Most states in the U.S. have oddly shaped boundaries, largely formed by meandering waterways and coastal irregularities. But two states stand out for their seemingly defiant rectangularness—Wyoming and Colorado.
These almost-twin states share a border, are almost exactly the same size (Colorado is just 1.06 times larger than Wyoming), boast basically the same shape and have the Rocky Mountains eating into a sizeable chunk of them. (Wyoming’s share of mountains is a bit larger than Colorado’s, but its topography isn’t nearly different enough than Colorado’s to account for how many fewer people it has.)
Wyoming’s population as of 2022 was estimated to be just over 580,000, while Colorado’s was estimated to be just over 5.8 million. Almost exactly a 10-fold difference between the two very similar states.
Water resources? A logical guess, but nope. Both states contain the headwaters of multiple major rivers, and according to RealLifeLore, Wyoming actually has a slight edge over Colorado due to the way its freshwater is legally allocated.
What makes Wyoming the least populous U.S. state despite being the country’s 10th largest state by area has to do with the Gold Rush, agriculture, World War II, federal lands, the rise of the telecom industry, educational institutions, airplanes and more. It’s a historical Tale of Two States that illustrates how twins with different upbringings can share many similarities but also end up with two very different life stories.
Watch the folks at RealLifeLore explain the population discrepancy between Wyoming and Colorado:
The one correction some people in the comments of the video offered up was that referring to the “mild” climate in Wyoming seems a bit misleading. Several people mentioned that the winter weather in Wyoming is harsher than in Colorado, which may account for fewer people wanting to live there. (However, considering the fact that there are more densely populated places in the world with exceptionally punishing winters, weather doesn’t fully explain it, either.)
It’ll be interesting to see in another hundred years or so if these states’ population trends change, but for now, Wyoming remains the least populous and most naturally undisturbed state. So if you’re big on the outdoors and not so big on people, the Equality State (Side fun fact: Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote.) might just be the place for you. If you love the mountains but also people, Colorado may be more your speed.
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