Day 24–Wyoming, The Most Sparsely Populated State

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Miles To Date: 
2 837

Today was our last day in South Dakota and we set off from Rapid City in the morning on our journey to Sheridan, Wyoming. The main stop on the drive was Devil’s Tower, which is a short way across the South Dakota/Wyoming border. I had read that Wyoming is the least populated state, but I hadn’t realised it would be so noticeable. Once we crossed the border there were barely any cars around and ‘towns’ consisted mostly of a few old looking trailers. The few houses there were all seemed to be called ‘Ranch’ something, and many buildings proudly displayed the skulls of cattle (including some town banks!).

The drive to Devil’s Tower took us off the motorway and up through the Bear Lodge Mountains. This was a nice scenic route with some fun-to-drive windy roads, but it wasn’t good for the car’s economy! We could see the tower from several miles away, since it stands out like a sore thumb from the surrounding landscape.

It is quite incredible to look at, and got its name because of a misinterpretation in the late 1800s. The interpreter for an explorer in the region thought it was called ‘Bad Gods Tower’, which later became Devil’s Tower. This upsets the Indians to this day, since to them it is sacred. There are several theories as to how it was created; modern views to do with millions of years of erosion, or the Native view that it was created by ‘The Great Spirit’ and the sides were marked by a giant bear.

After leaving the tower we completed the drive to Sheridan, on the east side of the Bighorn Mountains (named after the Bighorn sheep which live there). The landscape reminded me of a cross between Badlands and the prairie, and aside from the motorway there were no paved roads for miles around. While driving we tuned into a Country radio station and soon found out that new country music sounds exactly the same as everything that came before it! Sheridan itself is a very basic town, with a quaint old high street mostly aimed at cowboy dress. Tomorrow we are taking a scenic drive through the Bighorn range, before crossing the rest of Wyoming to reach our motel in West Yellowstone!

Photo(s) of the day: Devil’s Tower from a distance, and a prairie dog having a snack close by.