By Kent Danjanovich
Many areas throughout the west have proven to be instrumental in the expansion of our great country. Lewis and Clark were the first famous exploring duo to venture west, finally reaching the vast Pacific Ocean in the fall of 1805. They would open the door to others such as Zeb Pike, Jim Bridger and Kit Carson, who would serve as a guide for John Fremont, nicknamed the Pathfinder for his map-making abilities that would quickly open the doors to mass migration westward.
The Oregon, Mormon and California trails, along with the short-lived Pony Express Route, all passed through an area in central Wyoming that would become one of the "Hubs" of the west, the town we know today as Casper, Wyoming.
The history behind Casper is a fascinating one, one that would be well worth your time to explore. So many important parts of the movement west came about because of its involvement. And today, the city is a perfect mingling of old and new, with its storied history a big part of its modern-day scene.
If you haven’t heard, Casper is one of those "diamonds in the rough" places that is starting to really get a lot of exposure. The beautiful high-desert valley is surrounded by mountain peaks and corridors to more beauty in every direction. Business and residential areas are continuing to grow at an even pace, with farming and oil still essential parts of their future.
Another big part of the area's allure are the great outdoor opportunities. Hunting, fishing, and winter sports activities are almost endless. I only know of a handful of places in the country that can offer the diversity that Casper has and a look at their 2019 Events Calendar is proof of that:
- January 26-27 – Canines for Charity Dog Sled Race
- May 18 – Harmony, Hops & Hopes (Beer festival, music, and more)
- May 24-27 - Cruizin’ with the Oldies Car Show
- June 7-9 – NIC Fest (Arts festival)
- June 9-15 – College National Finals Rodeo
- July 5-13 – Central Wyoming Fair & Rodeo
- July 19-21 – Re/Max Balloon Roundup
- August 3-4 – Beartrap Music Festival
- August 24 – 5150’ Festival (Celebrating all things Casper)
- November 30 – Downtown Christmas Parade
Now for a little bit about the other side of the Casper area – their spectacular hunting and fishing opportunities. It all begins with one of the best trout rivers in the country running right through the middle of the town! The North Platte River is famous for its abundance of big rainbows and browns. The Grey Reef section, along with The Miracle Mile, offer the avid fly fisherman the opportunity to hook into a true fish of a lifetime. Both waters are home to over 4,000 fish per mile and with an average length of 16-20 inches and bruisers in the 10- to 20-pound class lurking, well need I say more.
Wyoming is known for pronghorn antelope and plenty of them. Rocky Mountain elk and mule deer are also highly sought after on either public lands or private ranches throughout the state. A host of great outfitters are available in the greater Casper area (www.northplattelodge.com) and if you are lucky enough to draw a tag, they can help to make your dream of harvesting a trophy of a lifetime come true.
On my recent visit to Casper, I had the pleasure of visiting a few local attractions: The Nicolaysen Art Museum, known throughout the region as The NIC, has occupied its current 25,000 square foot location at 400 East Collins since 1989, when an extensive renovation of the 1914 Mountain States Power Company building was completed. The NIC is a full-service institution that offers programs to the city of Casper and to the state of Wyoming. The NIC prides itself as being a cultural anchor for the community, offering exhibits and special events that engage and celebrate diverse artists and artistic influences. While The NIC’s primary focus is exhibiting the work of contemporary artists, through its permanent collection of over 8,000 works, the museum also showcases works by renowned Western artists and the great masters. The NIC’s Discovery Center is open during regular hours for artistic exploration and creativity. Through the Center, The NIC (www.thenic.org) also offers art education and therapeutic art programs and workshops throughout the year.
The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Department of Interior. The facility opened in 2002 and is a public/private partnership between the BLM, the National Historic Trails Center Foundation and the City of Casper, Wyoming. The Trails Center (nhtcf.org) commemorates Native American history, early explorers and the travel corridor of the Oregon, Mormon, California, and Pony Express trails, as well as the Bridger and Bozeman trails through hands-on, interactive exhibits in seven galleries and an 18-minute multi-media program. This is a real must-see destination and best of all – it’s free to the public.
One of the newest businesses in town is the Gruner Brothers Brewing Company. Housed in the former Casper Petroleum Club, their brewery and restaurant offer the best views in the valley, with exceptional food and suds to match. Daron Gruner, who is a mechanical engineer by trade, has been dabbling in the brewing of beer for around 25 years, while his brother Ben handles the business aspects of the brewery, and everything seems to be working out pretty well. Unlike most microbreweries, Gruner’s Brothers Brewing (grunerbrewing.com) focuses on malty beers, as opposed to hoppy, and they are making a big splash already as their offerings have worked their way into many outlets throughout the state.
Many other great restaurants can be found throughout the city, and you will surely be able to book a room in your favorite hotel for your short or extended stay.
Casper is truly one of those little towns in the west that will surprise you with everything that it has to offer. Their economy is thriving, the city fathers have excellent vision for the future and both are committed to offering residents and visitors alike the red carpet treatment at every turn. Why not do a little "exploring" on your own and plan a visit to the gateway of the west – Casper, Wyoming (www.visitcasper.com).
While you're in the area, drop by Sportsman's Warehouse in Casper!