Living the Good Life in Sweetwater County, WY
Big adventures, rich entertainment abound
There’s one word you’ll rarely hear around Sweetwater County: Bored. With so much to experience, whether it’s chasing wild horses, catching an art show, racing BMX bikes or dining out, there’s no reason for ever having a dull moment.
Take entertainment, for example. The Sweetwater Events Complex and Speedway, just 5 miles from downtown Rock Springs, takes its cue from Wyoming itself – it’s big. It includes a 20,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 42,000-plus-square-foot agricultural complex, parking for more than 1,000 vehicles, a midway and RV spaces. In any given week, you might find monster truck events, stock car racing, roller derby practice, a concert by a big-name musical act, the National High School Finals Rodeo or the Sweetwater County Fair.
In downtown Rock Springs, lawn chairs come out with the stars each summer in Bunning Park, where the city hosts a series of weekly free concerts. A busy calendar of festivals and celebrations makes for even more fun.
“Locals here enjoy the daily events that are hosted year-round,” says Jenissa Meredith, executive director, Sweetwater County Joint Travel & Tourism Board. “The caliber of our signature events increases each year as well. Wyoming’s Big Show, International Day, Blues and Brews Festival and River Festival, to name a few, provide memory-making moments, with entertainment that rivals big-city lineups.”
Dining options are also numerous and have grown more varied and sophisticated in recent years. More than 80 restaurants offer tempting menus, from convenient fast food to fine dining. Chill Grill, on Elk Street in Rock Springs, evokes the 1950s with cute décor and old-fashioned American classics like burgers and shakes. Even more nostalgic, the Coal Train Coffee Depot has turned Rock Springs’ historic train depot into a local gathering spot that serves hot and cold coffee and tea specialty drinks, breakfast and light lunches. Also new on the restaurant scene is Old Chicago Pizza, serving a large menu of pizza, burgers, wings, pasta and more than 100 beers.
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The Great Outdoors
Located halfway between Yellowstone and Canyonlands National Parks, the area is home to 10,500 miles of high desert adventure. With the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Green River at hand, opportunities abound for camping, hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, wildlife viewing, hunting and even dinosaur fossil scouting.
“Local businesses have recently begun to provide kayak, tube and mountain bike rentals,” Meredith says. “This has given both residents and visitors to the area the ability to more easily access and enjoy the outdoor adventure activities in Sweetwater County.”
One such business is Green River Wild Horse Tours, where customers don’t ride horses but view feral horses in their natural habitat. Owner Rich Nobles also runs fossil-hunting trips near Rock Springs, where remains of ancient crocodiles, camels and more can be found. Nobles, an avid hunter, “varmint-caller” and wildlife watcher and expert, extols the variety of outdoor activities an avid sportsman, or even a less hardy type, can enjoy under the area’s big skies.
“People here, if they’re outdoorsy, are just used to going,” Noble says. “In Wyoming we have very few restrictive laws – and that helps. A certain kind of person loves Wyoming. There’s so much more freedom, and that’s why outdoorsmen come here.”
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Art for Everyone
Live performances are a favorite locally. Actors’ Mission provides both onstage excitement and a meal with its productions. In 2017, the all-volunteer nonprofit group presented Dearly Departed and also hosted a three-day master class with actress Shanesia Davis.
Western Wyoming Community College’s theater and dance programs are an important source of arts for the community, which enjoyed The Nutcracker, Peter and the Starcatcher and more in its 2017 season.
The Broadway Theater, a beautifully renovated 1948 movie theater in downtown Rock Springs, also hosts events year round, from folk, country and classical music concerts to puppet shows, plays and even a performance by talented canines.
Visual arts are also well represented at the Community Fine Arts Center, the Art Underground Gallery, High Desert Art Galleries and the Emporium on Bridger. Art classes and exhibits are also offered by WWCC.