When Cheyenne in South Dakota was first settled, there were only a few scraggly trees in the area. The land and climate was simply not great for plants and trees. Either it doesn’t rain or it rains so hard that the water bounces off the parched earth without a chance to soak into the ground. Cheyenne is now a leafy city because the city’s women made a point of planting trees and maintaining them. They would take a train out to where there were trees, dig them up and return with them to plant in their city. When their children went to school, they were sent with a bucket of water that the household had recycled and expected to water a tree. The school children would leave the bucket by the tree so that other children would know that tree had been watered.
This background is what makes the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens so beautiful. The garden is small by botanical garden standards and occupies only 9 acres. I’m sure keeping this garden lush takes some serious effort in the High Plains climate. Starting off as a small community garden in the 1970’s, the botanic gardens are still the state of Wyoming’s only public garden. The garden, however, is free to the public and run and maintained by volunteers. Many of the volunteers are the elderly, at-risk children or the disabled. Working with the garden is considered horticultural therapy for them.
For visitors, the garden is also very family-friendly. There are lots of shaded areas and paths to meander along which are well-protected from the blazing sun. The wetlands area has funny poems which my children liked to read explaining how wetlands work.
The garden also has lots of sculptures and other things to maintain your interest, such as these stones with quotes. There is an old out-of-service locomotive engine on the grounds too. After all, you can not forget that Cheyenne started off as one of the so-called “hell on wheels” railroad towns.
The little maze was charming even if it wasn’t very high.
There is a separate children’s garden which not only provides entertainment but also teaches with interactive exhibits on solar energy, windmill power etc. The whole thing is based on sustainability and promotes eco-awareness to a new generation in a fun way. Adding to the crunch granola feel is the little peace garden.
There are also lakes where you can take a paddle boat or a row boat out. These lakes were actually watering holes back in the days when the cattle barons would drive their cattle into Cheyenne for sale. During our visit, we saw lots of families. In fact, I think I saw more families at this botanical garden than usual because more traditional gardens are probably a bit boring for children. It’s hard to maintain a child’s interest in dozens of varieties of roses!
We spent a lovely morning in this garden. In Cheyenne’s heat, it would be very easy to stay inside in air conditioning. This garden, however, lets the whole family enjoy fresh air and beautiful surroundings in a climate-challenged environment.