From ‘Jake The Snake’ To ‘Rosco’, Wyoming Is Overrun With Rock Snakes

Painted rock art has been a thing in Wyoming communities for years. Now they’re being placed in long lines to form “rock snakes” all around the Cowboy State.

AR
Andrew Rossi

September 13, 20234 min read

Roscoe the Rock Snake, currently growing in Story. Painted rocks can be found in many Wyoming communities, although they tend to be hidden in plain sight. "Rock snakes" are encouraged to grow in places where anyone can see and contribute to the somewhat spontaneous public art display.
Roscoe the Rock Snake, currently growing in Story. Painted rocks can be found in many Wyoming communities, although they tend to be hidden in plain sight. "Rock snakes" are encouraged to grow in places where anyone can see and contribute to the somewhat spontaneous public art display. (Susan Mark via Wyoming Through the Lens)

Snakes are slithering their way into a host of Wyoming communities. Not only are they welcome, but peopleare helping them grow.

Finding and hiding painted rocks has been a quirk in cities and towns throughout Wyoming for years. Visitors and residents would often find one of these painted rocks, post about their discoveries on social media, and then place the rocks somewhere else to be found again. Facebook groups like “WyoRocks!” are dedicated to the discovery of painted rocks throughout the state.

“Rock snakes” are a more conspicuous display, meant to be seen. The “snakes” are long collections of rock art lined up with an appropriately serpentine head at the front.

Not only are rock snakes a thing around Wyoming, people are proud of theirs, as shown the group Wyoming Through the Lens Facebook group Tuesday when Story’s “Roscoe the Rock Snake” was introduced. Susan Mark, one of the group’s top contributors who posted the picture, called it “the most wonderful community project.”

“I had never seen a rock snake before, and I thought it was a great way to bring a community together,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “It was so much fun to see how many rocks were out there and how creative and inventive they were — bears and ice cream cones, and you name it.”

Seeing Roscoe, others were quick to feature the rock snakes in their communities, calling out “Rockboa” alongside a bike trail in Worland or the “Autism Awareness Snake” stretching its way through Greybull. Rock snakes also have been spotted in Gillette, Sheridan and Casper.

Wyomingites revel in the rock snakes that have spontaneously popped up in their towns.  Some have even expressed interest in visiting each community’s rock snake and asked where they were located.

Jake the Train in Cody. Like many painted rock displays, the size changes all the time as rocks are added or taken away. So long as something is leading the way, a painted rock can be added to the line or end up in a pocket or in someone's home as a personal memento.
Jake the Train in Cody. Like many painted rock displays, the size changes all the time as rocks are added or taken away. So long as something is leading the way, a painted rock can be added to the line or end up in a pocket or in someone's home as a personal memento. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)

A Community’s Creativity On Display

“Jake the Snake” was sunning itself in front of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles in Cody on Tuesday. But one of the unique quirks of a rock snake is its unexpectedly transformative nature.

A recent visit shows the snake has shed its snakeskin and has become a rock train. Painted rock lines can take on many forms, including worms and caterpillars, and often change. 

 While it’s now “Jake the Train,” the concept and its eclectic nature remain the same.  

The growing line of rock art included rocks painted to look like the Puerto Rican flag, a chocolate chip cookie, a Merry Christmas message and an encouraging message to “Bee Who You Are.” There was even an authentic sand dollar in the line.

Often, painted rocks will join a snake before vanishing once again to other places in the community or into pockets, making it a sort of community art timeshare. Maybe that’s why Cody’s Jake turned into a train, as snakes can’t lose any of their parts without serious damage.

Kidding aside, rock snakes and trains are not only fun for locals. Marks finds them endearing art projects that give a creative look into the spirit of Wyoming’s communities, as she experienced in Story.

“I had no idea this was a thing and that a lot of other communities were doing it,” she said. “I like to take photos of what catches my eye when I'm out and about in Wyoming, so I was glad I got to see this little piece of what was going on in Story. It's a wonderful place.”

Jake the Train in Cody. Like many painted rock displays, the size changes all the time as rocks are added or taken away. So long as something is leading the way, a painted rock can be added to the line or end up in a pocket or in someone's home as a personal memento.
Jake the Train in Cody. Like many painted rock displays, the size changes all the time as rocks are added or taken away. So long as something is leading the way, a painted rock can be added to the line or end up in a pocket or in someone's home as a personal memento. (Andrew Rossi, Cowboy State Daily)

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

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