Last Updated on November 10, 2023
When you think of Wyoming, you probably imagine snow-capped mountains, lush forests, and crystal-clear lakes.
But did you know that Wyoming also has some of the most amazing desert landscapes in the country?
In fact, some parts of Wyoming are considered a desert, while others are not.
What is a desert?
A desert is a region that receives very little precipitation, usually less than 10 inches (25 cm) per year.
Deserts can be hot or cold, depending on their location and elevation.
Deserts are characterized by sparse vegetation, extreme temperatures, and low humidity.
Deserts cover about one-third of the Earth’s land surface, and can be found on every continent except Europe.
Is Wyoming a desert?
The short answer is that some of Wyoming is a desert, while some of it is not.
Wyoming is a large state, covering about 97,818 square miles (253,348 km2), and it has a variety of climates and ecosystems.
Wyoming is divided into three main regions: the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Intermontane Basins.
The Great Plains cover the eastern part of the state, and are mostly flat and grassy. The Great Plains are not a desert, but they are semi-arid, meaning they receive more precipitation than a desert, but less than a humid region.
The Great Plains have a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The average annual precipitation in the Great Plains ranges from 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 cm).
The Rocky Mountains cover the western and central part of the state, and are rugged and high. The Rocky Mountains are not a desert, but they have alpine climates, meaning they are cold and snowy.
The Rocky Mountains have a lot of variation in elevation, which affects the temperature and precipitation. The higher you go, the colder and wetter it gets. The average annual precipitation in the Rocky Mountains ranges from 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 cm).
The Intermontane Basins cover the southwestern part of the state, and are dry and low. The Intermontane Basins are a desert, and they have arid climates, meaning they receive very little precipitation.
The Intermontane Basins are part of the larger Great Basin, which is a huge area of land that does not drain into any ocean. The Intermontane Basins have a lot of geological features, such as salt flats, sand dunes, and volcanic rocks.
The average annual precipitation in the Intermontane Basins ranges from 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm).
Wyoming’s Red Desert
The Red Desert is a high-altitude desert and sagebrush steppe located in the south-central portion of Wyoming, covering about 9,320 square miles (24,100 square kilometers).
It is one of the last remaining intact ecosystems of its kind in North America, and it hosts a rich diversity of wildlife and natural features.
The Red Desert is home to the largest living sand dune system in the United States, the Killpecker Sand Dunes, which are also known for their rare singing or booming sand phenomenon.
The Red Desert also contains the Great Divide Basin, a unique endorheic drainage basin that does not drain into any ocean.
The Red Desert has a long history of human presence, from ancient Native American rock art to pioneer trails and modern mining operations.
The Red Desert is a place of wonder and beauty, but also of challenges and threats, as it faces increasing pressures from development and climate change.
Where can you find sand dunes in Wyoming?
One of the most fascinating and fun places to visit in Wyoming is the Killpecker Sand Dunes, located in the Red Desert, which is part of the Intermontane Basins.
The Killpecker Sand Dunes are one of the largest active sand dune fields in the world, covering about 109,000 acres (44,000 ha).
The Killpecker Sand Dunes are also one of the few places where you can find singing or booming sand, which is a type of sand that makes a musical sound when it moves.
The Killpecker Sand Dunes are a great place to enjoy sandboarding, which is a sport similar to snowboarding, but on sand.
Wyoming Desert FAQs
What are some of the best places to visit in the Red Desert of Wyoming?
The Red Desert of Wyoming has many attractions for visitors, such as the Killpecker Sand Dunes, the Great Divide Basin, the Honeycomb Buttes, the Boar’s Tusk, and the White Mountain Petroglyphs.
You can enjoy activities like hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, off-road driving, and sandboarding.
How can I get to the Red Desert of Wyoming?
The Red Desert of Wyoming is located in the south-central part of the state, and it is accessible by several highways and roads.
You can enter the Red Desert from Interstate 80, US Highway 287, Wyoming Highway 28, or Wyoming Highway 372.
You can also use the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maps and signs to navigate the area.
What are the best times to visit the Red Desert of Wyoming?
The Red Desert of Wyoming has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters.
The best times to visit the Red Desert are spring and fall, when the temperatures are moderate and the wildlife is active.
The summer can be very hot and dry, and the winter can be very cold and snowy.
You should always check the weather forecast and road conditions before you plan your trip.
What are the environmental and cultural values of the Red Desert of Wyoming?
The Red Desert of Wyoming is a unique and important ecosystem that supports a variety of wildlife, plants, and natural features.
It is home to the largest migratory herd of pronghorn antelope in North America, as well as other species like elk, deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, badgers, rabbits, eagles, hawks, owls, sage grouse, and many more.
It also has a rich diversity of flora, including sagebrush, grasses, wildflowers, cacti, and junipers.
The Red Desert also has a long history of human presence, from ancient Native American rock art to pioneer trails and modern mining operations.
The Red Desert is a place of cultural and historical significance, as well as a source of economic and recreational opportunities.
What are the Killpecker Sand Dunes?
The Killpecker Sand Dunes are a large active sand dune field in the Red Desert of Wyoming. They cover about 109,000 acres (44,000 ha) and are the second largest living dune system in the world.
They are also one of the few “singing” or “booming” sand dunes in the US, meaning that they produce a low-frequency sound when the sand grains rub against each other.
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