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Wyoming i /waɪˈoʊmɪŋ/ is a state in the Western United States. The majority of the state is dominated by the mountain ranges and rangelands of the Rocky Mountain West, while the easternmost section of the state includes part of a high elevation prairie region known as the High Plains. While the tenth largest U.S. state by area, Wyoming is the least populous, with a U.S. Census estimated population of 544,270 in 2009, a 5.9% increase since 2000. The capital and the most populous city of Wyoming is Cheyenne.
As specified in the designating legislation for the Territory of Wyoming, Wyoming's borders are lines of latitude, 41°N and 45°N, and longitude, 104°3'W and 111°3'W (27° W and 34° W of the Washington Meridian), making the shape of the state a latitude-longitude quadrangle. Wyoming is one of only three states (along with Colorado and Utah) to have only latitudinal and longitudinal, rather than naturally defined, boundaries. Due to surveying errors during the 19th century, Wyoming's legal border deviates from the latitude and longitude lines by up to half of a mile (.8 km) in some spots, especially in the mountainous region along the 45th parallel. 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. It is the tenth largest state in the United States in total area, containing 97,818 square miles (253,350 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 365 miles (587 km) at its south end and 342 miles (550 km) at the north end.
The Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. The state is a great plateau broken by a number of mountain ranges. Surface elevations range from the summit of Gannett Peak in the Wind River Mountain Range, at 13,804 feet (4,207 m), to the Belle Fourche River valley in the state’s northeast corner, at 3,125 feet (953 m). 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.
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 more than 40 mountain peaks in excess of 13,000 ft (4,000 m) tall in addition to 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), part of which is included in Grand Teton National Park. The park includes the Grand Teton, the second highest peak in Wyoming.
The Continental Divide spans north-south across the central portion of the state. Rivers east of the divide drain into the Missouri River Basin and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. They are the North 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 continental divide forks in the south central part of the state in an area known as the Great Divide Basin where the waters that flow or precipitate into this area remain there and cannot flow to any ocean. Instead, because of the overall aridity of Wyoming, water in the Great Divide Basin simply sinks into the soil or evaporates.
Several rivers begin or flow through the state, including the Yellowstone River, Bighorn River, Green River, and the Snake River.
More than 48% of the land in Wyoming is owned by the U.S. Government, leading Wyoming to rank sixth in the US in total acres and fifth in percentage of a state's land owned by the Federal government. This amounts to about 30,099,430 acres (121,808.1 km2) owned and managed by the U.S. Government. The state government owns an additional 6% of all Wyoming lands, or another 3,864,800 acres (15,640 km2).
The vast majority of this government land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in numerous National Forests, a National Grassland, and a number of vast swaths of public land, in addition to the F.E. Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne.
In addition, Wyoming contains a number of specific areas that are under the management of the National Park Service and other agencies. They include:
Wyoming's climate is generally semi-arid and continental (Köppen climate classification BSk), and is drier and windier in comparison to most of the United States with greater temperature extremes. Much of this is due to the topography of the state. Summers in Wyoming are warm with July high temperatures averaging between 85 °F (29 °C) and 95 °F (35 °C) in most of the state. With increasing elevation, however, this average drops rapidly with locations above 9,000 feet (2,700 m) averaging around 70 °F (21 °C). Summer nights throughout the state are characterized by a rapid cooldown with even the hottest locations averaging in the 50–60 °F (10–16 °C) range at night. In most of the state, the late spring and early summer is when most of the precipitation tends to fall. Winters are cold, but are variable with periods of sometimes extreme cold interspersed between generally mild periods, with Chinook winds providing unusually warm temperatures in some locations. Wyoming is a dry state with much of the land receiving less than 10 inches (250 mm) of rainfall per year. Precipitation depends on elevation with lower areas in the Big Horn Basin averaging 5–8 inches (130–200 mm) (making the area nearly a true desert). The lower areas in the North and on the eastern plains typically average around 10–12 inches (250–300 mm), making the climate there semi-arid. Some mountain areas do receive a good amount of precipitation, 20 inches (510 mm) or more, much of it as snow, sometimes 200 inches (510 cm) or more annually.
The climate of any area in Wyoming is largely determined by its latitude, altitude and local topography. When put together, these factors have a lot to do with airflow patterns, temperature variations, precipitation and humidity brought in by the weather systems that migrate eastward. In winter, Wyoming is often beneath the jet stream, or north of it, which accounts for its frequent strong winds, blasts of Arctic air and precipitation, all the necessary ingredients for great snow conditions at Wyoming's northwestern ski areas. In summer, the jet stream retreats northward to Canada, leaving the state's weather mild and pleasant at a time when the majority of Wyoming's visitors choose to arrive. Jackson, located at 6,230 feet (1,900 m) above sea level and surrounded by mountains, can expect a high temperature in July of 80 °F (27 °C). The average is more likely to be 65 °F (18 °C). The closest National Weather Station (in Riverton on the other side of the Wind River Mountains at 4,955 feet (1,510 m)) reports slightly warmer July weather.
