image with artdirection

7 Reasons Why Sweetwater County is Rich in American History

Step Back in Time in Southwest Wyoming

A family road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is among the most quintessential of American vacations. With the freedom of the open highway, the endless blue skies and the jagged mountains, abundant wildlife and extraordinary geysers at the end of the journey, it is no wonder that the trip is so popular with travelers the world over.

1. Lake Flaming Gorge

The canyons of the Green River have long enthralled explorers ranging from John Wesley Powell to modern-day outdoor adventurers. One of the most accessible and majestic stretches of this river can be found at Lake Flaming Gorge, a massive reservoir that stretches across the Utah-Wyoming border. Here, red-colored buttes and sage-dotted hills line a crystalline lake that delights boaters, anglers and campers year-round. With zero light pollution, the area is also a haven for stargazers. 

2. Historic Pioneer Trails

No other place in the United States has more miles of still-visible pioneer trails than Sweetwater County. Your pilgrimage West may be of a very different nature these days, but one glance of the Oregon, Overland or Pony Express Trails will leave an indelible mark on your journey.

3. White Mountain Petroglyphs

If you think the pioneer trails of Sweetwater County are cool, wait until you see the petroglyphs on White Mountain near Rock Springs. Here, an assortment of sandstone etchings — created by the ancestors of the present-day Plains Native Americans — capture the narrative of life for Native Americans in the area some 200 years ago. 

4. The Pony Express Route

Long before FedEx, there was the Pony Express. A marvel of efficiency, this letter-carrying service had a major route passing through our county, which can be experienced at Fort Bridger Historic Park and South Pass State Historic Park.

5. The Expedition of John Wesley Powell

Before the pioneer trails brought settlers West, fearless and intrepid explorers needed to chart the territory, and John Wesley Powell took one of the most extraordinary journeys as he charted the Green and, subsequently, Colorado Rivers. Two of Powell’s endeavors down the Green River were launched from Expedition Island, a National Historic Site that you can visit in the town of Green River. 

6. The Overland Trail

Another homesteader’s trail visible in Sweetwater County, the Overland Trail provided an alternative route to Salt Lake City and California. The Overland Trail paved the way for significant development in those areas — particularly with the California Gold Rush.

7. Coal Mining that Powered America

Around the turn of the 20th century there appeared to be no stopping the industrial engines of the American economy. Fueling much of this growth was coal, and Wyoming was a significant provider of this resource. In Sweetwater County, you can visit Reliance Tipple, where the remains of a coal mining town and its structures show the often-overlooked story of an industry that powered America forward.

Other Trails

While the Oregon, Pony Express and Overland trails take top billing — mostly for the sheer volume of traffic they saw during their heyday — other historic trails in Sweetwater County serve up a good dose of compelling anecdotes and thought-provoking intrigue. Learn more about the Outlaw Trail, Mormon Trail and others on our pioneer trails page.