History of Wyoming

Wyoming (WY) became a state when Congress admitted it into the Union as the 44th state on July 10, 1890.  The original inhabitants of the area, native peoples, belonging to the Crow, Arapaho, Lakota, and Shoshone nations, were some of the people encountered by European explorers as they traveled the region.  The southwestern part of Wyoming became absorbed into the Spanish Empire and later Mexican territory of Alta California until it was finally ceded to the United States in 1848 at the end of the Mexican–American War.


The main drivers of Wyoming’s economy are mineral extraction and tourism.  Mined commodities include coal, oil, natural gas, and trona.  Trona is used to manufacture glass, paper, soaps, baking soda, water softeners, and pharmaceuticals.  Wisconsin produced 25% of the world’s supply of trona in 2008, pushing out 46 million short tons.

Historically, agriculture has been an essential component of Wyoming’s economy.  Though its overall importance has lagged, agriculture is still necessary for Wyoming’s culture and lifestyle.  Primary agricultural commodities produced in Wyoming include livestock, hay, sugar beets, grain, and wool.


Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks dominate the tourism industry in Wyoming.  Yellowstone National Park became the world’s first National Park in 1872, lying nearly entirely within the borders of northwestern Wyoming.  Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles and has many lakes, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges.  The park is home to the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.  In 1978, Yellowstone was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Yellowstone is perhaps best known for its geysers.  Old Faithful is, of course, the most famous geyser in the park and perhaps the world.  The park also contains the largest active geyser in the world—Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin.  Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks in the United States.  Since the mid-1960s, a whopping 2 million tourists have visited the park almost every year.  From 2007 to 2016, the average annual visitation increased to 3.5 million people, topping off with a record of 4,257,177 recreational visitors in 2016.

Only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, Grant Teton National Park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range, as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole.  More rugged than many National Parks, activities include mountain climbing, hiking, camping, fishing and boating, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.

Wildfires, though seen as devastating in some ways, are vital to the ecosystems of both Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  Many tree species in the area have evolved to mainly germinate after a wildfire, and areas that have a history of wildfires have a greater species diversity after reestablishment than those regions that historically do not experience fires.  Lodgepole Pines, the most common tree species in Yellowstone, have cones that are only opened by the heat of a fire.  According to National Park Service estimates, under natural conditions, the grasslands of Yellowstone burn an average of every 20 to 25 years, while forests there experience fire about every 300 years.  This does not account for fires caused by humans.