloughed off by the
young, tall Rockies. That’s what happened here, where the Bighorn River cut
down through the prior mountains on its way to the
Yellowstone River, on its way to the
Missouri River, on its way to the
Mississippi River, twisting around south
and down to Louisiana. But here in the basin with
the Bighorns on one side, and the Absarokas on the other, with water to irrigate
and protection from
the plains winds, farms and town took shape. Like most of Wyoming, there are natural landmarks here that stand out for
many miles away. Heart Mountain is one of them. During World War II, over
10,000 Japanese Americans were detained here, as if ethnicity were traitorous. There was fear and hostility in nearby Wyoming towns. And yet, Cody boy scouts camped
with their Japanese scouts and forged lifelong friendships. Cody is the biggest
town in the basin, named after Buffalo Bill Cody, the legendary scout
and buffalo hunter whose wild west shows
toured the world and turned Old West history into something of a circus. Cody was a promoter
for all seasons, and his ventures still
shape the region. He mapped dams and canals, drilled for oil, guided hunters, and built the Irma Hotel. Crow Indians used
to winter camp here, and this was where John Colter, a young member of the
Lewis and Clark expedition, began a legendary winter trek into the wilds
around Yellowstone. Colter was working
for Manuel Lisa, looking for Indian bands which would trade beaver pelts. It was an early example of the boom and bust economy that has marked
Wyoming’s history. Colter, the story goes, mostly got along
well with Indians. And they would have
advised him on this trip to take a breather
at Thermopolis. Locals have
advertised Thermopolis as the biggest hot
springs in the world. It isn’t, but it’s
one of the nicest. Bison graze just to the east, there are water slides, and a peaceful place where
you can bathe for free. You can thank Chief Washakie and the Eastern
Shoshone Tribe for that. – Our warriors used to go, and they would go
down into some caves that were down in
the Thermop area, and they would sweat
and hold ceremonies before they went out on
their hunting parties. And so, there’s very
significant ties to the hot springs area. – [Voiceover] The first
major obstacle for Colter, and for anyone heading
up the Bighorn River, was the Owl Creek Mountains. You could hike over the
top on a maze of trails or make your way precariously through Wind River Canyon. These days, there’s
railroad track, and a twisty paved road
through the canyon now, and Boysen Dam at the top. But it’s still a dramatic
whitewater river, with plenty of big trout. And if you might
not have noticed, you’re on the Wind River
Indian Reservation now. – Washakie didn’t forego
the Wind River Canyon, or agree to sign that over. To me, that’s very
significant and telling, because of the spiritual
connection that we have, the Indian people have,
to the Wind River Canyon. – [Voiceover] There’s hidden
wealth in these mountains, water, oil and gas, and wilderness. There are ghosts, the
lost dreams of miners, the petroglyphs of
10,000 years ago, the battlefields
where Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone
once fought. – This land is sacred. You don’t wanna violate
those things, you know. The mountain sets, that’s all sacred. That’s where we
get our medicines. That’s where we go when
we have to go fast, do those things. – [Voiceover] In
the 19th century, the federal government
decided in its wisdom to have two traditional enemies, the Arapaho and the Shoshone, share a single reservation. Luckily, it’s a very
big reservation, over two million acres. And that’s greatly reduced
from the original boundaries, which went all the way to Utah. As the tribes put aside
their nomadic past and settled into what
the Shoshone called The Warm Valley,
so did non-Indians, some of them as
suppliers and traders to the reservation, some to raise
crops and livestock in the mild climate, some to mine in the gold fields near the south pass. Strains remained between
tribes and their neighbors, but you wouldn’t know it
at powwows and rodeos. – [Voiceover] I won’t
sugar coat it and say that I’ve always
been treated fairly. I’ve gone through stereotyping, I’ve gone through racism, and the only think I can do is, just treat people fairly and be respectful
of other people. – [Voiceover] Mining for gold, for coal, for uranium, seems to be almost
everywhere in Wyoming. Coal mines, gold in South Pass City, uranium in Jeffrey City, and iron ore in the
foothills south of Lander, comes and it goes. Boom and bust. Lander tried on all
these enterprises, farming, ranching,
trading, mining, but gradually oriented itself toward the mountains
sloping up from its benches, where the rails end
and the trails begin, a takeoff point for
climbers and packers and fishermen, and
