Welcome to Rawlins, Wyoming!
Rawlins draws its namesake from Civil War veteran Maj. Gen. John Rawlins. The general arrived in the area in 1867 on a surveying trip with Union Pacific Chief Engineer Grenville Dodge, in hopes that the dry air of the West would help his tuberculosis.
Out of water, the party discovered a spring near where the City of Rawlins now stands. The general proclaimed its water the sweetest water he’d ever tasted. “(Rawlins) said that if anything was ever named for him, he wanted it to be a spring of water. I said, ‘We will name this Rawlins Springs,'” recalled Dodge in his memoir.
The town that sprung up nearby was named Rawlins Springs. It was designated as a division point of the railroad and a depot was built, and still stands to this day. By the time the town was incorporated in 1886, the “Springs” had been dropped from its name.
Rawlins is the county seat of Carbon County, Wyoming and boasts a population of 8,820 residents (2019).
A favorite event during Rawlins’ mild summers is Music in the Park. Hosted at Washington Park, the concert series features musicians performing a variety of genres on a weekly basis. Downtown Rawlins also hosts the popular SummerFest, an annual celebration featuring historic Outhouse Races, sidewalk sales, children’s activities and games, and ice cream and watermelon eating contests. Rawlins also hosts a snowy-themed WinterFest each year.
Another favorite event are the wind races, where riders sail on carts propelled by Rawlins’ infamous wind gusts.
In addition, hundreds of people flock to the Cow Plop Festival, where cows are placed on a grid and people make bets on which grid number the cow will “plop” on first.
The Carbon County Fair and Rodeo, held the first week of each August, brings in hundreds of competitors and spectators from all across the West for good old fashioned 4-H, calf roping, barrel racing, and bull riding, among other events.
The Pen-to-Pen Fun Run, hosted by the historic Wyoming Frontier Prison, starts runners at the Wyoming State Penitentiary and has them race to the historic “Old Pen” where they’re met with tours of the prison-turned-museum, vendors and sidewalk sales, and a barbeque.
Things to do
As the county seat, Rawlins is the gateway to the outdoor playgrounds of Carbon County, including fishing the Miracle Mile, boating the lake at Seminoe, hunting in the Snowy Range Mountains, and hiking along Lake Marie, as well as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, kayaking, bird watching, mountain biking and searching for fossils and other artifacts. A popular activity is the Rochelle Ranch Golf Course, which offers visitors and residents a chance to tee off on a course that Golf Digest ranked 29th on its 2010 list of the nation’s most difficult golf courses. Mixing history and art, Rawlins also boasts incredible murals throughout its downtown which feature famous icons of the West, such as “Desert Dust.” The mural tour is a favorite for both visitors and residents. For the first time in many years, Rawlins now offers an art gallery located downtown, which includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and many other forms of artwork.
Places to see
The Wyoming Frontier Prison, also known as the “Old Pen,” first opened in 1901 and housed more than 13,000 inmates during its 80 years as a correctional facility. Now, the Old Pen attracts visitors with its “I did time in Rawlins, WY” slogan and hosts guided tours through the prison, including a visit to the Death Chamber. The prison’s haunted tours around Halloween are a favorite for the horror lover.
- The Wyoming Frontier Prison: A favorite attraction for the history buff in Rawlins is the Carbon County Museum, which is ever expanding and adding new displays, including an interactive “Discovery Zone” for children.
- Carbon County Museum
Shopping and dining
Rawlins offers an array of shops that cover everything from hunting gear to souvenirs. In addition to good ol’ American fare, Rawlins also has a quality selection of ethnic restaurants, including Thai, Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Chinese. The city has two supermarkets: City Market and Walmart.
Rawlins’ top employers including Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, Carbon County School District 1, and the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
Local Real Estate
Located just six miles east of Rawlins, Sinclair was founded in 1924, and originally named “Parco” after the Producers and Refiners Corporation (PARCO), which built what is now known as Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company. Residents voted to rename the town Sinclair in 1943 after the Sinclair Refining Company purchased all of PARCO’s properties in 1935. Originally, the town was company-owned, but in 1967 the Sinclair Refining Company sold the houses to their occupants. The refinery, located in the center of town, remains in use today. Sinclair is home to a projected 426 people, according to a recent census.
