Wyoming provides a plethora of literary destinations.
The great outdoors is usually what brings tourists to Wyoming, but Yellowstone and the various hiking, camping, and hunting spots aren’t the only reason people stop by during family vacations.
Wyoming has had a strong literary history for as long as the state has been in existence. In fact, the Laramie County Library was operating before Wyoming was officially a US state.
This important component of the state’s history may be partially behind the fact that so many prolific authors once called Wyoming home, including Ernest Hemingway, Annie Proulx, and Owen Wister.
So if you find yourself heading to Wyoming on your next vacation, don’t worry too much about not being very outdoorsy. There are several literary destinations throughout the state that you might want to check out during your stay.
As mentioned above, Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of his time in Wyoming, noting the state as one of only two areas in the world that he loved (the other was Africa). He wrote several of his books and stories at either Nordquist Ranch or the Spear-O-Wigwam Ranch, including A Farewell to Arms, To Have and Have Not, and Death in the Afternoon. Visitors to the area can still visit both sites, and the cabin Hemingway lived in is still standing at Spear-O-Wigwam.
Another famous author, Owen Wister, wrote one of the very first novels in the Western genre, The Virginian, in Medicine Bow. An old and allegedly haunted hotel named after the novel is currently open to guests for anyone who wants to visit.
Wister and Hemingway both also frequented the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, along with historical guests like Calamity Jane, Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid. Tourists are welcome to visit the hotel and check out the museum therein, which features exhibits covering the Range Wars of 1892, as well as Western novels inspired by these events.
Most of the time, it’s easy to find a bookstore in practically any town or city, but Wyoming takes its bookstores to a whole new level. Laramie features two unique bookstores for literature lovers to visit, the Second Story and Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse. The Second Story is quite famous for its regular book signing and live reading events, during which authors visit to either sign copies of their latest book or read a few passages of what they’ve published.
Night Heron Books is a used bookstore in one aspect and a restaurant/coffee house in another. As such, visitors can browse through book titles, eat breakfast or lunch, and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee.
If this sounds like the place for you, it might also be worth a trip north to Sweetwater Station, which houses Mad Dog and Pilgrim, an old-timey bookstore that often features rare books in addition to antiques, and a small farm that houses chickens, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, and more.
Wyoming has no shortage of fantastic libraries to visit, so if you’re in one of these areas, be sure to stop in at one or more of the following four libraries.
Laramie County Library
As the first library in the state, Laramie County Library houses an impressive variety of rare literary collections. These collections include (but aren’t limited to):
- The Trails Collection
(Collection of Western History pieces by Ronald W. Sandefer and Linda G Sandefer, which detail the Oregon Trail, Lewis & Clark Expedition, and Mormon migrations)
- The Western History Collection
(a donated collection valued at approximately $25,000 and featuring documentation on various periods and locations in Western American history)
- The LeClercq Jones Collection
(featuring drawings, photos, and research documents collected by the amateur historian, LeClercq Jones)
- The Wyoming History Collection
(historical coverage of events in Cheyenne, Laramie County, and Wyoming in general, including community histories, the Annals of Wyoming journals, and yearbook copies)
In addition to the plethora of collections, Laramie County Library also features the Special Collections Reading Room, where visitors can sit down in a dedicated area adorned with antique furniture and review sections of these special collections.
Laramie isn’t the only library that manages a rare collection of books. The University of Wyoming’s Toppan Library (part of the American Heritage Center) also collects, maintains, and displays rare and/or priceless literary content. Should you stop in for a visit, you might expect to see:
- The Arthur and Helen Rippey Collection
- The Louise Jackson Collection
- Manuscript Pentateuch
(an ancient manuscript recorded in Sumerian)
- The Lewis Knapp Collection
(an intact book that displays printing work as it was done before 1500)
- Papyrus Fragment from an Egyptian Book of the Dead
- George Cruikshank’s Illustrated Books
- Illuminated Manuscript from the Korans
Johnson County Library
The Johnson County Library is an excellent destination for visitors who’re interested in exploring genealogy and the state’s history. The library’s archives feature:
- Newspaper Archives
- 400+ Oral Histories
- Ledgers, Cookbooks, and Sheriff’s Records
- Historical Publications
- Census Records
- Family Histories
- Local History Books
- Antique Photographs
Natrona County Public Library
Natrona County’s Public Library is another location to visit for individuals who have a passion for history. This library has collected an impressive number of records and other documents that can be reviewed upon request. Among these historical collections are:
- Jay Lawson Collection
- Newspaper Archives
(Natrona County Tribune, Casper Times, Edgerton Independent, Wyoming Derrick, and more)
- The Petroleum Collection
- Western Histories
- State History Collection
- City Directories
Finally, if you plan to visit Wyoming during certain times of the year, you might want to drop in for one of the state’s literature-centric events.
The Wyoming Writers Conference is a yearly gathering that welcomes writers from all over the state to connect and expand upon their existing skills in a collaborative environment. This year’s event takes place from June 2nd to June 4th and will feature Nebraska poet Matt Mason, Bill Downs, Angie Hodapp, Nina McConigley, and Bernadette Soehner.
Wyoming also hosts the Equality State Book Festival, which takes place at various locations throughout the state and features talks given by famous authors, poetry sessions, publisher panels, book signings, advice, agent networking, and a lot more. As of now, the Wyoming State Library has not announced the dates for 2023’s event, but stay tuned if you’re interested.
Finally, for mystery enthusiasts, Wyoming’s Longmire Days is an annual event held in Buffalo, WY. It centers around Craig Johnson’s mystery series and often highlights actors who performed in the Longmire TV series. This year’s event is scheduled for July 20th-23rd.
Hopefully, this short segment has provided you with numerous literature-based vacation ideas to try out during your time in Wyoming. Whether you’re interested in reading and writing or hitting the trail, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this historic state.