Dinosaur digs, petroglyphs, big new museum on my 2023 Wyoming bucket list (if winter ever ends)!

Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily
Posted 3/21/23

Bill Sniffin column for Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Dinosaur digs, petroglyphs, big new museum on my 2023 Wyoming bucket list (if winter ever ends)!


With the pandemic behind us and Wyoming sites and sights soon opening, it is time for me to start compiling what I call my “Wyoming Bucket List.”

This list is based on an expression from the movie “The Bucket List,” which featured Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, where two guys with terminal cancer put together a list of places they wanted to go before they died (or kicked the bucket).

Their list even included sitting on top of the Pyramids in Egypt. Not me. I like to keep my list localized to Wyoming, and I love to share it with all my friends around the state. Some of them are even kind enough to say they eagerly await my annual list and then travel the state visiting my suggested sites.

I have yet to get to all my choices in one year, but a few folks say they have made it. Good for them.

My 77th birthday is coming up as I write this, which may also have a limiting effect on my traveling efforts. Plus, there are the demands of seeing grandchildren out of state. We have both a high school graduation and a wedding in Washington state, this year, for example.

It is such a relief to have the COVID pandemic behind us. I did not publish lists for a few years because places were closed, and we were told to stay at home back in 2020 and 2021.

Last year was pretty much open, but I believe 2023 might see an all-time record for Wyoming tourism. There is one catch to this prediction, though: will this snow ever melt? Huge snowpack may keep some back roads closed and sites buried.

Here are my ideas for my 2023 Wyoming bucket list:

My first trip will be to Laramie to tour the University of Wyoming while attending the college graduation of our grandson, Wolf Johnson, in May.

I love UW. There is so much to see and so much going on. Folks all across Wyoming who do not have relatives attending the school just do not realize what we have there. It belongs to all of us and we paid for it. Please join me and check out UW this year. Besides, the entire Laramie/Albany County area is spectacular.

The greatest new tourist attraction in Wyoming over the last 50 years is the massive National Museum of Military Vehicles south of Dubois. This place is spectacular. Dan and Cynthia Starks have made a monumental donation to the future of our country by focusing on military history made by veterans who are disappearing each day.

We have been there many times but new exhibits have been created and new buildings built. It is just amazing. Please go see and plan on getting dazzled and being so impressed with the efforts of our country during great wars and other conflicts.

Dinosaur bones have been found across our great state. A dinosaur dig or a buffalo jump have zoomed to near the top of my list. Our family had never been to either and Wyoming has some of the best in the country.

The dinosaur dig southeast of Thermopolis and the Triceratops Gulch near Glenrock, plus Fossil Butte near Kemmerer are three of the most prominent dinosaur/fossil dig sites in the country.

The Vore Buffalo Jump near Sundance is also an incredible place to visit.

There are also ranches around Wyoming that might host folks, but you have to contact them and convince them that you can keep a secret where the bones are found.

In 1993, I spent a very nervous time hunting a bighorn ram in the Double Cabin area northeast of Dubois. I would love to go back for a more relaxed trip this time around. There were petrified forests above timberline and a place that included a meadow full of vertical rocks standing on end. Lots of grizzly bears like that spot, too.

On the Wind River Reservation west of Thermopolis, I finally visited the Arapaho Ranch and also visited the mountains at the extreme north end of the rez. We also saw Legend Rock, which is also in that neighborhood — fantastic home of petroglyphs.

Back in 2018, Nancy and I toured eastern Wyoming, spending time around Hulett, Sundance, Newcastle, Lusk, Douglas, Torrington and Wheatland. What a great area full of beautiful sites and wonderful people. I would like to take my grandkids over there this summer.

Historian Phil Roberts says he will give me a tour of the “breaks” north of Lusk some time. I flew over that area by private plane many times and looked down in awe at this rough country. Thanks, Phil.

Fort Laramie near Wheatland was the most important spot in the western United States for about 75 years. It is a wonderful historical site.

A tour of Wyoming’s giant coal mines near Gillette and Wright also makes sense.

We also have a promise from State Sen. Dan Dockstader to give us a tour of the Star Valley area. The few times I have been there, the beauty was amazing. The Bear River area around Evanston is also worth a trip as is a visit to their fantastic historic railroad roundhouse which has been restored.

I would like to visit the famous authors, W. Michael Gear and his wife Kathleen, either in Thermopolis or Cody. I am halfway through Michael’s best-selling book “The Outpost.” It is fantastic science fiction that consists of a six-book series. I can see movies and TV shows coming. It would be fun to also run up to Ucross and chat with author Craig Johnson.

Lovell publisher Dave Peck has promised me a tour of Big Horn Lake behind Yellowtail Dam. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time.

Obviously, I did not mention all our best-known sites like Yellowstone and Devils Tower and the Oregon Trail. Go see them, too. 

There are just so many wonderful places to visit in Wyoming. There are lots of other lists out there, too. The county visitor boards all have web sites promoting their individual highlights.

Have a great summer!