One would be hard pressed to find a spot here in Wyoming that is more indicative of the “real West” than Guernsey State Park. Travelers are often amazed after driving hundreds of miles through prairie and farmland to suddenly come upon this enchanted lake surrounded by steep canyon walls.
Guernsey State Park is just a short drive from either Guernsey or Hartville. It encompasses just over 6,000 acres of pine and juniper forest and grassland which surround the lake. The dam was built in the mid-1920’s to create hydroelectric power. It still serves that function today, but most people appreciate this dam and reservoir for the recreational opportunities and raw, scenic beauty.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built some amazing structures here during the Great Depression, and many of those structures are in use today. A favorite of the locals is fondly referred to simply as “The Castle.” This extravagant picnic shelter sits high on an exposed ridge overlooking the lake, the rolling hills to the west, and Laramie Peak in the far distance.
The sturdy, rustic Guernsey State Park Museum, another CCC project, is a stone and log structure right on the main drive through the park. The museum sits on a hill overlooking the lake and the Laramie Range beyond. Once you open the large, Florida cypress doors, a cool breeze invites you inside.
From there you will quickly notice the display cases completed in the 1930’s by ethnologist John C. Ewers who at one time was the senior ethnologist for the Smithsonian Institution. As you study the exhibits you will notice a recurring theme: Man’s ability to adapt to the natural environment in the Guernsey area. These cases are not only informative, but they have real historical significance as well.
In addition to these impressive structures there are many other works built by the CCC including Bremmer Point and many picnic shelters and bridges within the park boundaries.
Guernsey Lake was never a premier fishing lake, although there is fishing throughout the summer months. Its greatest uses are probably boating and camping, and during peak weekends in the summer, hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts are doing just that. On a given day you will see speed boats, sailboats, canoes, and pleasure boats on the lake.
On shore, people with other interests also find this park to be a great place. Cyclists, hikers, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts utilize the miles of trails. Although these trails might be heavily used on the weekends, you may find them relatively quiet during the week.
There are campgrounds scattered throughout the park on either side of the lake. Most of them provide restrooms, picnic tables and trash receptacles as well as easy access to the lake.
Weather in the park can be unpredictable during the summer and may change rapidly. Usually the mornings are quiet and calm, but by afternoon temperatures can exceed 100 degrees, and it’s fairly common in the summer for thunderstorms to develop, often causing high winds and the possibility of heavy rain or hail. Campers and hikers should also watch out for ticks, rattlesnakes and the occasional skunk. As always, when you are outdoors be cautious, be aware of what’s happening around you, be respectful of those around you, and don’t litter.