Today we left Wyoming and headed for South Dakota after spending a week in that interesting state. I wanted to do a couple blogs on our short time in Wyoming. One of the big difficulties I will have while nomading is not being able to explore more in each state we come to. One of my objectives when I started this journey was to explore less of the Western United States and more of the Midwestern, Southern and Eastern states that I have either spent little time in or never seen before. I have done several trips to Wyoming in the past, so although I would have loved to explore more of the state on this trip, it would have prevented us from visiting places in the Midwest before the winter weather sets in.
Our first stop in Wyoming was the town of Evanston. We chose Evanston because it was the perfect day’s drive from our overnight stop at Wells, Nevada. In addition, when I looked it up it had this nice park called Bear River State Park not too far from an RV park in Evanston. After setting up our RV at our site in Evanston, we headed over to Bear River State Park to check it out and do some walking. The weather was perfect that day – sunny with an amazing display of clouds. Bear River is beautiful and the walking paths were great.
Sign boards along the way explained the wildlife in the area and I read that moose were frequently spotted at this park! I have only seen a moose once in my life and that was in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was not a great sighting, the moose was in the bushes and not in clear view. I was excited about the prospect of seeing a moose here at Bear River. In my imagination, I would round a corner of the river (like the picture below) and see a moose standing in the river in plain view – water running off his antlers and coat while he foraged the river bottom for food.
It became our goal for the next two evenings to try and spot a moose. The state park visitor center had a very nice employee who showed us on the park map the best places to look and suggested early evening as the optimum time. We walked along the river and even away from the river past the willow thickets and into the trees and meadows, no luck. In fact, we saw no wildlife at all except for birds and I was very happy to see some black billed magpies. But not so much as a squirrel rustling in the bushes as we walked around. Rocky and Bullwinkle, where are you? The park does have a herd of bison that are in a fenced area as well as several elk.
I learned something new from the park visitor center. There are no “buffalo” in North America, only in Africa and Asia. The animals we often think of as buffalo here are actually “bison.” Buffalo and bison have different physical characteristics and life spans. This park was a real find for us in our travels. It was beautiful, near our RV park and a great way to get some exercise! I like the picture below of two young boys fishing together on the river. It seemed rather old fashioned and small town. What a great way to grow up!
We had other discoveries in Evanston which made me realize how fun it is on travels to find the unexpected. Evanston is a very historical town. Pioneers traveling on the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails all passed through here. The first coast to coast auto route in 1913, known as the Lincoln Highway passed through here. There was an original 1928 highway marker in town set up by the Boy Scouts. We visited the local town museum and I also took a tour with a kind docent at the Chinese Joss House or temple down the street which is only opened by request. She was willing to walk me down there even in a good rain storm. There was a Chinese town in Evanston with peak years in the 1870’s and 1880’s when more than 100 Chinese lived here. The Chinese came to work on the railroad and also in the coal mines. This temple is a reconstruction of the original and I was expecting a temple interior with altars like the ones I have been privileged to see in California. This temple is really a museum with some artifacts but mostly information on the life of the Chinese.
I love history, can never get enough of it. Railroads are one of my favorite historical topics and something we often encounter in our travels. This visit was no exception. Evanston has a strong railroad history and has the only remaining round house between Omaha and Sacramento. It could service 28 engines and the massive turntable still works. We were able to poke around the rail yards and see old railroad cars and the renovation of the round house in progress. In the picture below I am standing in a box car that was repurposed as a picnic venue!
I was really impressed with what this town is doing with the round house. They are turning it into a convention and event center. Weddings and parties can even be booked here. The restoration is only partial at this time and it was fun being able to see both the old and the new. In the picture below I am standing next to one of the pre renovation engine stall doors.
We read in a brochure that the city was fundraising for the rail yard by selling miniature or HO size rail cars highlighting Evanton’s railroad history. We stopped into City Hall and purchased a car highlighting a time when Evanston had ice ponds to chill fruit and vegetables carried on the rails. We saw and learned about other interesting things here in this town but this post is long enough so I will end for now. My next post I plan to talk about our visit to Casper, a larger city than Evanston but also full of history. Thanks for reading!