a favorite base for Wyoming conservation groups. This is where John
Colter went next, north, up the Wind River, on the east flank of the
Wind River Mountains. The highest peaks,
the oldest rocks, and the largest
numbers of glaciers, and more lakes than
you can shake a rod at. The Wind River
Mountains may not have the celebrity status
of Devil’s Tower or Grand Teton, but this range is longer, taller and deeper than any other in Wyoming. The Rockies are a
young mountain range, only 60 million years old or so. And some of the rock
exposed by their uplift is much, much older. The Wind River
Peaks, like Gannett, Lizard Head, and the
fabled climbing area, the Cirque of the Towers, are jagged and tall, Lincolnesque, you might say, with deep lakes, pocketed and steep slopes, and clothed in forest
and glacier ice. – The oldest rocks are
in the Wind River Range, by far, and it’s called Archean, and they’re primarily granites and granitic nices, and they’ve been metamorphosed from multiple times where
the plates crashed together billions of years
ago and caused magma and volcanoes, and
mountain building episodes that have never been named
because they’re so old and we don’t understand
them very well. But in that process,
that’s where we see some of our oldest rocks
in the Wind River Range. – [Voiceover] There are over
175 glaciers in the Winds, some of the largest
in North America. But these are mere ice cubes compared to the cold
sheets that once covered and carved this range. And today’s glaciers
are shrinking fast. The forests, too, have shrunk, first to timber
harvest for saw mills, like the one in Dubois, then to the ravages
of pine bark beetle. Saw mills have
shut down all over, and Dubois, like Lander, is more of a
recreation center now. Wilderness designation
protects much of the range, which extends 100
miles south to north before attaching itself to Yellowstone Plateau. For natives and
immigrants, these mountains presented a rugged barrier, until they found their way around the south end, where the Sweetwater
River trickles off the mountains’ back side, and the range flattens out to let covered wagons and SUVs through its south pass. It was the way of
the Oregon, Mormon and the California
Trails in the 1840s, when over 350,000 travelers labored through, watching for landmarks
like the Oregon Buttes, or the Honeycombs. Almost nobody stopped
in this windswept, barren world, unless they
were buried by the trail or stopped to dig, mostly without
success, for gold. – [Voiceover] “Ahead is
an abandoned mining area, “with crumbling sluice boxes “and a few prospectors “still hoping to
find again the lodes “that stampeded
10,000 into the region “in the 1860s. “Some herders insist that
the region is haunted, “that of the half million
trappers, traders, “gold seekers,
homesteaders, blue coats, “bull whackers,
guides, peddlers, “fanatics and refugees, “at least a few
ghosts must remain.” Agnes Wright Spring. – [Voiceover] It was hard
to escape this rough land, even water. In this red desert country, the Continental Divide splits and water flows
neither to the Atlantic nor the Pacific. It stays right here, water for the unique
flora and fauna of this high desert, and for the wild
horses that run free. The Transcontinental Railroad could’ve come this way,
through South Pass. Many thought it should. But there was more
coal to the south. You could lay that track
in a pretty straight line. And almost 100 years later,
the interstate highway system followed
the same corridor. Once again, Wyoming was the key to getting past the Rockies. And once again,
people drove on by. Let’s say that’s their loss, shall we? This is all that a
lot of travelers see of Wyoming firsthand. They may stop at Rock Springs, the biggest city
in the southwest, but never leave the
offramp-friendly gas stations. The plentiful surface
coal hereabouts is poured into the maw of the Jim
Bridger power plant, or shipped out in rail cars. So are the remnants of
the old lower paydays, when workers came from Ireland and Hungary and China. Sometimes that led
to ethnic violence, like murderous attacks
on Chinese laborers in 1885, but it also made Rock Springs the most ethnically diverse
community in Wyoming. – [Voiceover] If you
go to almost any former mining community in
Wyoming, you’ll find very substantial numbers of
Italians, Silesian Poles, and you’ll find some
German and French populations, as well, if you look in towns in
Wyoming like Rock Springs. It’s probably as
diverse a community as you’ll find almost
anywhere in the country. – [Voiceover] These town
along the old UP line know better than most
the boom and bust economy that has often plagued Wyoming. The questionable future of coal puts them on the
edge once again. Raw materials rise and fall on the whim of the
world’s appetites. But the world today
consumes a lot of glass, and detergent, and other
