Tag Archives: Rawlins

Into the Big Empty: Wyoming’s Red Desert goes live on YouTube

Journey into Wyoming’s Red Desert, a little known wilderness the size of Denali National Park that brings the steppes of Mongolia to America’s backyard. Here, energy companies vie for the desert’s riches in a world of 50,000 pronghorn, herds of wild horses and some of the most unforgiving landscapes of the West. Come learn of this place and the struggles to protect it as you travel Into the Big Empty.

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Rawlins, the quiet boomtown

Plastic bags flutter in the wind outside a trailer park in Rawlins, Wyo. These parks sit wedged between historical downtown and new neighborhoods being built. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Plastic bags flutter in the wind outside a trailer park in Rawlins, Wyo. These parks sit wedged between historical downtown and new neighborhoods being built. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Along the eastern edge of the Red Desert lies a town whose welcome mat includes a sun-crisped golf course and signs encouraging visits to the Wyoming Frontier Prison. On Sundays, most shops are closed and streets quiet. Homes bake under a summer sun and brace against the punishing winds so characteristic of southern Wyoming. Here in Rawlins, I pulled into a gas station, and that is where my car broke down.

New neighborhoods are being constructed on the outskirts of town. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

New neighborhoods are being constructed on the outskirts of town. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

If that wasn’t enough, as if God decided to play a cosmic joke on me, the gas station caught on fire.

Sign painted inside the courtyard of the Wyoming Frontier Prison. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Sign painted inside the courtyard of the Wyoming Frontier Prison. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

The car and I managed to make it to a nearby Comfort Inn, where we promptly parked ourselves for the next few days, at least until I figured out what had happened to my radiator.

The seeming mishap afforded a chance to see a town I would normally visit only in passing. What I found is a place that deserves much more care from people like myself, a lonely place by all appearances, but one with quirks and life cultivated from decades of boom and bust. In my brief time there, I saw a town that was both growing and falling apart. Maybe sometime I will get to go back, and actually learn what life is really like at the edge of the desert._mg_01022_mg_0123_mg_01121

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Wyoming’s Red Desert

Click the Photo to see a short movie about the Red Desert

Click the Photo to see a short movie about the Red Desert

Hi All,

Some of you may know that I’ve spent the last nine months, researching and photographing Wyoming’s Red Desert, a 6 million acre high, cold desert, that for all appearances transports the steppes of Mongolia into America’s West. This little known desert has been called the “Serengeti” of North America, with more than 50,000 desert pronghorn antelope roaming across seas of sagebrush and the United States’ largest active sand dune system.

But this specialized ecosystem is filling up as the new oil and gas boom sweeps across the West. A network of roadways and drill sites already crisscross the land, and more is expected as the BLM continues to offer new leases to the petroleum companies who seek them.

I figure now is as good a time as any to get some of this info off of the notepads and out to all of you. Over the coming months I will be bringing you updates from the field, as well as notes from my archives, photos, slideshows and other news about the Red Desert. I hope you enjoy learning about this rare and endangered place. It is my pleasure to bring you these notes from the Big Empty.

Morgan E. Heim

P.S. – The aerial photography in this piece was made possible by the gracious help of LightHawk.


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