August 8, 2021
Lander is a city in Wyoming and the county seat of Fremont County. It is in central Wyoming, along the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River, just south of the Wind River Indian Reservation. It is a tourism center with several nearby guest ranches. Its population was 7,487 at the 2010 census.
Lander was previously known as Pushroot, Old Camp Brown and Fort Augur. Its present name was chosen in 1875 in reference to General Frederick W. Lander, a transcontinental explorer who surveyed the Oregon Trail's Lander Cutoff.
In 1868, the Fort Bridger Treaty set the Wind River Indian Reservation southern border at the Sweetwater River. But by the early 1870s, conflicts were increasing between white settlers illegally on the reservation and the Shoshone. The U.S. Government had also learned most of the desirable land east of the Wind River Mountains was on the reservation. As a result, in 1872 Congress authorized a delegation to meet with the elders of the Shoshone, including Chief Washakie to negotiate the trade or purchase of lands south of the North Fork of the Popo Agie River. After several meetings at Camp Stambaugh in the summer of 1872, the tribe agreed to sell the southern part of the reservation to the U.S. for $25,000, $5,000 in stock cattle and a five-year annual salary of $500 to Chief Washakie. The next year in 1873 The Jones Expedition further explored and documented the area that would eventually become Lander while finding a route to Yellowstone National Park. The expedition documents everything from hot springs to oil reserves and hieroglyphs in the area. Several miles southeast of town near present-day U.S. Route 287 is Dallas Dome, the site of Wyoming's first oil well completed in 1883. The town was incorporated on July 17, 1890.
On October 1, 1906, Lander became the westward terminus of the "Cowboy Line" of the Chicago and North Western Railway, thus originating the slogan "where rails end and trails begin." Originally intended to be a transcontinental mainline to Coos Bay, Oregon, or Eureka, California, the line never went further west, and service to Lander was abandoned in 1972. With the arrival of the railroad, Lander's population more than doubled between 1900 and 1910. At the turn of the century the town and surrounding valley were promising places for agricultural development due to the area's climate and potential for irrigation. At the time there were several new ventures around the town producing wool, wheat, oats, alfalfa, hay, vegetables, small fruit and in some cases orchards. However, a report from the State of Wyoming published in 1907 says agriculture around Lander only supplies local demand. In 1962 U.S. Steel opened the Atlantic City iron ore and mill, 35 miles south of Lander near Atlantic City. The mine was a significant employer in Lander, but by 1983 it ceased operations.
Twenty First Century
Lander continues to evolve and faces similar issues as many small towns in the Western U.S. Education and outdoor recreation play a large role in the town's economy with the Wyoming Catholic College and National Outdoor Leadership School both based in Lander. Though agriculture and resource extraction no longer play a large role in the town's economy, its population has continued to grow since the year 2000.
Lander's economy is based on an array of industries and like Wyoming as a whole is supported by substantial tourism. Outdoor recreation along with healthcare, education, construction and retail sales make up much of the economy. The tourism season is primarily during summer months and though Lander and Fremont County are not near any major Interstate highway, the county generates significant income from travel related taxes.
Present day Lander is home to numerous state and federal government offices, including the U.S. Forest Service (Washakie Ranger District, Shoshone National Forest), the Bureau of Land Management (Lander Field Office), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a Resident Agency of the Denver Field Office of the FBI, as well as the Wyoming Life Resource Center and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. A major bronze foundry, Eagle Bronze, is located in Lander, as is the headquarters of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and other environment and land-related non profit organizations including offices of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, the Wyoming office of The Nature Conservancy, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, and Wyoming Catholic College.
Arts and culture
The Lander Art Center downtown displays rotating art exhibits, holds biannual art fairs, and hosts varying art classes. The work of William Shakespeare is performed by the touring Wyoming Shakespeare Festival Company, a non-profit organization based out of Lander. The Lander Community Concerts Association has brought in various performing artists since 1947. Lander's local library is the main branch of the Fremont County Library System, the original local Carnegie library still stands as part of the current building.
In the early 1990s, the St. Louis based chamber-pop band, Lydia's Trumpet, recorded their song, "Lander" on the cassette release entitled: Valentine Waffle. The song is based on the city, its founder, and a nostalgic summer road trip there.
Annual cultural events
The Lander Brew Festival features samples from Rocky Mountain-area breweries and has been held since 2002.
Lander is also home to the Wyoming State Winter Fair. In addition to Livestock showings, there are also plenty of rodeo activities to see or participate in.
Other annual events include the International Climbers Festival, and the Annual One Shot Antelope Hunt.
Lander City Park located on the south end of town provides camping space and hosts a number of events in summer.
Outdoor attractions near Lander include Sinks Canyon State Park, Worthen Meadow Reservoir, Shoshone National Forest, the Wind River Mountains, and the Red Desert. Additionally, Lander is home to a number of museums, including the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, which focuses on the history of the Lander area; the Museum of the American West, which maintains a complex of historic structures; the Sacagawea Cemetery, the cemetery is located near Fort Washakie, 15 miles north of Lander on the Wind River Indian Reservation; the Lander Children's Museum, with hands-on exhibits; and the Evans Dahl Memorial Museum, dedicated to the Annual One Shot Antelope Hunt.
As does much of the state, Lander experiences a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk) with cold, dry winters and hot, more humid summers. Lander has been known to go from one extreme to another in the course of a day.