A to Z Geography: Wyoming

Caitlin Dempsey

Updated:

Wyoming, the 10th largest state in the United States, is a landlocked state located in the western part of the country. The state of Wyoming is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, rugged terrain, and wide-open spaces.

Wyoming became the 44th state admitted to the United States of America on July 10, 1890.

Wyoming is home to a diverse range of landscapes, from high peaks and rolling hills to vast deserts and grasslands.

With a population of just over 578,000, Wyoming is the least populous state in the United States.


Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!
Email:  

Fact sheet with Landsat image for the state of Wyoming.

A

Antelope Flats is a vast, open grassy plain located in the valley of Jackson Hole, in Teton County, Wyoming. The flats are situated just north of the town of Jackson and lie within Grand Teton National Park.

The National Park Service purchased the 640-acre tract of land that makes up Antelope Flats from the State of Wyoming in 2016 in order to preserve critical wildlife habitat, migration routes, and viewsheds.

A herd of bison grazing in the grass before a large mountain range.
Bison grazing in Antelope Flats with the Teton Range in the background. Photo: NPS, public domain.

The flats are also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including pronghorn antelope, bison, elk, and moose, as well as numerous bird species.

B

The Big Horn Basin, located in northwestern Wyoming, is the largest intermountain basin in the United States.

C

Wyoming is one of only a few states in the United States that does not have a city with a population over 100,000.

A picture taken on a sunny day with some clouds in the air of the Cheyenne, Wyoming capitol building.
The capitol building in Cheyenne, Wyoming is a National Historic Landmark. The cornerstone of the building was laid on May 18, 1887. Photo: Carol Highsmith, loc.gov, public domain.

The capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne. With  65,132 residents as of the 2020 U.S. Census, Cheyenne is also the largest city in Wyoming by population size.

Cheyenne, located near the southeastern corner of the state, is one of the least geographically central state capitals in the country.

D

Devils Tower National Monument, located in northeastern Wyoming in the Black Hills region, is a famous igneous rock formation that attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Devils Tower rises more than 1,200 feet (366 meters) above the surrounding landscape. The monument is 867 feet (265 meters) from summit to base.

The monument is also famous for its unique and distinctive appearance, with its columnar jointing pattern and dark brown coloration creating a striking and otherworldly effect.

Devil's Tower in Wyoming is a spiritually and culturally important loccolithic butte in several Native American tribes. The geologic structure has many names: Mato Tipila, Grey Horn Butte, He Hota Paha, Bear Rock or Bear Mountain, Tree Rock, and Grizzly Bear Lodge. Image: Carol Wippich, USGS. Public domain.
Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is a spiritually and culturally important loccolithic butte in several Native American tribes. The geologic structure has many names: Mato Tipila, Grey Horn Butte, He Hota Paha, Bear Rock or Bear Mountain, Tree Rock, and Grizzly Bear Lodge. Image: Carol Wippich, USGS. Public domain.

The formation is believed to be the remnant of a volcanic plug, which was formed when molten rock was forced up into the earth’s crust and cooled and hardened over millions of years.

Devils Tower is considered sacred by many Native American tribes, who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

The monument was designated a National Monument in 1906, making it one of the oldest and most historically significant protected areas in the United States. Devils Tower is a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and tourists from all over the world.

E

Wyoming is known as the Equality State because it was the first state in the United States to grant women the right to vote. In 1869, the Wyoming Territory passed a law giving women the right to vote and to hold public office.

This law was later included in the state constitution when Wyoming became a state in 1890.

F

Fossil Butte National Monument is a geological site located in southwestern Wyoming, in the United States. The monument is named after the Fossil Butte, a prominent rock formation that contains one of the world’s richest and most diverse fossil deposits from the Eocene epoch, which occurred about 56 million years ago.

The fossils found in the area include a wide variety of animals, including fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals, as well as plants and insects. Many of the fossils are incredibly well-preserved, and provide important insights into the ecology and evolution of the region during the Eocene.

A dark brown turtle fossil on tan stone. The shell of the turtle has three holes of roughly the same size.
Cast of Plastomenus thomasii with bite marks from Fossil Butte National Monument, Lincoln County, Wyoming. Photo: NPS, public domain.

The monument is also known for its stunning geological formations, which include towering cliffs, deep canyons, and vast expanses of prairie.

