Wyoming is a state in the western United States. The easternmost section of the state is a region known as the High Plains due to its altitude above sea level, while the majority of the state is dominated by the mountain ranges and rangelands of the Rocky Mountain West. Wyoming is the least populous U.S. state. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the state population was 515,004 in 2006, a 4.3% increase since 2000. The capital and the most populous city of Wyoming is Cheyenne. Residents of Wyoming are known as Wyomingites.
Wyoming is bordered on the north by Montana, on the east by South Dakota and Nebraska, on the south by Colorado, on the southwest by Utah, and on the west by Idaho. Wyoming is one of three states bounded only by lines of latitude and longitude, Utah and Colorado are the others. It is the tenth largest state in the United States in total area, containing 97,818 square miles (253,348 km²) and is made up of 23 counties. From the north border to the south border it is 276 miles (444 km); and from the east to the west border is 375 miles (603 km).
The Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. The state is a great plateau broken by a number of mountain ranges. In the northwest are the Absaroka, Owl Creek, Gros Ventre, Wind River and the Teton ranges. In the north central are the Big Horn Mountains; in the northeast, the Black Hills; and in the southern region the Laramie, Snowy and Sierra Madre ranges.
Wyoming is an arid state with much of the land receiving less than 10 inches (25 cm) of rainfall per year. Consequently, the land supports few opportunities for farming. Ranching is widespread, especially in areas near the numerous mountain chains. The Snowy Range in the south central part of the state is an extension of the Colorado Rockies in both geology and appearance. The Wind River Range in the west central part of the state is remote and includes Gannett Peak, the highest peak in the state. The Big Horn Mountains in the north central portion are somewhat isolated from the bulk of the Rocky Mountains.
The Teton Range in the northwest extends for 50 miles (80 km) and represents the most impressive section of mountains in the state. It is home to Grand Teton, the second highest peak in Wyoming, and to Grand Teton National Park, which preserves the most scenic section of the Teton range.
Several rivers begin or flow through the state, including the Yellowstone River, Powder River, Green River, and the Snake River.
The Continental Divide forks in the south central part of the state. The waters that flow or precipitate into this area, known as the Great Divide Basin, do not flow to any ocean. Instead, because of the overall aridity of Wyoming, they simply sink into the soil or evaporate. Rivers east of the Divide drain into the Missouri River Basin and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. They are the Platte, Wind, Big Horn and the Yellowstone rivers. The Snake River in northwest Wyoming eventually drains into the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, as does the Green River through the Colorado River Basin.
The region known today as the state of Wyoming was originally inhabited by several Native American groups. The name Wyoming is derived from the Delaware (Munsee) name xwé:wamənk, meaning "at the big river flat", originally applied to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania. The Crow, Arapaho, Lakota, and Shoshone were but a few of the original inhabitants encountered when white explorers first entered the region. Although French trappers may have ventured into the northern sections of the state in the late 1700s, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was probably the first white American to enter the region in 1807. His reports of the Yellowstone area were considered at the time to be fictional. Robert Stuart and a party of five men returning from Astoria discovered South Pass in 1812. The route was later followed by the Oregon Trail. In 1850, Jim Bridger located what is now known as Bridger Pass, which was later used by both the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868, and in the 20th century by Interstate 80. Bridger also explored the Yellowstone region and like Colter, most of his reports on that region of the state were considered at the time to be tall tales.
After the Union Pacific Railroad reached the town of Cheyenne, which later became the state capital, in 1867, the population began to grow steadily in the Wyoming Territory, which was established on July 25, 1868. Unlike Colorado to the south, Wyoming never experienced a rapid population boom from any major mineral discoveries such as gold or silver. Copper was found in some areas of the state.
Once government sponsored expeditions to the Yellowstone country were undertaken, the previous reports by men like Colter and Bridger were found to be true. This led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park, which became the world's first National Park in 1872. It is located in the far northwestern portion of the state. Most of the territory that comprises Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming.
Wyoming was admitted to the Union on July 10, 1890. It was named after the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, made famous by the 1809 poem Gertrude of Wyoming by Thomas Campbell. The name was suggested by Representative J. M. Ashley of Ohio.
In 1869, Wyoming extended much suffrage to women, at least partially in an attempt to garner enough votes to be admitted as a state. In addition to being the first U.S. state to extend suffrage to women, Wyoming was also the home of many other firsts for U.S. women in politics. For the first time, women served on a jury in Wyoming (Laramie in 1870). Wyoming had the first female court bailiff (Mary Atkinson, Laramie, in 1870) and the first female justice of the peace in the country (Esther Hobart Morris, South Pass City, in 1870). In 1924, Wyoming became the first state in the Union to elect a female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, who took office the following January.
Wyoming was the location of the Johnson County War of 1892 which was fought between large cattle operators and free ranging interest groups. This war was fought because of the new ranchers moving in following the passage of the homestead act.
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