The annual Holiday Fair offers shoppers a multitude of items including holiday crafts, jewelry, food, and clothing. This event takes place each November at the Sinclair Recreation Center. The park, and the historic Parco Inn, both offer residents and visitors insight into the history of the town.
Things to do
History enthusiasts can learn about the area’s past at the Parco/Sinclair Museum, a historic building that served as the First National Bank of Parco from 1924-1933. The historic district features unique Spanish Mission style architecture and a large “bearcat” foundation that was recently renovated. Visitors and residents can also tee off at the Sinclair Golf Course, which is open from mid-April through mid-October. Golfers can play an 18-hole game on the nine-hole course, which contains two tee boxes.
As it has since its founding, Sinclair’s economy relies heavily on the refinery, which produces 60,000 barrels of petroleum products per day. Sinclair Oil is the town’s largest employer.
The mineral hot springs, located right in the middle of town, has long drawn people to the Platte River Valley. The first to use the springs were Native American tribes, who called the area “the place of magic waters.” The town itself was founded in the early 1870s under the name of “Warm Springs.” Former Wyoming governor Fenimore Chatterton, who grew up on the East Coast, renamed the town Saratoga in 1884 after Saratoga Springs of New York. Soldiers from surrounding forts, including Fort Fred Steele, came to the area and filed water rights in the 1870s. Ranches also made their early homes around Saratoga. Some of these ranches are still in existence today, and help make up the population of 1,671 residents. Saratoga is located 41 miles southeast of Rawlins.
Visitors to Saratoga in the summer can attend the Platte River Rodeo Association Rodeo in July at the Buck Springs Rodeo Arena. Other favorites include the Steinley Cup state microbrewery competition and Bullfest, a bull riders-only event. During the winter, visitors can compete in the annual ice-fishing derby and bet Calcutta-style at the annual Donald E. Erickson Chariot Races.
Things to do
Visitors can enjoy a float trip down the North Platte River starting in Saratoga or schedule an outdoor adventure, such as a guided fishing trip, with one of many outfitters in town. The North Platte River is known for its trophy fishing opportunities, hence the town[‘s motto, “Where the Trout Leap on Main Street.” Travelers can stop for lunch or shopping in town before embarking upon the Snowy Range Scenic Byway – usually open from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October – and traverse the Medicine Bow Mountain Range.
Saratoga is known for its mineral hot springs. Visitors can either soak in the pools of the Saratoga Resort and Spa or take a free dip in the Hobo Pools in the middle of town. Saratoga Lake provides year-round fishing, with an ice-fishing derby that attracts anglers from all around the country. In the summer, the lake is often used for boating, wind surfing and water skiing. The nearby Medicine Bow Forest and Snowy Range provides hundreds of miles of trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting and horseback riding.
Places to see
The Saratoga Museum is housed in the 1915 Union Pacific Railroad Depot. In addition to historical artifacts, the museum is home to one of Wyoming’s largest gem and mineral displays and includes an exhibit of Wyoming jade. The museum also has on display a real mammoth’s tooth from a nearby excavation.
Saratoga was ranked 10th in Outdoor Life Magazine’s list of top 35 hunting and fishing towns in the nation. The same magazine ranked the town 8th on its list of the top 20 outdoor recreation cities in the nation.
Dining and shopping
Saratoga offers a wide range of dining opportunities, ranging from gourmet Italian to grilled burgers. Visitors can buy hunting and fishing supplies from several places in town, and the main street features a gallery that displays work from regional artists.
The town’s top employers include Carbon County School District 2, U.S. Forest Service, Forest Management and Sinclair Oil Refinery.