G

The highest point in Wyoming is Gannett Peak, which is located in the Wind River Range in western Wyoming. Gannett Peak has an elevation of 13,804 feet (4,207 meters) above sea level, and is the highest point in the Rocky Mountains outside of Colorado.

The highest natural point in Wyoming can be found in the northern Wind River Mountain Range. Gannett Peak, located in this range, is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains outside of Colorado.

With an area of 896 acres, Gannett Glacier is the largest individual glacier in the Rocky Mountains.

Gannett Peak is situated on the North American continental divide, which passes through the Wind River Mountain Range.

The Grand Teton, located in the Teton Range in northwestern Wyoming, is the second-highest peak in the state and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States.

H

The High Plains region is located in the eastern part of the state and is part of the larger Great Plains ecosystem that extends across much of the central United States.

The Laramie Plains is one of the High Plains that is located in south central Wyoming. The region is named after the city of Laramie, which is located near the center of the plains.

A lone antelope on the Laramie Plains, a high grassland south of Laramie, Wyoming
An antelope on the Laramie Plains, a high grassland south of Laramie, Wyoming. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith, loc.gov, public domain.

The Laramie Plains are characterized by their flat terrain, grassy plains, and arid climate. The region is part of the larger High Plains ecosystem and is an important agricultural area, with large areas of irrigated farmland producing crops such as alfalfa, wheat, and corn.

The Laramie Plains are also home to a variety of wildlife species, including pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and a variety of bird species.

I

The I-80 corridor, which runs from east to west across southern Wyoming, is one of the most heavily traveled highways in the state. Interstate 80 (I-80) is a segment of the Interstate Highway System which stretches from San Francisco, California, to Teaneck, New Jersey.

A shaded relief map of Wyoming.
Map of Wyoming. Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming, is located in the far southwest corner of the state. Interstate 80 runs across the southern portion of Wyoming. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.

J

Jackson Hole, located in northwestern Wyoming, is a popular tourist destination known for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Jackson Hole is a valley located in western Wyoming, in the United States. It is surrounded by towering mountains, including the Teton Range to the west and the Gros Ventre Range to the east.

A view over brown grass towards a mountain range that has a layer of clouds in front of it with a blue sky showing.
View of Jackson Hole Airport and the Teton Range. Photo: USGS, public domain.

The valley is roughly 80 kilometers long and 16 kilometers wide, and it encompasses an area of approximately 1,900 square kilometers.

The Snake River runs through the center of the valley, providing important water resources for the area. The valley floor is primarily covered in grasses and sagebrush, which support a variety of wildlife including elk, bison, moose, pronghorn, and mule deer.

The surrounding mountains are covered in forests of coniferous trees, such as lodgepole pine and Douglas fir.

L

The Laramie Mountains, located in southeastern Wyoming, are part of the Rocky Mountains and contain several popular hiking and camping destinations.

M

Mormon Row is a historic district located in the southeastern part of Grand Teton National Park, in Teton County, Wyoming. The district is named after the Mormon settlers who established homesteads in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The settlers were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, and came to the area seeking land to farm and raise cattle.

Wooden barns from the 1800s with the Teton Range in the background.
Reed Moulton Homestead, Mormon Row, Teton Range, Wyoming. Photo: NPS, public domain.

These settlers built a number of distinctive barns and houses, many of which are still standing today. Some of the most notable structures in Mormon Row include the T.A. Moulton Barn and the John Moulton Barn, which are both classic examples of the rustic style of architecture that was popular in the region during the early 1900s.

Mormon Row is part of the National Register of Historic Places and is a popular destination for visitors to Grand Teton National Park who are interested in the history and architecture of the region.

N

The North Platte River, which flows through much of eastern Wyoming, is a popular destination for fishing, kayaking, and rafting.

O

The Oregon Trail, a historic route that was used by pioneers traveling westward in the 19th century, passed through Wyoming.

P

Powder River Basin, located in northeastern Wyoming and southern eastern Montana, is the largest coal-producing region in the United States. The basin is the largest coal mining area in the United States has the largest deposits of low-sulfur subbituminous coal in the world.

A basic map with a black outline of Montana and Wyoming with a tan shaded area showing the Power River Basin.
Map showing the general location of the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. Map: USGS, public domain.

Q

There are four peaks of notable elevation that start with Q. Quadrant Mountain in the upper northwestern corner of Wyoming is the highest with an elevation of 3,114 meters.

