Bill Sniffin:  When Did You Fall In Love With Wyoming -- And Its Mountains, Canyons, Rivers, Deserts?

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes, “I was thinking about how I came to love Wyoming. That is a long, complicated story involving a whole bunch of wonderful people.”

Bill Sniffin

March 16, 20245 min read

Bill Sniffin lots of snow 1 16 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

This is a love story.

People are always describing to me how they have fallen in love in Wyoming.

Was it that trip to Yellowstone? The Tetons? Or our fantastic mountain ranges like the Winds, the Big Horns, or our spectacular rivers like the North Platte, the Snake, the Wind/Big Horn, the Green, or even our big lakes like Yellowstone, Jackson, Flaming Gorge, Alcova, Boysen, Glendo, and others? 

There is a lot to love about Wyoming.

It is also easy to believe that it is the individual people of the Cowboy State, which seal the deal, in causing people to fall in love with living here.

This column is about the people who live here, not folks who visit here. Yes, our tourists love it here, too, but not with the commitment of the people who call themselves Wyomingites.

I was thinking about how I came to love Wyoming. That is a long, complicated story involving a whole bunch of wonderful people.

The following is a brief list of just a few of the hundreds of wonderful places that draw people to this spectacular place and cause them to fall in love with Wyoming. These are the people who love this state very much as they introduced their favorite places with me.

Sinks Canyon, Red Desert

The late newspaperman Bruce Kennedy, convinced my wife Nancy and me that we would learn to love this place. I came here for an editor job but Nancy was sold on Wyoming’s beauty.

She recalls sitting along the banks of the Popo Agie River in Sinks Canyon on that September day in 1970 and thinking: “This so perfect. We could live here.” That canyon and its towering Wind River Mountains sealed the deal.

The late Bill Crump taught us to love the Red Desert. Although a man thoroughly experienced in the mountains, he repeatedly said how much more interesting the desert can be.

Over 50 years ago, he took me, my dad, and four kid brothers on a long day trip throughout the desert and we were starstruck. All those canyons, sand dunes, buttes, plus the Oregon Trail, made for indelible impressions. Bill was a long time Game and Fish director of the Lander office.

Former Tourism Director Gene Bryan first exposed us to the sunroom at the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone. What a wonderful oasis in the middle of the world’s first national park.

The Old Faithful Inn is the most famous of the Yellowstone hotels but my favorite is that old barn on the lake because of that unique sunroom, filled with windows that look out on the vast lake. 

Bryan helped make Yellowstone my all-time favorite place on the planet.

Saratoga, Evanston, Firehole

The Saratoga area is one of the most beautiful locations in the country. Doug Campbell, owner of the Wolf Hotel, and Joe Glode of the Shively Hardware, gave us a tour a few years ago. There is so much to see there including the fabulous North Platte River and the local hot springs.

Former publisher Mark Tesoro of Evanston gave us a tour of his hometown a couple of years ago and what a surprise. The Uintah mountain views are impressive. What folks in that town have done to promote the Bear River could be a lesson for every river town around the state.

Bryan Heinz was a wonderful tour guide of the Torrington area with a special emphasis on pioneer homes that had a special attic with windows where they could see their neighbors’ homes, as they were wary of Indian attacks. There also was a gathering of tribes that had to be moved to the Torrington area from Fort Laramie 150 years ago because the many tribes that gathered had more than 40,000 horses with them and needed more grass.

One time ten years ago, the late Jimmy Smail and I topped a rise southwest of Rock Springs and we stumbled on to Firehole Canyon. The Green River looked so green at that time, too. This was near the head of the 91-mile long Flaming Gorge Reservoir. This started my long love affair with both the gorge and Sweetwater County.

Chuck Brown gave me a tour of the Wheatland area. Throw in Lingle, Fort Laramie, and the old Sunrise Mine District and you have a lot to see.

We were introduced to some special places on the Wind River Indian Reservation by the Joe Kennah and the late Willie LeClair. The northern part of the rez is rarely visited but offers unique sights.

Legend Rock, Crazy Woman, Oregon Trail

Who better than former publishers to show off their areas? Former Thermopolis Publisher Pat Schmidt took us to Legend Rock, the Arapaho Ranch, and Anchor Dam in the western part of Hot Springs County. Up in Johnson County, former Buffalo Bulletin Publisher Jim Hicks showed us Crazy Woman Canyon and an impressive fire lookout high in the Big Horn Mountains.

The smartest person I ever knew about the Oregon Trail was the late Randy Wagner of Cheyenne. He showed me many of the landmarks with a special emphasis on South Pass. His love for the trail was legendary. He crossed it hundreds of times by car, horse, motorcycle, covered wagon, and bus.

There is no way I can include all parts of Wyoming in this column. So, stay tuned for more interesting places and stories. Please email me your story about how you fell in love with Wyoming and why to:

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.