State: Wyoming – WYPublished on October 20th, 2015 | by Brandon Ramsey in Geography
The state abbreviation for Wyoming is WY. It is located in the mountain region of the western United States. It is the 10th larges, but 2nd least densely populated. of the 50 U.S. States. The western portion is covered with mountain ranges, while the eastern portion is high elevation prairie known as the High Plains.
Today we’ll look at the history, climate, and state symbols of this place, along with an overview of it’s most famous attraction: Yellowstone National Park. Before we begin, here are some key facts to know:
- Capital: Cheyenne
- Area: 97,814 square miles (ranked 10th)
- Population: 584,153 (ranked 50th)
- Highest point: Gannett Peak (13,809 feet)
- Admitted to the Union: July 10, 1890
- Time zone: Mountain UTC -7/-6
- Website: wyoming.gov
- Nickname(s): Equality State, Cowboy State, Big Wyoming, Wonderful Wyoming
- Motto: Equal Rights
- State bird: Western Meadowlark
- Fish: Wyoming Indian paintbrush
- Grass: Western Wheatgrass
- Mammal: American Bison
- Reptile: Horned lizard
- Tree: Plains Cottonwood
WY Historical Overview
There is evidence of humans living in the area that would eventually become WY as far back as 13,000 years. Stone points have been found from the Clovis, Folsom, and Plano cultures. In addition, the Big Horn Mountains also contain a medicine wheel that is part of a larger complex dating back almost 900 years ago.
When white explorers first entered the area, they encounter a number of Indian tribes:
- Gros Ventre
- Nez Perce
While numerous people entered the area during the late 18th century, John Colter who was part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was most likely the first white American to enter the area in 1807. He reported thermal activity at the Yellowstone area and people thought it was fictional.
The route known as the Oregon Trail ran through this state from east to west, passing through the North Platte River to the South Pass, and then on to Fort Bridger and into Utah.
When Governor John Allen Campbell extended the right to vote to women, this became the first territory and ultimately state to grant suffrage to women. Women were also included in politics here, which is what led to the nickname being “The Equality State.”
This state is usually given a semi-arid and continental climate classification. It is drier and windier compared to most other areas of the United States. Summers are warm with temperatures between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Areas with higher elevation have much lower temperatures overall.
Above 9,000 feet, the temperatures average around 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. Summer nights are known for rapid cool down where temperatures can hit 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Much of the state only receives less then 10 inches of rainfall per year. Areas like the Big Horn Basin only get about 5-8 inches which almost classifies it as a true desert.
WY State Flag and Seal
The state flag here shows the silhouette of an American Bison. The red border around the edges symbolizes the Native Americans and the pioneers who gave their lives. The inner white border represents purity and uprightness.
The blue center color is meant to represent the color of the skies and distant mountains, it also calls to mind justice and fidelity. Finally, the bison in the center represents the local fauna and the custom of branding livestock.
The flag was designed as part of a contest where Verna Keays, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, won with her design. The flag was signed into law on January 31, 1917.
Looking at the state seal, we see two dates: 1869 and 1890. These represent the creation of the territory and statehood respectively. The figure in the center holds a banner with the words “Equal Rights” displayed on it, representing the state’s focus on equal treatment of both men and women in politics.
The male figures in the seal represent the livestock and mining industries. The number 44 on the five-pointed star points to this being the 44th state.
Yellowstone National Park
Located primarily in this state, Yellowstone National Park extends into Montana and Idaho as well. It was first established by the U.S. Congress on signed into law on March 1, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant.
It is known as the first national park in the world, and is also famous for its geothermal features. One of these, the Old Faithful Geyser, is a massively popular attraction. Multiple ecosystems are present in the park, but the subalpine forest is the most abundant.
Native Americans have lived in this area for 11,000 years. Official exploration of the area didn’t begin until the late 1860’s. When the park was first commissioned, it was under the oversight of the U.S. Army before it was transferred to the National Park Service in 1917.
Hundreds of structures have been built in the park and over 1,000 archaeological sites have been investigated. In total, the park spans 3,468.4 square miles. Yellowstone Lake is one of the highest elevated lakes in North America.
It is also centered over the Yellowstone Caldera which is the largest supervolcano on the continent. It is current considered an active volcano and has erupted several times over the last two million years. Over half of the world’s geothermal features are found in Yellowstone.
There are hundreds of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles that have been documented, including many that are endangered or threatened. The Yellowstone Park bison herd, for example, is the largest and oldest herd of its kind in the United States.
Each year, forest fires happen in the park. In 1988, one fire burned almost one third of the park. Taking in the park as a whole, the most popular attraction it holds is the Old Faithful Geyser which is located in the Upper Geyser Basin.
Studies have shown that over 1,283 geysers have erupted in Yellowstone. Among these, 465 are active each year. Altogether, there are over 10,000 geothermal features found in the park.
In 2001, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory was founded by the park, the University of Utah, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Before you consider yourself an expert on this state, check out our Wyoming state facts to make sure you’re not missing anything. Thanks for reading and be sure to share your own information in the comments below!