The other three peaks are located in the southwestern and south central region of Wyoming: Quealy Peak, Quaker Asp Mountain, and Quartzite Peak.

A shaded relief map with four peaks in Wyoming that start with the letter "Q".
Map showing the four peaks in Wyoming that start with the letter “Q”. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.

R

The Red Desert, located in southwestern Wyoming, is a vast expanse of desert that is home to a variety of unique plant and animal species.

S

The Snake River, which originates in Wyoming and flows through Idaho and Oregon, is one of the major rivers of the American West.

A view of a river flowing through grasses with conifer trees in the distance against a blue sky with some wispy clouds.
Snake River above Jackson Lake at Flagg Ranch, WY. Photo: USGS, public domain.

The Snake River in Wyoming is approximately 1,040 kilometers long, and it begins in Yellowstone National Park before flowing through the Jackson Hole Valley and eventually emptying into the Columbia River in Washington state.

The Snake River in Wyoming is fed by numerous tributaries, including the Gros Ventre River, the Hoback River, and the Greys River.

T

The Teton Range is a mountain range located in northwestern Wyoming. The range is the youngest part of the Rocky Mountains and runs for about 40 miles (64 km) along the border between Wyoming and Idaho.

The Teton Range is known for its jagged peaks, including the Grand Teton, which is the highest peak in the range and the second-highest peak in Wyoming. The Grand Teton has an elevation of 13,770 feet (4,197 meters) above sea level.

The range is also home to several other notable peaks, including Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain.

A section of a mountain range with some spots of snow and fir trees in the foreground.
A view of a section of the Teton Range from Teton Glacier Turnout, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Photo: NPS, public domain.

Teton Range is part of Grand Teton National Park. The park features numerous trails that provide access to the rugged and spectacularly beautiful terrain of the Teton Range, including the popular Teton Crest Trail.

In addition to its scenic beauty, the Teton Range is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep.

U

The Uinta Mountains is a mountain range that extends just into in southwestern Wyoming. The Uinta Mountains are the highest range in the contiguous United States that runs east to west.

V

The Virginian Basin, located in south-central Wyoming, is an important oil and gas producing region.

W

The Wyoming Range is located in western Wyoming. The highest point in this mountain range is   Wyoming Peak at an elevation of 11,383 feet (3,470 meters).

X

The X Bar Ranch Hunter Management Area is one of the parcels of land set aside by the the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to manage hunting activities. The area is seasonally open for hunters looking to take antelope, elk, rabbits, and predators.

Y

Yellowstone Lake is the highest elevation lake in North America with an elevation of 7,733 feet (2,357 m) above sea level. The lake is fed by the Yellowstone River and is surrounded by the Absaroka Mountains to the east and the Teton Range to the south.

Yellowstone lake is also North America’s largest high-elevation lake above an elevation of 7,000 feet (2,134 meters). Yellowstone Lake is has a surface area of 132 square miles (342 square kilometers).   

A picture of a lake with conifer trees on the bank and a snow topped mountain in the background against a bright blue sky.
Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo: NPS, public domain.

The lakes also has the largest population of wild cutthroat trout in North America.

Z

Zirkel Mesa is a mes (7,543 feet or 2,299 meters) located in the Leucite Hills of southwestern Wyoming. The area is a roughly 772 square mile (2000 square kilometer) volcanic field with 14 lava-capped buttes and mesas.

Shaded relief map of Wyoming showing the locations of Zimmerman Butte and Zirkel Mesa in Wyoming.
Locations of Zimmerman Buttes and Zirkel Mesa in Wyoming. Map: Caitlin Dempsey.

Zimmerman Buttes, standing at an elevation of 5,230 feet (1,594 meters), is a peak located in Wyoming.

References

Hansen, W. R. (1986). Neogene tectonics and geomorphology of the eastern Uinta Mountains in Utah, Colorado, and WyomingUnited States Geological Survey, Professional Paper;(USA)75(1356).

Lange, R. A., Carmichael, I. S., & Hall, C. M. (2000). 40Ar/39Ar chronology of the Leucite Hills, Wyoming: Eruption rates, erosion rates, and an evolving temperature structure of the underlying mantle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters174(3-4), 329-340. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0012-821X(99)00267-8

Scott, D. C., & Luppens, J. A. (2013). Assessment of coal geology, resources, and reserve base in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming and MontanaUnited States Geological Survey Fact Sheet.

Related

More A to Z Geography

Photo of author
About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.