The number of thunderstorm days vary across the state with the southeastern plains of the state having the most days of thunderstorm activity. Thunderstorm activity in the state is highest during the late spring and early summer. The southeastern corner of the state is the most vulnerable part of the state to tornado activity. Moving away from that point and westwards, the incidence of tornadoes drops dramatically with the west part of the state showing little vulnerability. Tornadoes, where they occur, tend to be small and brief, unlike some of those which occur a little further east.
Several Native American groups originally inhabited the region now known as Wyoming. 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, first described 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 Oregon Trail later followed that route. In 1850, Jim Bridger located what is now known as Bridger Pass, which the Union Pacific Railroad used in 1868—as did Interstate 80, 90 years later. Bridger also explored Yellowstone and filed reports on the region that, like those of Colter, were largely regarded as tall tales at the time.
The region may have acquired the name Wyoming as early as 1865, when Representative J. M. Ashley of Ohio introduced a bill to Congress to provide a "temporary government for the territory of Wyoming". The name Wyoming derives from the Munsee name xwé:wamənk, meaning "at the big river flat", originally applied to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, made famous by the 1809 poem Gertrude of Wyoming by Thomas Campbell.
After the Union Pacific Railroad reached the town of Cheyenne in 1867, the region's population began to grow steadily, and the Federal government established the Wyoming Territory on July 25, 1868. Unlike Colorado to the south, Wyoming enjoyed no significant discovery of such celebrated minerals as gold and silver—nor Colorado's consequent boom in population—although South Pass City experienced a short-lived boom after the Carissa Mine began producing gold in 1867. Moreover, some areas, such as between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Snowy Range near Grand Encampment, produced copper.
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. Nearly all of Yellowstone National Park lies within the far northwestern borders of Wyoming.
On December 10, 1869, territorial Gov. John Allen Campbell signed a suffrage act into law, which extended the right to vote to women. And in addition to being the first U.S. state to grant suffrage to women, Wyoming was also the home of 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). Wyoming became the first state in the Union to elect a female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, who was elected in 1924 and took office in January 1925. Because of rights given to women, Wyoming earned the nickname of "The Equality State".
Wyoming's constitution included women's suffrage and a pioneering article on water rights. The United States admitted Wyoming into the Union as the 44th state on July 10, 1890.
Wyoming was the location of the Johnson County War of 1892, which erupted between competing groups of cattle ranchers. The passage of the federal Homestead Act led to an influx of small ranchers. A range war broke out when either or both of the groups chose violent conflict over commercial competition in the use of the public land.
See: List of counties in Wyoming
The center of population of Wyoming is located in Natrona County.
As of 2005, Wyoming had an estimated population of 509,293, which was an increase of 3,407, or 0.7%, from the prior year and an increase of 15,512, or 3.1%, since the 2000 census. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 12,165 people (that is 33,704 births minus 21,539 deaths) and an increase from net migration of 4,035 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 2,264 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 1,771 people. In 2004, the foreign-born population was 11,000 (2.2%). In 2005, total births in Wyoming numbered 7,231 (Birth Rate of 14.04).
Sparsely populated, Wyoming is the least populous (total number of people) state of the United States, and has the second lowest population density, behind Alaska.
The largest ancestry groups in Wyoming are: German (25.9%), English (15.9%), Irish (13.3%), American (6.5%), Norwegian (4.3%), and Swedish (3.5%).
The religious affiliations of the people of Wyoming are shown in the table below:
Jewish – 0%
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Catholic Church with 80,421; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as of December 31, 2008 recorded 61,430; and the Southern Baptist Convention in 1980 counted 17,101.
According to the 2005 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report, Wyoming’s gross state product was $27.4 billion.
As of January 2010, the states unemployment rate is 7.6%. Components of Wyoming's economy differ significantly from those of other states.
The mineral extraction industry and the travel and tourism sector are the main drivers behind Wyoming’s economy. The Federal government owns about 50% of its landmass, while 6% is controlled by the state. Total taxable values of mining production in Wyoming for 2001 was over $6.7 billion. The tourism industry accounts for over $2 billion in revenue for the state. Wyoming was the first state in the United States to adopt a statute permitting the formation of limited liability companies as a business form in 1977.
