So, what's the deal with Wyoming?

It doesn’t seem like it should be so sparsely populated. It’s just north of Colorado and Utah, and lots people seem to live there. And I’ve met plenty of other people (online & at college) who are from Idaho, but I’ve never known anyone who came from Wyoming. Ever. Why not, Wyoming?

Starting this in GQ, if a mod thinks it’s more of an IMHO, feel free to move.

I’ve wanted to go to Wyoming since I was 10, so the only thing I have to add is, if I ever get there, I suspect I’ll either never leave or won’t be able to get out soon enough.

The 50% worth seeing is owned by the government

Colorado and Utah and Idaho might have more people, but Montana and the Dakotas are plenty sparse, as is Nebraska west of its easternmost edge. Wyoming blends with them.

Montana and the Dakotas are sparesly populated as well. Here’s a list of states by population density. All the high plains states are sparsely, populated so it isn’t really just Wyoming. Apparently people don’t like living in cold, flat places far from the coasts. And with agriculture needing fewer and fewer workers per acer, the only real things to keep people there is mineral rights and oil/gas.

Wyoming’s population actually shrunk during the 90’s when oil and gas were cheap and as factory farms made agriculture less labor intensive. Had fuel prices stayed low, I imagine the place would be pretty close to empty by now.

Pretty informative, thanks. I guess it doesn’t seem like Wyoming is really that cold, based solely on its geographical location. Is it?

It’s part of the Delawareconspiracy.

A lot of Wyoming, the eastern half mostly, is high prairie, and sage desert. When the wind blows, it REALLY blows. I once slipped a belt in a tire due to hours of driving I-25 in 50-70 mph crosswinds. I was wanting to get the heck out of there before the snow started. I-25 through Wyoming gets closed due to weather often enough that the entrance ramps are equipped with gates.

It is mostly very rural and minerals and cattle are the main significant industries. Water is fairly scarce, so agriculture is limited by the ability to irrigate…mostly it is alfalfa or other feed crops for the stock. Rail service is pretty good in parts, so if you have a business that can utilize that capacity, then you can do OK, but otherwise you are looking at pretty high prices to truck stuff in and out…it is a long way from anywhere, and mostly not on the way to or from anywhere. Basically the trucks are going to have to make a special trip, or at least a long side trip to service you.

The biggest cities aren’t very big at all, and there are only 2-3 depending on how you count. If you are from the East Coast, understand that one western state=4-10 New England sized states. Figure about 6-8 hours to drive Wyoming N-S and a bit longer E-W…and that is on the Interstates where the speed limit is 75 and folks are doing 80-85. You will cross lots and lots of essentially nothing over many of those hours.

Its major tourism city is known as a hole!

There was a guy from Wyoming named Dick Cheney who was in the news a lot a few years back, so you should at least know of someone from Wyoming.

This might be kind of stating the obvious, but the only real difference between Wyoming and Colorado or Utah or Idaho is that that Wyoming doesn’t have a Denver, Salt Lake City, or Boise. If you were to exclude those single large urban areas, there’s really not that much difference among the inter-mountain states in terms of population density, demographics, economics, etc. The boundaries for the western states were all laid out before there were any major settlements and so it’s really just the vagaries of history and geography that determined whether a particular state wound up with a big city in it or not. The question really shouldn’t be “what’s the deal with Wyoming?” but “what’s the deal with Denver/SLC/Boise/Phoenix/Albuquerque/Las Vegas?” that those cities turned into big urban areas whereas the countless other smaller cities across the region (including ones like Cheyenne) did not.

So, what’s the deal with Wyoming?

For one, they copied the map of Colorado. So the people ended up there instead and figured they might as well stay.

My mom semi-retired to northeastern Wyoming. The town of Sundance (not the famous one…the OTHER Sundance). I was there in August 2010. One mid-morning we got 10 fucking inches of snow. On August 2nd.

Her response to my outrage? “Oh, it’ll all melt by dinner.” She was right but still, fuck, right?

Another issue for Wyoming and a lot of the upper plains is a basic lack of water. There’s just not a lot of water and the ability of the land to support a high population is pretty limited away. So it’s cold, high, dry and so forth. There’s just not a lot to DRAW people there.

There was a slight population increase back in 1976 when they were making a movie. It didn’t last long and when they left, many were never seen again.

Historically, Denver owes its existence to the Pike’s Peak gold rush of 1858, and Salt Lake City to the Mormon migration. Wyoming never had a comparable gold rush to bring in settlers, or any organized effort at colonization.

For the opposite question, what’s the deal with Alberta? A plains province with two cities of over a million, which should be even colder and less hospitable than Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Why did these similar Great Plains areas develop so differently?



  1. It isn’t colder and less hospitable.
  2. Oil.

When I was 18, I rode a greyhound bus from Pittsburgh to Sacramento. (long story)

The bus stopped in Cheyenne right in the middle of Cheyenne Days, some major celebration. Things were totally dead. I walked around town, then scurried back to the station and hopped the next bus. That was my take on Wyoming.
ETA, in Cheyenne’s defense, it was 3 am.

I’ve driven across Wyoming twice, and it’s mostly pretty sparse in terms of water and vegetation, m in addition to people. A lots of the “towns” I saw were clearly mining communities made up of trailrers grouped togeter, all with satellite dishes. One was set aside as Town Hall. They were only towns I’ve seen that could literally pack up and drive away the next day, leaving nothing. They were clearly only there for the ore. And even those were few and far between.

So the real answer to your question is – because there’s not much there, and there’s no living to be had.
The western end of the state has more water and vegetation, and the gorgeous Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone. It has the first J.C. Penney’s store and Rock Springs. On the East you’ve got Cheyenne and Laramie, but in between you’ve got a lot of nothing excepot mineral deposits.

Northern Nevada is very much the same. They turned to legalized gambling and legalized prostitution.