Wyoming is Home to How Many Sheep Mountains?
Written by Andrew-Rossi on May 19, 2021
When it comes to monikers for natural landmarks, Wyoming seems to find inspiration from the same few sources: sheep, springs, and mud.
The Wyoming State Geological Survey releases a quarterly newsletter called “Geo-Notes.” It’s an account of the activities of the survey and its staff, often involving fossil fuels and mapping.
The Spring 2021 newsletter has a common theme – when it comes to naming things, Wyoming isn’t very original.
One section of the quarterly Geo-Notes is “You Asked . . .” Questions from Wyoming residents are answered about any variety of geologic topics.
An unidentified resident asked the WSGS this “serious question.”
Q: Serious question. How many Sheep Mountains are there in Wyoming? At least half a dozen? There is one by Jackson, one on each side of the Bighorns, this one by Laramie. Is the one west of the Bighorns the oldest? They referred to it in my geography class in college and stated it is much older than the Bighorns. Just curious, thanks
As it turns out, six is actually low.
In total, Wyoming is home to 19 different Sheep Mountains.
The WSGS identified the location of all 19 Sheep Mountains in Wyoming. There is at least one Sheep Mountain in Carbon, Johnson, Albany, Teton, Goshen, Converse, Crook, and Sheridan Counties – and two Sheep Mountains in Big Horn, Park, Platte, and Sweetwater Counties. Fremont County is home to Three Sheep Mountains.
It might be easier to name the Wyoming counties without a Sheep Mountain. Hot Springs, Washakie, Sublette, Lincoln, Laramie, Niobrara, Weston, and Natrona Counties are currently without their own Sheep Mountain.
The Sheep Mountain in the southern Bighorn Mountains, near the headwaters of Caribou Creek, gets the distinction of being the oldest Sheep Mountain in Wyoming. The rocks creating the peak have been dated to about 2.9 billion years old.
The origin of the name and why it’s so common throughout the state aren’t discussed in the newsletter.
Cody’s Sheep Mountain near Buffalo Bill State Park is a popular hiking destination. In January 2020, the BLM Cody Field Office purchased an additional 1,800 acres at the summit of Sheep Mountain for recreation and wildlife conservation.
It’s not just mountains, as the same trend holds for Wyoming’s water too.
According to Dr. Erin Campbell, WSGS Director and State Geologist, springs are groundwater discharges, typically cold, sometimes quite warm. The Wyoming State Engineer’s Office has assigned more than 9,000 water rights to springs throughout Wyoming, making them valuable water sources.
Common names for Wyoming springs include Antelope, Barrel, Bear, Big, Box, Buffalo, Chicken, Cold, Coyote, Deer, Indian, Iron, Red, Sand, Sulphur, and Willow.
And the most popular names for a Wyoming spring? Mud. 15 springs in Wyoming have been officially dubbed “Mud Spring.”
But wait, there’s more. Small creeks can be fed by natural springs and are often named after their source.
In total, Wyoming is home to 118 “Spring Creeks.”