The Saratoga Sun -

Discovering Wyoming's 'hidden gem': Platte Valley lit by national spotlight

 

Hunting, fishing, floating and relaxing in the hot springs are only a few of the attractions Saratoga and the Platte Valley has to offer — resources that have gained national recognition in more than 15 publications since 2003.

In 2003, Saratoga was ranked No. 1 in Travel Holiday Magazine’s “America’s 10 Best Small Towns”. Encampment also was spotted on True West Magazine’s “Top 10 True Western Towns,” in 2011.

The most recent recognition, however, was Saratoga’s appearance on ArtPlace’s “America’s Top Small Town ArtPlaces.”

Saratoga and the rest of the Platte Valley has received similar recognition from several magazines and organizations across the United States, giving Saratoga somewhat of an appeal to a national audience.

“It is nice to be recognized for something that we sometimes take for granted,” said Stacy Crimmins, Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce director.

The question is, why does Saratoga get recognized nationally?

University of Wyoming professor and Wyoming historian Phil Roberts thinks the national recognition is due to the Platte Valley’s most valuable resource — remoteness.

Despite the national recognition the Valley received, its population decreased from 2,228 to 2,192 between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. Projections for the years 2015 and 2020 do show some growth in the Platte Valley, but still marking the population to be less than 3,000 people.

“It’s kind of one of those hidden gems,” said Lori Hogan, Senior Communications specialists for the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

Despite the low populations of towns across the Valley, natural attractions like scenic byways, hunting and fishing, snow sports, floating the river and other recreational activities attract tourists from across the United States and the globe, Hogan said.

But there are other places in Wyoming that offer similar attractions.

When people think of Wyoming, they think of Yellowstone, Roberts said.

Yellowstone and Jackson has brought the masses to Wyoming with its national resources. Jackson has a population of about 9,710 people as of 2011, roughly six times larger than Saratoga’s population.

“Yellowstone is where most people think of,” Roberts said. “Little do they know, there are other places.”

Saratoga possesses similar attractions to Jackson, but still maintains a small-town feel, a feel Roberts thinks attracts visitors, he said.

Historically, the town of Saratoga and the Platte Valley was an “escape” for workers in other Wyoming towns that ran along the Union Pacific line, Roberts said.

“I think Saratoga has a whole other character to it,” Hogan said. “Small towns in Wyoming are more friendly.”

“When people from other towns wanted a getaway, they would look to Saratoga,” Roberts said. The remoteness and the hot springs made the perfect environment for rest and relaxation spot.

Saratoga maintains the same relaxed environment today, and still manages a respectable tourism climate, Crimmins said.

“There is solitude there is quiet, the fishing is much better,” Crimmins said. “There are other places in the U.S. where that is not the case.”

However, maintaining a balance between solitude and tourism takes work, Crimmins said.

“I think we worked hard at it,” she said. “Tourism has always been a large part of how the chamber functions.”

Crimmins works closely with the Wyoming Office of Tourism to maintain and market Saratoga’s environment, Hogan said.

The Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce hosts several events like the Ice Fishing Derby and the Steinley Cup Microbrew Competition to bring in tourists. The Chamber’s actions facilitate an initiative set by the Wyoming Office of Tourism, Hogan said. The initiative is to get visitors to stay an extra night than they planned.

“The more things there are to do in an area, the more likely they will stay another night,” Hogan said. “Saratoga offers that.”

Crimmins said the Valley’s unique environment is maintained by a number of things. Some of it is the remoteness, some could be related to the geographic location. But Crimmins also thinks it is due to luck, she said.

“I know that we’ve got something special here, but sometimes I think we are humble,” Crimmins said.

 

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