things made from trona, the sodium sesquicarbonate mined in mazy tunnels around here. It provides good pay, and a nice place to live along the beautiful Green River and beneath the
pinnacles of Castle Rock. With a few days off and a power boat underneath you, you can take off into
Flaming Gorge Reservoir, to water ski or fish, for big lake trout or bass. You’ll be following
in the footsteps, or the wake, of explorer
John Wesley Powell, who started here on
his perilous journeys exploring the Colorado
River and Glen Canyon. Powell would probably
not be disappointed by the dams on
these rivers today. He believed water was
the governing commodity in the arid west. He thought settlement
should be limited and scaled to watersheds. In fact, he wanted states
shaped around watersheds. That didn’t happen. Jim Bridger was another 19th century adventurer who flowed in some
dangerous water. But then, there wasn’t
much he didn’t do, at least to hear
him spin the yarn. He was a beaver trapper
and a fur trader, an explorer who found
the Great Salt Lake, married Indian and Mormon women and swapped goods and
tales with Indians and immigrants alike. His old fort along
the Oregon Trail has been rebuilt. And every year, Bridger wannabes dress up and shoot muskets in a rerun of the
Trading Rendezvous. The corners of
Wyoming sometimes seem a little apart from
the rest of the state. The isolated ranches
of the northeast, the resort riches of Jackson
Hole in the northwest, and then, the southwest
corner of the state, more tied to Utah,
it sometimes seems, than to Wyoming. Evanston was another town built along the
Transcontinental Railroad, and the big roundhouse
where they used to fix up the trains
has been restored. But wealth these days comes, like it does for
so much of Wyoming, from the energy industry. This close to Mormon Utah, with Salt Lake City
only 60 miles away, there’s also a pretty
hefty trade in fireworks, liquor, and some other vices outlawed across the border. The Star Valley runs along
the western edge of Wyoming, a raid along the Salt River, walled out of Wyoming
by the Wyoming Range. It’s a separate world, really, of dairy farms and mostly
Mormon communities, sometimes called the
Swiss Alps of Wyoming. On the eastern side
of the Wyoming Range, another broad river valley, hemmed in on the east by
the Wind River Mountains. In many ways, the upper
Green River country sums up Wyoming, a major wildlife
migration corridor with antelope, mule deer, moose, grizzly bears, wolves, ancient Indian campsites following the path of the game, Blue Ribbon trout streams, and trailheads to the
highest peaks in the state. Drillling rigs,
pulling natural gas out of one of the largest
deposits in the world. And because it’s Wyoming, ranchers, still herding
cattle on horseback, high up into the mountains. – It’s grueling work. You can make more
money someplace else. There is nothing
like an early morning in the springtime, listening to the
meadow larks call, and going out to fix fences. When you see the life cycle of not only your lifestock but your wildlife, it’s just simply
that cycle of life that touches on in every way, through your family, through your livelihood. – [Voiceover] On
their east side, the Wind River Mountains are more abrupt and dramatic, the ancient granite
rocks pushed up by the thrust of
tectonic plates. And as we move north, all these mountain ranges, the Wyoming, the Wind
River, the Gros Ventre, the Absarokas, the Bear Tooths, come together like spider legs to the Yellowstone Plateau. The dramatic natural beauty that surrounds the Teton Valley is a bountiful gift
that draws visitors from around the world. The wildernesses, the
rivers and canyons, the national parks. But these are not theme parks. They are parks of nature, and parks of a wild nature. Climbers face slippery
granite cliffs and lightning. Paddlers dip and spill
in whitewater rapids. Moose and bears and wolves guard their territory. – I’ve taken to going off trail, and I found some
really fun lakes that are a bit of a
scramble to get to. They’re a little western,
the approach to them. But I mean, you have
this amazing lake all to yourself
in a national park that a lot of people
complain that’s crowded. I’m out for 10 hours and
don’t see a single person the entire time I’m out. – [Voiceover] And
the land itself now and then unleashes
its terrifying power. The Grand Tetons are a
young mountain range, only 10 million years old, surrounded by a
young national park, created in 1950. True to Wyoming’s character, none of the locals wanted
the federal government messing with the Tetons. Even if some of the
tourist operations were making a mess. But in the 1920s,
John D. Rockefeller quietly bought up
a bunch of ranches around the range and surprised everyone
by donating it to the federal government
to create a new park. There were armed protests. The Rockefellers kept
