That’s right, there’s a 60-foot-high pyramid that juts up from prime Wyoming pastureland in southcentral Wyoming.
Just out of view from the thousands of daily motorists who zoom by on Interstate 80 about 20 miles east of Laramie, the giant pyramid has been a little-known landmark in the Cowboy State since it was completed in 1882.
It’s the Ames Monument, and was built from huge blocks of local granite in honor of Oakes and Oliver Ames, who were both influential in making sure the first transcontinental railroad was completed.
As for seeming to be in the middle of nowhere, well, there’s a reason for that. The pyramid was built at the highest spot along the original Union Pacific Railroad that passed nearby. Although the tracks have since been moved, they originally were close enough so passengers could see the monument as they traveled.
President Abraham Lincoln personally tasked Oakes Ames, a congressman from Massachusetts and one of the founders of the Republican Party, with getting the transcontinental railroad finished.
Off The Beaten Path
Today, about the only reason for anybody to be aware of the Ames Monument are a pair of simple signs along I-80 — one eastbound, the other west — telling people to take Exit 329 to get to it.
It’s the same exit that accesses the popular Vedawoo climbing and hiking area north of the interstate. Turning south, however, will take you to the Ames Monument in just a few minutes.
The exit also is the last pavement visitors making their way to the monument will drive on. The access road immediately turns to dirt, but it’s in good shape.
And it only takes a couple minutes to see the pyramid sticking out of the landscape like a giant mosquito bite on the rangeland.
It’s not until pulling into the small dirt parking area that one truly appreciates the impressive structure.
Pretty Darn Impressive
The granite pyramid measures 60 feet wide and 60 feet high and features 9-foot-tall sculpted reliefs of the Ames brothers near the top on the east and west sides of the monument. Facing north in 1-foot-high letters is the inscription: “In Memory of Oakes and Oliver Ames.”
Many visitors mistake the reliefs for President Abraham Lincoln because of his connection to the transcontinental railroad and the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road that I-80 now follows along that stretch.
That’s what Doug and Dayna Jobe thought.
The couple lives on the Colorado side of Wyoming’s southern border and made a quick detour to check out the monument on a recent Saturday morning.
Doug said he’s known about the monument for years, but had never seen it and doesn’t know anything about it.
“I’ve known for many years there was something here called the Ames Monument,” he said. “I thought it might be because it was the meeting place for the railroad, but there’s no railroad here.”
Without any signage or interpretive information, Dayna said the monument is just a big mystery for visitors.
“It just seems weird there’s no explanation. It’s just here,” she said. “Explain to people so we can have some appreciation for what it is.”
To be fair, there usually are informative placards at the monument, but they have been temporarily removed as work is underway to build a wheelchair-accessible ramp up to the pyramid.
Being able to walk right up to the monument to touch and feel the large granite blocks makes the architectural marvel more memorable, Doug said.
“It’s really impressive to be so close to it,” he said. “It’s legit, for sure.”
As one of Wyoming’s little-known sights to see, the Ames Monument has something to hide.
It’s hollow inside.
Like the pyramids of Egypt, there are passages sealed up inside the state historic site, according to Wyoming State Parks.
In fact, state officials carefully pulled one of the granite blocks to access the inside of the monument in 2010 and people could go inside. There, they found a crude 6-foot corridor that goes around the inside base, but not much more. There are no mummies, elaborate chambers or treasure.
The pyramid has since been resealed and getting inside is forbidden.
That’s OK, as the outside of Wyoming’s great pyramid is impressive enough and remains, as Wyoming State Parks put it, “an architectural oddity even many Wyomingites know little about.”
Want to know what the heck something is in Wyoming? Ask Managing Editor Greg Johnson and he’ll try to find out. Send your “What the heck is …” questions to him, along with high-quality horizontal photos of whatever it is to Greg@CowboyStateDaily.com.
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