In 2002, more than six million people visited Wyoming’s national parks and monuments. The key tourist attractions in Wyoming include Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Devils Tower National Monument and Fossil Butte National Monument. Each year Yellowstone National Park receives three million visitors.
Historically, agriculture has been an important component of Wyoming’s economy. Its overall importance to the performance of Wyoming’s economy has waned. However, agriculture is still an essential part of Wyoming’s culture and lifestyle. The main agricultural commodities produced in Wyoming include livestock (beef), hay, sugar beets, grain (wheat and barley), and wool. More than 91% of land in Wyoming is classified as rural.
Wyoming’s mineral commodities include coal, natural gas, coalbed methane, crude oil, uranium, and trona.
Unlike most other states, Wyoming does not levy an individual or corporate income tax. In addition, Wyoming does not assess any tax on retirement income earned and received from another state. Wyoming has a state sales tax of 4%. Counties have the option of collecting an additional 1% tax for general revenue and a 1% tax for specific purposes, if approved by voters. Food for human consumption is not subject to sales tax. There also is a county lodging tax that varies from 2% to 5%. The state collects a use tax of 5% on items purchased elsewhere and brought into Wyoming. All property tax is based on the assessed value of the property and Wyoming's Department of Revenue's Ad Valorem Tax Division supports, trains, and guides local government agencies in the uniform assessment, valuation and taxation of locally assessed property. "Assessed value" means taxable value; "taxable value" means a percent of the fair market value of property in a particular class. Statutes limit property tax increases. For county revenue, the property tax rate cannot exceed 12 mills (or 1.2%) of assessed value. For cities and towns, the rate is limited to 8 mills (0.8%). With very few exceptions, state law limits the property tax rate for all governmental purposes.
Personal property held for personal use is tax-exempt. Inventory if held for resale, pollution control equipment, cash, accounts receivable, stocks and bonds are also exempt. Other exemptions include property used for religious, educational, charitable, fraternal, benevolent and government purposes and improvements for handicapped access. Minerals are exempt from property tax but companies must pay a gross products tax and a severance tax when produced. Underground mining equipment is tax exempt.
Wyoming does not collect inheritance taxes. Because of the phase-out of the federal estate tax credit, Wyoming's estate tax is not imposed on estates of persons who died in 2005. There is limited estate tax related to federal estate tax collection.
In 2008 the Tax Foundation ranked Wyoming as having the single most "business friendly" tax climate of all 50 states. Wyoming state and local governments in fiscal year 2007 collected $2.242 billion in taxes, levies, and royalties from the oil and gas industry. The state's mineral industry, including oil, gas, trona, and coal provided $1.3 billion in property taxes from 2006 mineral production.
The largest airport in Wyoming is Jackson Hole Airport.Three interstate highways and thirteen U.S. highways pass through Wyoming. In addition, the state is served by the Wyoming state highway system.
Interstate 25 enters the state south of Cheyenne and runs north, intersecting Interstate 80 in Cheyenne. It passes through Casper and ends at Interstate 90 near Buffalo. Interstate 80 crosses the Utah border west of Evanston and runs east through the southern half of the state, passing through Cheyenne before entering Nebraska near Pine Bluffs. Interstate 90 comes into Wyoming near Parkman and cuts through the northern part of the state. It serves Gillette and enters South Dakota east of Sundance. In addition, Interstate 180 services Cheyenne, and not only is it the only three-digit interstate highway in the state, it is the only non-freeway in the country that is signed as an interstate.
The U.S. highways that pass through the state are U.S. Highways 14, 16, 18, 20, 26, 30, 85, 87, 89, 189, 191, 212, and 287.
See also: List of Wyoming railroads, List of airports in Wyoming, and State highways in Wyoming.
The Wind River Indian Reservation is shared by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes of Amerindians in the central western portion of the state near Lander. It is the seventh-largest Indian reservation in the United States, with a land area of 8,995.733 km2 (3,473.272 sq mi), encompassing most of Fremont County and part of neighboring Hot Springs County. The reservation is home to 2,500 Eastern Shoshone and 5,000 Northern Arapaho.
Chief Washakie established the reservation in 1868 as the result of negotiations with the federal government in the Fort Bridger Treaty. However, the Northern Arapaho were forced onto the Shoshone reservation in 1876 by the federal government after the government failed to provide a promised separate reservation.
Today the Wind River Indian Reservation is jointly owned, with each tribe having a 50% interest in the land, water, and other natural resources. The reservation is a sovereign, self-governed land with two independent governing bodies: the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Government and the Northern Arapaho Tribal Government. The Eastern Shoshone Business Council meets jointly with the Northern Arapaho Business Council as the Joint Business Council to decide matters that affect both tribes. Six elected council members from each tribe serve on the joint council.
