Kemmerer, Wyoming: Find the Uncommon
Kemmerer, Wyoming might not be the first place you think about when you think of vacation destinations in Wyoming. But it should be. Far from the summer crowds of Jackson and far from the city lights of Cheyenne, Kemmerer sits nestled in the rolling hills and great blue skies on the western edge of the Cowboy state. A verdant gem sitting on the tranquil banks of the Hams Fork River, it’s the quintessential Western town. Kemmerer has an easy way about it that can charm even the most hardened summer traveler.
Oyster Ridge Festival
The highlight of the year for Kemmerer is the Oyster Ridge Music Festival. Held during the last weekend of July, Oyster Ridge is three days of food, craft beer and bluegrass. The festival swells the population of Kemmerer from 2,656 to nearly 10,000. Started locally 24 years ago, it has evolved into Wyoming’s largest free outdoor festival. The center stage is packed with some of the best known Bluegrass and Americana bands from around the country. Every year, flatpickers from around the state come to the festival to flex their lightning-fast fingers in the Flatpickers Contest. While the Oyster Ridge Festival may be the feather in Kemmerer’s cap, it is hardly the only thing to do.
Start Your Day off Right in Kemmerer
Starting any day off right includes breakfast, and boasting a number of cafes and restaurants, it’s not difficult to eat the most important meal of the day in Kemmerer. After breakfast, there is one stop that is a must for any visitor. Located just 15 miles outside of town, it’s unlike any other place on Earth.
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument exists now because an ancient subtropical lake once existed 34 million years ago. What remains is an exquisite example of fossil preservation. Fossil Butte boasts the best paleontological record of Cenozoic aquatic communities in North America and possibly the world. Though a scientific journey this may be, it is not without a certain degree of adventure. These adventures include a number of hiking trails, nature walks and fossil digs. No trip to Fossil Butte would be complete without a stop at the The Fossil Butte National Monument Visitor Center. This world-class exhibition center includes park information and features over 80 fossils and fossil casts. You can see the remains of fish, a crocodile, turtles, bats, birds, insects and plants. An introductory movie describes the area and all the rich history found therein. Interactive exhibits let visitors create fossil rubbings to take home. A computer program discusses fossils, geology and the current natural history of the monument. Of course, only having your appetite whetted for the ancient flora and fauna of pre-historic Wyoming, the area has a few different privately owned quarries where you can excavate your own fossils.
Back To Town
Looking for a little rest after your morning spent in Wyoming’s pre-history? Head to the shady, grass-covered expanse of Archie Neil Park. Three and half blocks west from Triangle Park, Archie Neil has plenty of quiet beneath the cottonwoods and an outdoor pool to wash the dust off.
Go Catch a Fish
Spending all that time with fossilized fish will make you want to wrangle up some fish of your own. Time to head out to the Hams Fork. Not one of the better known trout streams in the country, anglers in the know like it this way. They get to keep all those rainbows to themselves. The Hams Fork is head-watered at 10,000 feet and flows through both public and private access. Ham’s Fork feels like one of those trout streams that no one has ever heard of because of a simple reason. Those who have pulled 20-inch trout out of those waters know a good thing when they find it. They aren’t about to go announcing it to the world. Go, just don’t tell them we sent you.
The History of Kemmerer
On your way back into town, brush up on your history of Kemmerer and the surrounding region at the Fossil Country Frontier Museum. This small museum is bursting with the history of the area and localized legends. Ever wonder what your clothes would look like if you are unfortunate enough to be struck by lightening? Of course you do. Everybody does! The Fossil Country Frontier Museum has an exhibit dedicated to that, and it is wonderful. No trip through the history of Kemmerer would be complete without a stop at the JC Penney Mother Store and historical house, located on Triangle Park. Back in 1902, a man named James Cash Penney decided to build an empire of department stores, and he started right here in Kemmerer. The store itself is still a fully stocked department store, with a little bit of history thrown in for good measure. Fishing and trips through time can work up a powerful thirst. Luckily, Kemmerer has you covered on that end too.
End Your Day Right
Head back to Triangle Park and take a walk. On all three sides of the park, you will find plenty of a different kind of a watering hole. Regale the locals of all the great fishing you just did in their local river. Thirst quenched and appetite visibly agitated, Kemmerer has a number of options for dinner. Tired now? You should be. Finding a place to rest your weary head will not be a problem. There are plenty of places to stay and they are not hard to find. Kemmerer is one of those great locations that make the Great American Road Trip truly unique. It’s not out-of-the-way, it’s one of those destinations that has to be sought out. The experiences to be had there are uncommon; travel to Kemmerer and you feel like you have actually been somewhere uncommon, unique, and rich in experience. Go. Explore. Discover. You won’t be disappointed. And if you want to feel like a Local, don’t say Kemmerer, call it “Kimmer,” and you’ll fit right in.
This story has been created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.