their own piece of paradise in the park, including
some posh rustic resorts, and their own
Vacation Inn holding. But in 2007, they
donated the JY Ranch to the park and removed
all its structures. Grand Teton National Park, like the mountains it protects, is young and still growing. Alpine lakes, granite spires, moose and elk wandering through. And the occasional Boeing 757. Well, they had to
make some compromises to get the locals
to support the park. And these days, there
are some powerful locals who need jet service
to get to their second or third or fourth
homes in Jackson. It’s the wealthiest
community per capita in the United States. And it’s not just
the incredible beauty that attracts the wealthy, it’s the lack of a
state income tax, not to mention a world
class ski resort, good restaurants,
and mountain mansions that would make
St. Moritz envious. It’s a world apart from
the rest of Wyoming, but wouldn’t we all like
to be a part of that world? – [Voiceover] Whether
you’re a bazillionaire or you’re someone like me, who struggled to
get a house here, you’re here for the same reason. Everyone plays well together. We love this landscape,
we love being out in it, we love saving it, we
love looking at it. I’ve been going
through chemotherapy for the past four, five months, and it’s, like, just
being able to get outside in this landscape, and smell the sage
or hear the crackling of the snow underneath my feet, or look up at the Tetons, has just done more to get me through chemo than anything that the
hospital has given me. – [Voiceover]
Jackson, an enclave of high-tech recreation,
wealth, and comfort, and only a few dozen miles away, we have the most wild,
the most remote wilderness in the lower 48, the Yellowstone Plateau. Now, if you’re thinking
of Old Faithful, well, we’ll get to that. But first, contemplate
the back country. Beckler Falls, the Thoroughfare, Two Oceans Peak,
where water flows west to the Pacific, and
east to the Atlantic. If you venture here
into this wilderness, beyond the reach of cell phones and, well, television, it will change you. Sparking streams, herds of elk, streaming fumaroles, spawning trout, howling wolves, craggy ridges, soaring hawks, dense forest, lurking grizzly bears. It’s one of the rare
places left on Earth where you take your true measure amidst the beauty and the danger of the wild. Remember John Colter? He came through here, on foot! It was 1808, no gore-tex or RV. By himself, in the winter. When he came back
to civilization, weather worn and alone, talking of fire and brimstone in the wilderness, nobody believed
what he described. – [Voiceover] “Something
about the park’s air “was and is
powerfully stimulating “to the imagination. “The result is a surviving
and constantly growing “body of legend, “including unblushing whoppers, “such as the tale of
the petrified sagebrush “that bore diamond,
emerald and ruby fruits “as large as walnuts.” Agnes Wright Spring. – [Voiceover] It would be
more than a half a century before Congress,
looking at the paintings and sketches brought back
by the Hayden expedition in the 1870s, finally believed. In 1872, Yellowstone was crowned the nation’s first
national park. Of course, we can’t
all be John Colter. Today, there are
civilized alternatives. These venerable old
hotels are a legacy of the railroad era. Near the turn of the century, when Victorian tourists
got off the train just outside the park and rode stagecoaches into
suitable accommodations. But the automobile, arriving
early in the 20th century, shaped Yellowstone into the park it is today, a figure-eight core
of busy roadways, blocked sometimes by bear jams, gas stations, tour buses, curio shops, and ice cream, surrounded by a
high, wild country which, frankly, or thankfully, not many people ever penetrate. It’s the geysers and mudpots and giant steaming basins
that attract the crowds, and no wonder. But the real action
is underground. There’s a huge bubble of magma, pushing up beneath the
Yellowstone Plateau, a hot message from
the Earth’ core that the planet is still
cooking and reshaping itself. Every 600,000 years or so, Yellowstone blows its top, and it’s been that long
since the last one. (chuckles) So watch out. It could happen, any century now. The Lamar Valley,
petrified trees and roaming bison
and howling wolves, the grand canyon
of the Yellowstone, taller than Niagara Falls, pool after brilliant
hot spring pool, Grand Prismatic
Spring, Emerald Pool, Morning Glory, and finally, Yellowstone Lake, over 300 feet deep, over 100 miles of shoreline. Why would you ever
leave Yellowstone? Well, a lot of people
leave Yellowstone. They’re only passing
through, after all, like so many who
come to Wyoming. But if you live here, you know that, as wonderful as Yellowstone is, there’s so much more
to the Cowboy State. So, we come home to where we live, in the small town
with long streets, Wyoming.

