We know that Wyoming is full of wonderful sites and sights. This column has published hundreds of stories of spectacular places to see and visit in our home state. But where would you like to not go?
Cowboy State Daily recently published a list of the worst tourist attractions in America and here in Wyoming, the Intergalactic Spaceport in Green River topped the list.
I have actually landed my airplane at the spaceport. Yeah, it was a bumpy gravel strip but it sure was handy when visiting the Green River Star, a newspaper where I was the publisher.
Now this was back in 1976. I am not sure it was even considered a spaceport then. Living in Lander, it was a 2.5-hour drive to Green River and a 40-minute flight. The then-new Rock Springs airport is about five miles east of Rock Springs, which made flying in to it and then lining up a car to drive to Green River was almost more difficult than just driving the entire way.
And let’s be honest, driving over South Pass can be thrilling just about any time of year because of wind, rain, fog, snow, and wild animals. But I digress.
In 1994, the clever folks in Green River City Council decided they wanted to create a more interesting name for their lowly, pretty much abandoned airport and came up with the idea of it being Wyoming’s “only” Intergalactic Spaceport. Very clever.
According to historian John Waggener: “The strip was constructed in 1963. It received government funding as an emergency landing area. There were no structures other than a few tie-downs and wind sock.”
Waggener, who hails from Green River, said, “there was a cross at one end put up by the Episcopal Church and sunrise services were held there on Easter morning.”
For now, the only flying objects there are birds and UFOs. Sage grouse have a lek on one end and a very large Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) nests at the other end, according to Waggener.
The site is largely abandoned except for the signs. The views, though, from on top of that mountain are spectacular. And a neat road into Firehole Canyon is not far. I like the place very much.
Instagram recently did a survey and then published a map of the 50 states which listed the worst tourist attractions in each state. Heck, I have been to 14 of them including Hollywood, Route 66, Grand Canyon, Mormon Temple, Casa Bonita, Corn Palace, Carhenge, Field of Dreams, Bourbon St., Wisconsin Dells, Disneyworld, Myrtle Beach, Times Square, and Alamo. Check out the story on Cowboy State Daily and see how many you have been to.
So, if the spaceport isn’t the worst attraction in Wyoming, what is?
For some reason I was always suspicious of going to the Vore Buffalo Jump near Sundance. But it is the real deal. It really is an amazing site. You can learn a lot there, so count that one out.
To folks who don’t get it, the Medicine Wheel high in the Big Horn Mountains between Lovell and Buffalo-Sheridan would seem to be way too much work for not enough satisfaction. Again, not true. It is a truly spiritual place.
Often called “America’s Stonehenge,” the site features 28 spokes in a rock circle. These rock cairns line up to the summer solstice and other celestial sites. I love the place. The first time I ventured there it was at dusk and I was literally the only person there. It can eerie at that time.
At 10,000 feet in elevation it literally takes your breath way in more ways than one. So, scratch that off the list.
Maybe a third overrated site would be Ayres Natural Bridge. It is a little county park along Interstate 25 between Glenrock and Casper. It is very easy to get to and should probably be a state park.
Is it an awful tourist attraction? Again, wrong. It is a wonderful place. Especially on a hot summer day, it is very cool. Don’t miss it.
Maybe the Spaceport really is the worst tourist attraction in Wyoming. Heck, it isn’t even the only spaceport. Everybody knows that Devils Tower is the main spaceport on the entire planet. Back in 1977, Stephen Spielberg arranged for a huge craft full of aliens to make the first official contact with humans there. Right on that spot. Right here in Wyoming!
So, that leaves the spaceport with the “worst” designation. Sorry Green River folks.