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Rawlins lies on Interstate 80 in south-central Wyoming approximately 70 miles north of the Colorado border. We are 100 miles west of Laramie and 120 miles east of Rock Springs
We are located along the northern foothills of the Sierra Madre range which is part of the Rocky Mountains. We are in the middle of what is called the high plains and on the fringe of the Red Desert lying to the west. We therefore have a wide choice of terrain and recreational opportunities close at hand.
The Medicine Bow National Forest is 30 miles south and provides hunting, fishing, camping, motorcycling and sight-seeing opportunities.
Interstate 80 passes over the North Platte River approximately 15 miles to the east which then flows into Seminoe Reservoir some 10 miles north. This is a large reservoir where many of the locals spend their free time fishing, boating and water skiing. The dam itself provides hydro-electric energy to many parts of the northwestern United States.
Rawlins has a great deal of history since it was originally established as a stop along the Union Pacific railroad. This community has seen everything from outlaws to indians to cattle barons to sheep dynasties but is now a quiet place where it's residents go about their daily activities much as the rest of America does.
The elevation of Rawlins is 6755 feet above sea level
The Frontier Prison: This complex which is located only a few blocks from downtown is where, until 1982, housed all prisoners incarcerated by the State of Wyoming. Since the new penitentiary was built south of town, the old site has been utilized as a historic site. The facility was opened for visitors in 1987 and tours are now conducted daily in the summer time and on an appointment basis in the winter months. It is a very unique site which also houses a museum of peace officers memorabilia. In a recent election, money was earmarked for stabilization of the site where monies will be spent to repair a leaking roof and rebuild the old cafeteria where a resident artist painted several murals on the walls. Several years ago the prison was used to film a movie called 'Prison' where many of the local residents were hired as extras. Last year 30,000 people came here to take the tour and much effort is being expended to make it an even more attractive tour in the future. If you are in the area, do yourself a favor and sign up for a tour, you will not be disappointed. Pictured is one of the young, enthusiastic and fun tour guides showing off the gas chamber which is one of the focal points of a tour.
The downtown area of Rawlins consists of many historic buildings build in the early part of the 20th century with some very interesting architecture. In 1987, a mural was painted on the side of what was then the WoolWorth's building which depicts the many wildlife species which abound around Rawlins. It is quite interesting a worth the time to take a look. In 1997, the renovation work on the old Union Pacific Depot was completed and the building is quit handsome and is now used as a meeting place with three rooms for use by the public. It is hoped this area will become a focal point of the downtown area since a park has been created across the street with a gazebo and fountain and lots of open space for picnics, playing and relaxing.
The Union Pacific Railroad's main line runs through Rawlins and many residents are subsequently employed there. Huge quantities of the nations goods pass through on the railroad, headed to all parts of the country.
The Sinclair Oil Refinery, located 6 miles to the east of Rawlins in Sinclair, also employs many of the local residents. Oil is gathered in the surrounding areas, shipped via pipeline to this facility and then it is refined into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Since the Red Desert has vast reserves of natural gas, a major pipeline runs parallel to the interstate through Rawlins and compressor stations in Sinclair and Wamsutter (30 miles to the west) built and maintained by Colorado Interstate Gas (CIG) assist in transporting and refining the natural gas on it's way to markets around the country.
The ranching industry has long been a staple of activity in and around the Rawlins area and still is today. Though ranching has become less and less profitable and many of the smaller ranches have been purchased by large corporations, many families make their livings the same way they did 100 years ago on lands that their ancestors homesteaded.
Rawlins is the location of the Wyoming State Penitentiary which until 12 years ago housed prisoners in an old facility located only 3 blocks from the downtown area. The new facility is located 2 miles south of town in an isolated area south of the Interstate highway. Today, tours are conducted through and around the old facility and grounds. Many artifacts of the era are on display and a visit here is well worth the effort! At the present time, a major construction project is underway expanding the new facility south of Rawlins to increase the capacity and update current facilities. This project is projected to last up to two more years.
The Wyoming State Penitentiary - 1985
The Wyoming State Penitentiary - 1901