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  1. Native Americans carved that face by hand. It's still under construction to this day. I'm saddened they could be so uninformed about a sacred memorial site.

  2. The old wind river canyon was a favorite and farson, the flaming gorge the Oregon trail still carved in the dirt goes on as long as the eye can see both ways. Quiet solitude, as much wind as you can stand and more, one state that I will call home again on retirement

  3. I rode through Wyoming by bicycle in the summer of 2018. Got there right out of the northern Black Hills Forest. Visited Devil's Tower, Gillette, Buffalo, went over Bighorn mountains and through the canyons. Ten Sleep, Worland, Thermopolis, Meeteetse, Cody, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson Hole, then out to Idaho. It was the best part of my cross country tour. Even better than the Pacific coast.

  4. Very interesting video. I will visit that georgous state. At 28 minutes in the video, there are some arial footage of a beautiful bassin with large scale black patches on the ground, is that footprint of forest fire?

  5. Coming from Virginia and I am bringing my conservative vote with me….I need the solitude after years in the military……can't wait to fly fish the miracle mile

  6. Nice monologue, lets keep it real. The adult white male suicide rate is at an all time high. The Eastern half of the state is never ending acres of oil refineries. A mixed couple is in danger of being run off the road by their highway patrol. You won't see a red man because they are on the reservation where the white man wants them. China owns Yellowstone park due to the debt we owe them. It's full of Chinese when you visit. OK back to the monologue.

  7. WY, the new landfill for disabled wind turbines and solar panels. Dick Cheney bought the landfills. He'll keep plugging in his heart and live off dirty wind! And then it stopped blowing! And then the world was a better place.

  8. buffalo bill was among the many that murdered all the buffalos inorder to deprive the indian tribes of their food in fact he was a big criminal!!

  9. the tribes recieved the worst parts of all wyoming ,they were supposed to die there its like what the nazis did with the jews ,a very big concentration camp the way they later did with the japanese americans USA GOUVERMENT STINKS if ever gold was found the indians were kicked out of their reservations SHAME

  10. You people and your โ€œMillions of Year Agoโ€. PLEASE READ YOUR BIBLE… This world only goes back about 6200 years . Isnโ€™t there just a chance – God created this Earth – Just The Way You See It??????? Canโ€™t you understand that Noahโ€™s Flood formed the Grand Canyon and every other place you see on this beautiful planet. But Then Again – – You are right and God is Wrong…

  11. It's very refreshing to see an American documentary without all the overdramatizations and constant replays of things you just heard moments ago like you were braindead. Non of this make an hour of broadcast out of content, that could be told in 5 min. Non of this putting the presenter into the spotlight instead of the subject.

    A beautiful landscape as the main attraction, no overcutting, finely interweaved with explanations about the past and acctual meaning of the region in a social content, and garnished with short and sympathetic statements of locals. All narrated in a mild and calm, but knowledgeable manner, with a inviting voice in tone and wording.

    In a quality combarable to stuff we are used to see over here in Europe, whether it's a British, a German, an Austrian or a French production, but still distinctivly American.

    Very Nice!

  12. Wyoming also has a widespread overabundance of dead and dying trees. A beautiful state with great landmarks, where man has not put it to ruination. Fairly well done documentary, I enjoyed the aerial shots. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Ephesians 4:22-32 (KJV) That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
    And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
    And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
    Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
    Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
    Neither give place to the devil.
    Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
    Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
    And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
    Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
    And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

  14. Great visuals and history. Still hope to see Devil's Tower someday.
    Sorry (not sorry), if only one topic comes to mind when Laramie is mentioned. Matthew Shepard: Dec 1, 1976 โ€“ Oct 12, 1998.
    May he NEVER be forgotten ๐Ÿ™

  15. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ปLike Australia ๐Ÿฆ˜๐Ÿจ๐Ÿค ๐ŸŒ but the Middle is mostly baron & Some cattle homesteaders neighbors are 500 miles away . I watched a doco that explained why deserts formed >>And why australia is baron ๐Ÿ˜ณThe ICE AGE froze 30% of the ๐Ÿšฟ Water & plants died out as there wasn't enough rains & the last of Huge dinosaurs starved & Died out , ONLY the coastal areas get the most rains – makes sense as in 2019 crops are doing a lot better & cattle etc so global warming good or bad we ride the good times Winter sucks!down south Oz Straya we dont see snow only a few mountains snow the rest is like a uk summer here in winter (Y) woohoo not that cold 5cel 16cel overnight i like One day i hope they work out how to Utilize the flood water from qld DOWN TO THE MIDDLE & STORE WATER TO GROW MORE TREES SMALL TOWNS & farms need a few big river maker machines & would cost billions but ! would create a lot jobs & future crops for billions of food eaters ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธmaybe green the earth cretae more rain etc

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