Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest

The Land
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Snowy Range, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest
Snowy Range, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest (Wyoming Travel and Tourism)

The Medicine Bow National Forest is located in the southeast quarter of Wyoming and encompasses portions of three mountain ranges: the Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Sierra Madre. The net National Forest System Lands amount to 1,093,618 acres distributed through four Wyoming counties. The Forest provides year-round recreation opportunities for thousands of people and provides wildlife habitat, timber, and forage for livestock. It is also a vital source of water for irrigation, domestic use, and industry. The topography varies greatly within the forest due to the large geographic area encompassed. Elevations range from 5,500 feet to 12,013 feet. The climate of the Medicine Bow National Forest ranges from semi-arid at low elevations to cold and humid in the high country. Frost may occur at any time, and visitors to the higher elevations should be prepared for harsh weather, including snow and high winds, even during summer months.

There are four different wilderness areas on the Medicine Bow National Forest: Savage Run , Platte River , Huston Park , and Encampment River . These areas offer freedom from cars, crowds, and mechanical noise. The forest also administers the Thunder Basin National Grasslands , located in northeastern Wyoming in the Powder River Basin between the Bighorn Mountains and the Black Hills.

The origin of Medicine Bow is legendary. The generally accepted version is that Native American tribes that inhabited southeastern Wyoming found mountain mahogany in one of the mountain valleys from which bows of exceptional quality were made. It became the custom of friendly tribes to assemble there annually and construct their weapons. At these assemblies there were ceremonial powwows for the cure of disease which, in the hybrid speech that developed between the lindens and the early whites, was known as making medicine. Eventually, the whites associated the terms making medicine and making bows, and Medicine Bow resulted as a name for the locality. Later, the name gained world-wide recognition through Owen Wister's novel, The Virginian.

Published: 9 Oct 2009 | Last Updated: 11 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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