A crossroads of the West, Wyoming’s rich history encompasses Native Americans, explorers, ranchers, and cowboys — rugged people, willing to risk all with courage and vision to explore America. From bucking broncos to fording the river along the Oregon Trail, here are a few ways to go back in time and experience life in the olden days.
See the Oregon Trail in Casper
Between 300,000 to 500,000 people traveled the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails between 1840 and 1860. All three trails (as well as the Pony Express trail) went right through Casper and it just so happens that the nearby sections are some of the best preserved of the whole 2,000 mile Oregon Trail. See for yourself – and see how the pioneers did it – with a covered wagon ride. Area outfitters offer everything from hour-long rides to week-long adventures ending at the famous Independence Rock. But none of today’s rides are quite so basic you are made to suffer the same hardships the pioneers did (cholera, little water, hardtack for three meals each day). Chefs can do more with a Dutch oven than most of us can do with a professional kitchen. If you elect for an overnight, you’d most likely retire to a 10-foot by 10-foot range teepee. Trucks follow with port-a-johns.
Rule the Rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days
Since the late 1800s, the capital of Wyoming has been celebrating Wild West life with the largest outdoor rodeo in the world. Paired with concerts, an old frontier town, carnival, air show, and bull riding, it’s a rip-roaring good time for the whole family. If you can’t make it for the July event, the celebration lives on year-round through historical exhibits and fun activities at the Frontier Days Old West Museum. See the massive collection of horse-drawn carriages and wagons, tour numerous galleries of Western art and relive more than 110 years of this renowned rodeo.
Embrace Your Animal Instincts
The National Museum of Wildlife Art is one of the most unique museum settings anywhere. A remarkable stone building that looks like a fortress nestled into the hillside, inside you’ll find 14 separate galleries that showcase an extensive collection of wildlife art. The Museum’s location provides a rare opportunity to view animals in their natural habitat, as does the artwork that pays tribute to it, overlooking the 25,000-square-foot National Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole.
Learn About Native Americans
The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper should top any cultural itinerary in Wyoming. Exhibits in the 27,000-square-foot museum realistically document the lives of both emigrants and Native Americans in the pioneer era and invite visitors to "experience history, don't just read about it." Similarly, spend some time in Sheridan, which is a tapestry of American history, woven with military, ranching, railroad, timbering, and mining pasts.