In south-central Wyoming, near the Colorado border, whole villages of Indians converged periodically at a “Grand Encampment” to hunt buffalo and other wild game that roamed the area. A mining town, later built in the area (18 miles south of Saratoga) was rightly named Encampment.
Once called Grand Encampment by French-Canadian trappers who rendezvoused along the Encampment River, this small town has a rich history. In 1897, copper was discovered in the Sierra Madre Mountains just above this quiet settlement, and soon hundreds flocked to the area to get their share of the mined riches. A smelter was built along the river, and an incredible (for its time) tramway was built. This tram ran for sixteen miles from the mining site in the mountains down to the smelter. The tram could carry almost a thousand tons of ore a day!
Part of this tram is now on display at the Grand Encampment Museum, which is a must see when visiting here. Other wonderful displays (including the infamous two-story outhouse!) are set up there, and volunteers offer tourists a wealth of information on the area’s history. Today, Encampment has a population of approximately 500 year-round residents. It rests at the base of the Sierra Madres, and is the gateway to the Medicine Bow Forest.
The Grand Encampment Opera Hall is over one hundred years old. Melodramas are still performed there at least twice a year by the Grand Encampment Opera Company and are highly entertaining for the whole family. One performance is held during the Woodchoppers Jamboree and Rodeo. This event is held every year on the third weekend in June, and is located at the Encampment Rodeo Grounds. In addition to the melodrama, visitors will enjoy wood chopping events and a rodeo.