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New Wyoming Guide Explores Culture Through a Geology Lens
From the Oregon Trail to Paleo-Indian red ochre mines, Wyoming has many sites where culture and geology merge and stories unfold. The Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) has released a new “intelligent travel” program, which includes a free driving map, videos, and interactive website.
The Origin of Landscape: A Guide to Wyoming’s Cultural Geology allows users to see and virtually explore the nexus between geological phenomena, landscape, and cultural beginnings.
“Geology forms the basis for the cultural use of our natural resources,” says Wayne Sutherland, WSGS gemstones and minerals geologist. “Human interaction and adaptation to Wyoming’s geology and its related landscapes goes back to our earliest cultural beginnings and will continue to do so in the future.”
The website portal for Wyoming’s Cultural Geology Guide includes a state map for users to click on a tour to access all sorts of information about that site, including a short video, feature story, and photos. Expert guides are on location discussing the cultural and geological significance of each site featured on the tour.
“Geology is technical by nature but through this program and the stories about how geology has contributed to our cultural identity, the public can gain a much greater understanding of the complex interactions between humans and our geologic past and present," says Julie Francis, archeologist with the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
The Origin of Landscape: A Guide to Wyoming’s Cultural Geology includes the following tour stops (16 videos):
- The Flight of the Nez Percé
- The Beartooth Plateau - Up and Over the Top of the World
- Yellowstone Archaeology
- American Indians of Yellowstone – Complex Relationships
Pumpkin Buttes – Uranium Fever
- Red Ochre and Clovis
- The Sunrise Iron Mine and Hartville, Wyoming’s oldest town
- Spanish Diggings
Como Bluff and “the Bone Wars”
Vedauwoo Recreation Area
Great Divide Basin – Did you know you cross the Continental Divide twice?
- The Oregon Trail
- Wyoming's Trona Resource
- Opal, Wyoming
- White Mountain Petroglyphs
- Ancient Journeys
- Early hunters and the pronghorn migration
- Oil and gas resources
Complementing the website is a large color map identifying each tour stop location, along with written descriptions of the sites, and mobile tags in which travelers can use a smartphone to access the videos of the tours. The backside of the guide includes a map with the locations and descriptions of museums across the state, as well as a historical timeline of cultural and geological events in Wyoming. A total of 50,000 copies of this brochure-type map were printed and distributed to the state’s visitor centers (thanks to a partnership with the Wyoming Office of Travel and Tourism) as well as chambers of commerce, and museums across the state.
Wyoming is a state with tremendous and varied geological resources. These same resources have contributed to our cultural identity and date back to the days of early human occupation, about 13,000 years ago. Rock formations served as canvases for spiritual art, landforms served as markers for westward migrations, and minerals have led to the establishment of historic mining towns.
"Throughout both ancient and modern times, the geological landscape has played a critical role in how humans adapt to the natural environment,” Francis says. “Landforms and topography are key to both human and animal movements across the region, and mineral resources have been mined by Paleo-Indians."
The Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund provided grant funding for this project, which was produced by WSGS Public Information Officer Chamois Andersen. Partners include the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming Office of Travel and Tourism, and the Alliance for Historic Wyoming.
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