middle panel: Shaped by History
Salt Creek oil brought prosperity to Casper, in addition to people and industry. Despite the closure of Casper refineries as well as reduced output of Salt Creek oil in recent years, oil history and wealth can still be seen in the cityscape: elements of the tank farm are in use, the Three Crowns Golf Club marks the site of Amoco's expansive refinery, the extensive historic downtown reflects the black gold that built it, and the Derrick Sculpture (by Bart Rea) at Amoco Park plays tribute to the wooden derricks that forested Salt Creek from the 1890s through World War II.
Wildcatters & Women
Although the first oil well near Casper "came up dry" in 1888 oil success was attracting attention and newcomers. The boom hit in 1908 with Salt Creek's first gusher, drawing wildcatters, stock traders, and swindlers. Casper's population rose from 2,000 to 20,000 between 1912 and 1918. By 1920 its red light district, the "Sand Bar" boasted a large number of prostitutes.
Refining the Frontier
Casper's first oil refinery was built in 1894. By the 1920s four more refineries expanded the city's refining capacity from 50 barrels to 100,000 barrels per day. They covered much of the city with an industrial landscape and filled the sky with smokestacks.
The 1920s were exhilarating years for Salt Creek and Casper. World War I was over, automobile ownership was rising, and gasoline - previously a waste product - was in demand. Salt Creek kert revealing more oil at deeper levels. Known as "the greatest light oil field in the world," Salt Creek's light oil was readily converted to gasoline at Standard Oil of Indiana's cracking plant in Casper. In 1922 this was the largest gasoline-producing refinery in the world, shipping a significant amount by rail to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and by tanker from there to Europe.
Casper built acres of holding tanks to manage the flow. The boom ended in 1929 with reduced production from Salt Creek wells compounded by the stock market crash.
Oil could be efficiently moved through pipelines; however, people, equipment, and supplies still needed transportation between Casper and Salt Creek.
Horses to Pipelines
Through the early 20th century, string teams of 12-18 horses pulled trains of wagons loaded with wooden barrels of oil from the Salt Creek area to Casper. To cross hills, each wagon was hauled separately and rehitched. The trip took several days one way - up to two weeks in bad weather. when the dirt road turned to "gumbo mud."
In 1911 Midwest Oil Company tied the oilfield to the city with a pipeline. Many pipelines followed, including one for water. Built at this site in 1920, the pump house pumped fresh water from the North Platte River via pipeline to Salt Creek. In 1924 the first oil pipeline was built between central Wyoming and other states, allowing Salt Creek oil to compete nationally.
Salt Creek Highway
Motorized transportation arrived in 1912 with a motor truck, which made the 45-mile trip between Salt Creek and Casper in only 18 hours. Horses were soon history.
The next big improvement in transportation arrived in 1920 when the alternately muddy and dusty Salt Creek Trail between Casper and the oilfield was partially paved with concrete, elevating its name to Salt Creek Highway. A half-way house 20 miles from Casper welcomed weary travelers, truckers, and freighters with good meals and spirits. Sections of this road remain today as the terminus in Casper and at the entrance to Teapot Dome.
North & South Railroad
During its short life, the North & South Railroad symbolized hope and prosperity for Salt Creek residents and added to the growing sophistication of the boom towns. Built in 1922-23, this line joined Casper to the oilfield towns of Midwest, Lavoye, Salt Creek, Snyder, and Illco. At Illco it connected with both the Burlington and Northwestern railroads.
Built during Salt Creek's biggest boom, the railroad succumbed to the Great Depression in 1935. The roadbed is still visible across Salt Creek Oilfield.