Encampment and Riverside are the only two remaining towns of the eight Hamlets of the Grand Encampment, which were mostly formed after the 1897 copper strike in nearby Sierra Madre Mountains. During the boom period, Encampment’s population numbered in the thousands, today a projected 443 people call Encampment home. At one point a 16-mile aerial tramway was built – at that time the longest in the world. In 1908, the company, which had produced $2 million in copper ore, was indicted for overcapitalization and fraudulent stock sales. Mines closed and most of the settlements were abandoned. A large sawmill operated in the town between 1950 and 1998. Riverside is now home to a projected 53 people. Encampment is located 60 miles southeast of Rawlins.
Encampment is home to the Woodchoppers Jamboree, an annual celebration featuring a rodeo and a variety of competitive wood chopping events. The celebration usually takes place in mid-June. Downtown Encampment also hosts the annual Sierra Madre Winter Carnival at the end of January. The annual celebration includes sled and snowmobile races, turkey curling, chili and fresh bread cook-offs and snow sculpturing. The town also hosts the Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering in July. This event features free entertainment, a children’s stick horse rodeo, a concert and a Dutch over cook-off. River is home to WhatFest, a music festival featuring artists from around the region.
Things to do
Fishing enthusiasts can drive about one hour south of Encampment and Riverside to Hog Park Reservoir, near the Wyoming-Colorado border. Visitors also can take a drive from Encampment to Baggs on the Battle Pass Scenic Byway (Wyoming Highway 70), which crosses the Continental Divide at Battle Pass.
Although Encampment and Riverside were once home to a copper boom, the current largest employer in the area is now the local government. The town of Encampment employs the many of its residents.
The Town of Hanna was established in 1889 by the Union Pacific Coal Company as a company town. Many Hanna residents have family stories to tell about the No. 1 mine explosion in 1903 and again in 1908. The 1903 explosion killed 169 people, making it the largest coalmine disaster in the history of Wyoming. The mining industry has fluctuated considerably in the area. A slowdown occurred after 1954 when Union Pacific converted to diesel-powered locomotives. The industry was revived again in the late 1970s and 1980s – mainly by strip mines – before slacking again in the late 1980s. Hanna’s population peaked at 2,294 people in 1980 and has steadily declined since the coalmines ceased their operations. 827 residents now call Hanna home. Hanna is located 40 miles southwest of Rawlins.
King Coal Days, which commemorates the town’s mining history, usually takes place at the end of each July. The event includes a parade and horseshoe and cribbage tournaments. An inflatable amusement park is set up for children to enjoy.
Things to do
Hanna is a gateway to a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. Visitors can find hunting and fishing spots in the area, or head north to Elk Mountain or south to Medicine Bow National Forest, which offers camping, hiking, fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing and trails for horseback riding.
The newest development in Hanna’s economy stems from a groundbreaking company. The area has been selected to become home to one of the first coal-to-gasoline companies in the United States, DKRW.
The Town of Elk Mountain shares its name with a mountain located seven miles away, which was named after Sioux Chief Standing Elk. The area was originally used as a crossing point over the Medicine Bow River. Ben Holladay had a stage stop built at what was known as Medicine Bow River Crossing. As time passed, the town’s economy turned to timber, mining and ranching. The town’s first store was built in 1902. Today, Elk Mountain is home to a project 196 people. Elk Mountain is located 45 miles away from Rawlins.
Things to do
Elk Mountain is home to the Historic Elk Mountain Hotel. Built in 1905, the hotel boasts about its historic roots, serving “entrepreneurs and laborers who traveled (to Elk Mountain) for the timber, mineral and ranching industries.” Another structure on the historic river is the bridge crossing the Medicine Bow River. The one-lane bridge is more than 100 years old. The county moved the trusses of the bridge to the count road 109 in 2012. They’re set up alongside an existing bridge and are still visible from afar.
Gateway to the outdoors
Visitors can cast a line into the Medicine Bow River from the town park or they can take a scenic drive on County Road 400, also known as Rattle Snake Pass Road, or Pass Creek Road. Both routes connect to Wyoming Highway 130.
