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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Laramie in Pictures: Vedauwoo and Ames Monument

Where have all the railroads gone?
asks the Ames monument...
If you follow I-80 to the east of Laramie towards Cheyenne for about twenty miles, one will see two extremely odd sights on either side of the highway. To the left is Vedauwoo, and to the right, the enigmatic Ames Monument-- neither of which seem to quite fit into the prairie landscape that normally defines Laramie's spaces.

Vedauwoo is one of my favorite places because of its strange geologic architecture. The bright pink granite that makes up most of the range between Cheyenne and Laramie is stacked up in these massive, huge boulders which attract rock climbers from all over the nation. It's a popular camping, recreation, and picnic spot for the UW students.  In the dusk, the landscape looks almost mystical. 

Ames Monument is a stranger, more enigmatic spot. A three minutes' ride down a rose-colored gravel road and through a horse pasture will lead you to a massive pyramid built out in the middle of nowhere, a monument to the wealth and influence of the Union Pacific Railroad financiers Oakes and Oliver Ames (two brothers, and rather shady figures.) Oakes was eventually censured by Congress for fraud and died in disgrace. 

The monument to Oakes and Oliver Ames was built to mark the highest point of the UP transcontinental railroad lines, which were then promptly moved elsewhere; the monument therefore now stands alone, marking the point of an amazing accomplishment now tarnished by corruption and diminished by the Interstate system.   For decades it has sat undisturbed near an abandoned town, but there are signs of development nearby now-- a possible high-end subdivision, it looks like.  (blech.) It seems like no patch of land is safe from breaking out in residential, picket-fenced pimples anymore.

Anyhow, here are a few pictures I took (and a couple I didn't) of these two strange, mythical spots on the edge of the Laramie landscape! 


The weather erodes the pink Sherman granite into the most strange shapes, as seen here.
I wanted to show you the larger stuff, but I didn't have time to venture far into the park.  So, here are two pictures from Flickr to give you the feel:

Vedauwoo Climbers
Photo by Coulter Sunderman, via Flickr. I'm jealous...

Sunset Falling on Vedauwoo
This one's also by Coulter Sunderman, from Flickr.  This might be my favorite photo I've seen. 


As with a lot of public lands, the areas outside Vedauwoo are often rented for pasture. Here's a trio of Angus bullocks who came to check me out as I drove to the entrance...

And here are two views of the Ames monument for you:  


This one comes from Lord the air smells good today's Flickr photostream.
(I just love that name.) 

I'd like to give a special shout out to both Coulter Sunderman and Lord the Air Smells Good Today for sharing their photos via Creative Commons. Thanks!


  1. Awesome photos! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Spectacular country! The information about the Ames monument was a fascinating piece of history.

  3. good post, good blog. Thanks for sharing you photos and writing as well. -CRS

  4. Actually, Coulter, thank you for your wonderful photos, and I hope I represented them well. I have to confess to brooding over your online landscapes and still life photos, hoping someday to have your subtle mastery of my camera as well. I'll keep practicing in the meantime!

    Your shots of the Little Laramie, by the way, are breathtaking. I also have a vague idea of what kind of setup that shot required, so I'm a little blown away by your good technique.