Wyoming's Constitution established three branches of government: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The Wyoming state legislature comprises a House of Representatives with 60 members and a Senate with 30 members.
The executive branch is headed by the governor and includes a secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. Wyoming does not have a lieutenant governor. Instead the secretary of state stands first in the line of succession.
Wyoming's sparse population warrants it only a single at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and hence only three votes in the Electoral College. Its low population renders Wyoming voters effectively more powerful in presidential elections than those in more populous states. For example, while Montana had a 2000 census population of 902,195 to Wyoming's 493,782, they both have the same number of electoral votes.
Wyoming is an alcoholic beverage control state.
Wyoming's highest court is the Supreme Court of Wyoming, with five justices presiding over appeals from the state's lower courts. Wyoming is unusual in that it does not have an intermediate appellate court, like most states. This is largely attributable to the state's size and correspondingly lower caseload. Appeals from the state district courts go directly to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Wyoming also has state circuit courts (formerly county courts), of limited jurisdiction, which handle certain types of cases, such as civil claims with lower dollar amounts, misdemeanor criminal offenses, and felony arraignments. Circuit court judges also commonly hear small claims cases as well. All state court judges in Wyoming are nominated by the Judicial Nominating Commission and appointed by the Governor. They are then subject to a retention vote by the electorate.
Wyoming's political history defies easy classification. The state was the first to grant women the right to vote and to elect a woman governor. While the state elected notable Democrats to federal office in the 60's and 70's, politics have become decidedly more conservative since the 1980s as the Republican party came to dominate the state's congressional delegation. Today, Wyoming is represented in Washington by its two Senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, and its one member of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis. All three are Republicans. The state has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, one of only five times since statehood. At present, there is only one reliably Democratic county in the state: Teton. In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush won his second-largest victory, with 69% of the vote. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is a Wyoming resident and represented the state in Congress from 1979 to 1989. However, after his term, he resided primarily in Texas, a fact that drew mild criticism from his political opponents when he changed his voter registration back to Wyoming prior to joining George W. Bush's ticket in the 2000 Presidential election in order to comply with the Twelfth Amendment's prohibition against both Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates residing in the same state.
Republicans are no less dominant at the state level. They have held a majority in the state senate continuously since 1936 and in the state house since 1964. However, Democrats have held the governorship for all but eight years since 1975. Democrat Dave Freudenthal was elected in 2002 and has one of the highest approval ratings of any governor in the USA. Uniquely, Wyoming elected Democrat Nellie Tayloe Ross as the first woman in US history to serve as state governor. She served from 1925 to 1927 after winning a special election after her husband, governor at the time, unexpectedly died.
The State of Wyoming has 23 counties.
In 2005, 52.4% of Wyomingites lived in one of the five most populous Wyoming counties.
Wyoming license plates contain a number on the left that indicates the county in which the vehicle is registered. The county license plate numbers are as follows:
The State of Wyoming has 98 incorporated municipalities.
In 2005, 50.6% of Wyomingites lived in one of the 13 most populous Wyoming municipalities.
The United States Census Bureau has defined two Metropolitan Statistical Areas and seven Micropolitan Statistical Areas for the State of Wyoming.
In 2008, 30.4% of Wyomingites lived in either of the Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and 73% lived in either a Metropolitan Statistical Area or a Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Public education is directed by the state superintendent of public instruction, an elected state official. Educational policies are set by the State Board of Education, a nine-member board appointed by the governor. The constitution prohibits the state from establishing curriculum and text book selections; these are the prerogatives of local school boards. The Wyoming School for the Deaf was the only in-state school dedicated to supporting deaf students in Wyoming, but it closed in summer of 2000.
Wyoming has one public four-year institution, the University of Wyoming in Laramie. In addition, there are seven two-year community colleges spread through the state.
Before the passing of a new law in 2006, Wyoming had hosted unaccredited institutions, many of them suspected diploma mills. The 2006 law is forcing unaccredited institutions to make one of three choices: move out of Wyoming, close down, or apply for accreditation. The Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization predicts that in a few years the problem of diploma mills in Wyoming might be resolved.
Wyoming was chosen as the official state for the Free State Wyoming project; a splinter of the Free State Project. The purpose of the project is to relocate Libertarians to a single state, making it possible to live a "free life".
In 2008, The American State Litter Scorecard rated Wyoming a nationally Best state for statewide litter eradication from public properties, having the highest total objective and subjective ranking scores for the Western United States, followed by Oregon.
Rooster Teeth's web series Red Vs Blue created a freelancer character bearing the state name.