Like many other towns across southern Wyoming, Medicine Bow was established as a result of the const4ruction of the transcontinental railroad in 1868. In the mid-1880s, Philadelphia lawyer Owen Wister stopped in town and wrote a description of the town in his journal. He later used the historic setting of Medicine Bow as a backdrop for his novel “The Virginian,” whish is considered to be the first novel of the “Western” genre. The historic Virginian Hotel, completed in 1911, was named after the novel. Today 277 residents call Medicine Bow home. Medicine Bow is located 58 miles from Rawlins.
Medicine Bow is home to Bow Days, an annual celebration weekend in June. Events include a parade, outdoor dances and a re-enactment of the lynching of Dutch Charlie, which took place in nearby Carbon.
Things to do
Visitors can enjoy a meal or stay at the Virginian Hotel, named after Owen Wister’s classic novel. The hotel also hosts the “Battle of Old Wyoming,” a music festival held in August. A few miles east on Highway 30 is the Dinosaur Fossil Cabin, built entirely of bones excavated from the nearby “dinosaur graveyard” of Como Bluff.
In contrast to Medicine Bow’s early days, when the workforce relied heavily on the railroad, the town’s top employer is now the Virginian Hotel. Residents are preparing for the construction of DKRW coal-to-gasoline plant – one of the first of its kind in the nation. The project is expected to bring more jobs back into the town.
Established in 1879, Baggs was named after Maggie and George Baggs, early settlers and ranchers. Prior to its founding, fur trappers, prospectors and Native Americans were drawn to the area around Baggs, known as the Little Snake River Valley. The infamous outlaws Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the rest of the “Wild Bunch” are said to have frequented Baggs and Dixon. Baggs is located 77 miles from Rawlins.
Baggs and other members of the Little Snake River Valley boast several events, including the annual Music Fest in July at the Little Snake River Museum in Savery, located about 11 miles east of Baggs. The Fall Trek, a day trip that takes participants to various historical sites in the area, takes place in September.
Things to do
Visitors can visit the Outlaw Stop and view the house that Butch Cassidy stayed in. Sportsmen also can take advantage of local hunting with the aid of an outfitting business. Visitors also can take a drive along the Battle Pass Scenic Byway (Wyoming Highway 70) starting in Baggs and traveling east on through Dixon and Savery to Encampment and Riverside. The route winds through the Medicine Bow National Forest and passes by several campgrounds. Travelers should note that the byway is closed during the winter months.
The Devon Energy Corporation is Baggs’ major employer. The area is also home to various ranching and oil and gas operations.
Native Americans and mountain men first settled Savery. It is nationally recognized as the home of the beloved Wyoming mountain man Jim Baker, one of the first settlers in the valley. Descendants of Baker still live in Dixon and tend to the family cemetery. Much like the town of Baggs, Butch Cassidy frequented Dixon and Savery and Sundance Kid’s rifle is featured on display at the Little Snake River Museum. On at least one occasion, local trappers clashed with Native American. Battle Mountain, located east of Savery, was the site of a two-day battle in 1841 between area Crow and Sioux Indians and local trappers. Dixon is located 84 miles from Rawlins.
Every summer, the community hosts a barbecue and a Peruvian soccer match for seasonal ranch workers on the Little Snake River Museum grounds.
Things to do
Outdoor enthusiasts can hunt an array of wildlife in the area, including mule deer, elk, antelope, mountain lions and bears — all of which are indigenous in the Little Snake River Valley. Fishermen can visit Savery Creek along the Little Snake River for Colorado River cutthroat, mountain whitefish, rainbow and tiger trout. Visitors can also learn about the local history at the Little Snake River Museum located in Savery. In addition to Jim Baker’s cabin, the museum grounds contain replicas of three historic businesses: Freddie Johnson Barber Shop, John Irons Saloon and the Harris Mercantile.
Ranching and oil and gas companies are the biggest economic sources in Savery and Dixon.