We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Wyoming Frontier Prison

Certificate of Excellence
Improve this listing
Sponsored by:
Map
Satellite
Map updates are paused. Zoom in to see updated info.
Reset zoom
Updating Map...
Your filters are still active.
There are no pins in your viewport. Try moving the map or changing your filters.
Sponsored by:
Get directions
Address: 500 W. Walnut St, Rawlins, WY 82301
Phone Number: +1 307-324-4422
Website
Today
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Closed now
See all hours
Hours:
Sun - Sat 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Activities: Group tours/walking tour
Description: The eighty year history of Wyoming’s first state penitentiary, now known...
The eighty year history of Wyoming’s first state penitentiary, now known as the Wyoming Frontier Prison, is as colorful and elaborate as the plot of a classic western movie. The cornerstone of the prison was laid in 1888, but due to funding issues and Wyoming’s notorious weather, the doors wouldn’t open for thirteen years. In December of 1901, the prison opened and consisted of 104 cells (Cell Block A), no electricity or running water, and very inadequate heating. Throughout the prison’s operation, approximately 13,500 people were incarcerated, including eleven women. Overcrowding was an almost constant concern, and the first of several additions to the penitentiary was completed in 1904, adding 32 cells to the west end of the original cell block (Cell Block A). Women were housed in the prison until 1909, until the last woman was transferred to Colorado. The addition of the second cell block (Cell Block B) in 1950 temporarily relieved the overcrowding, and also included solitary confinement cells, a much more efficient heating system, and hot running water which wouldn’t be installed in the original cell block for another twenty-eight years. A maximum security addition (Cell Block C) was completed in 1966, but the addition only included thirty-six cells and was reserved for serious discipline cases. The prison was equipped with several different means of disciplining inmates throughout its operation, including a dungeon, several variations of solitary confinement and a “punishment pole” to which men were handcuffed and whipped with rubber hoses. The prison also used different execution methods.. The first two executions were carried out using the “traveling” Julien Gallows which were used to hang Tom Horn in Cheyenne in 1903. In 1916, the penitentiary completed the addition of a “death house” which consisted of six cells to house inmates on death row, and a unique indoor version of the Julien Gallows. The building also housed the gas chamber when it was chosen to replace hanging as Wyoming’s execution method of choice in 1936. Ultimately 14 death sentences were carried out; nine men were hanged, and five were executed in the gas chamber by the use of hydrocyanic acid gas. The Wyoming Frontier Prison is a remnant of the grizzly past of the old west, but not every aspect of prison life was so off-putting. Over the 80-year operation, the prison produced goods to meet demands of four major industries. From 1901 through 1917 the prison had a broom factory, but inmates burned it down during a riot. The factory was rebuilt and operated as a shirt factory which brought in twice the revenue to the state. In 1934, a federal law was passed to prohibit the sale and transportation of prison manufactured goods from one state to another, which resulted in the loss of significant revenue when the factory closed. In 1935, the factory began operating as a woolen mill which won the “Navy E” in 1942 for the superior quality blankets produced by the prison for the military during World War II. In 1949 the prison changed production one last time, producing license plates until the penitentiary closed in 1981. After serving the state for eighty years, the prison closed its doors, and sat abandoned until 1987 when a low budget movie titled “Prison” was filmed on location. The movie was one of Viggo Mortensen’s first and featured several other well known actors. Significant damage was done to the prison grounds during filming because it had yet to be considered a historic site. In 1988, a joint powers board assumed ownership of the penitentiary, dubbed it The Wyoming Frontier Prison, and established it as a museum. The Wyoming Frontier Prison has since been listed on The National Registry of Historic Places, and offers tours to approximately 15,000 visitors annually.
read more

TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

Read all 102 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 62
    Excellent
  • 33
    Very good
  • 7
    Average
  • 0
    Poor
  • 0
    Terrible
Fascinating

We took the tour at 8:30am and our tour guide was informative, knowledgeable and kept to the tour time of 1 hour (as we needed to get back on the road). Fascinating history and we... read more

5 of 5 starsReviewed July 29, 2015
paotanez
,
Bremerton, Washington
Add Photo Write a Review

102 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

Rate and write a review
Roll over, then click to rate
  Click to rate
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Clifton, New Jersey
Level Contributor
23 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2015 NEW

Last summer, I photographed the Northeast State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. This time, As I was near the Wyoming Frontier Prison, I figured I would shoot it as well. The difference between the 2 prisons as far as photography is concerned, in the Philadelphia prison, you are given a unit like an iPod to wear and listen & watch each part... More 

Was this review helpful? Yes
Bremerton, Washington
Level Contributor
6 reviews
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2015 NEW

We took the tour at 8:30am and our tour guide was informative, knowledgeable and kept to the tour time of 1 hour (as we needed to get back on the road). Fascinating history and we were allowed to ask questions which she promptly answered. Highly recommend.

Was this review helpful? Yes
Dallas, Texas
Level Contributor
3 reviews
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 24, 2015

Went here based upon other TripAdvisor reviews and was not disappointed. This prison was the real deal, creepy and thought-provoking. If you are a history buff, don't miss this place.

Was this review helpful? Yes
Las Vegas, Nevada
Level Contributor
107 reviews
39 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 13, 2015

This facility served as Wyoming's state prison from 1901 to 1981. The guided tours take visitors through the entire facility, from the original cell block through the two expansions made necessary by its increased occupancy. The tour includes the prison's "death row," including its gallows and gas chamber. One of the fascinating exhibits is the prison's "Julien Gallows," a device... More 

Was this review helpful? Yes
Apple Vallley
Level Contributor
21 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 12, 2015

This is a state prison built in the 1800s. Cells just barely large enough to hold one person. No heat or hot water, cold shower, if a person was able to have one. The guides are all very knowable in its history. They will show the execution chambers,one by hanging the other by use of a gas chamber. You will... More 

Was this review helpful? Yes
Camas
Level Contributor
192 reviews
40 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 85 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 10, 2015

enjoyed the tour; gas chamber and death house was very interesting. tour guide was very knowledgable and if he didn't know, would ask the exec. dir. rather than make up a story.

Was this review helpful? Yes 2
Colorado
Level Contributor
100 reviews
57 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 9, 2015

Our whole family really enjoyed this hour long tour. The guide was very knowledgeable and included a lot of stories along with the information. Although the stories were definitely brutal, many involving executions or deaths, she managed to tell them in a way that was a bit comical. That was good for us since we had our 8 and 11... More 

Was this review helpful? Yes 1
Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
98 reviews
59 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 8, 2015

We arrived at the prison with only 30 minutes until closing, so there was no time for the tour. We decided to look at the gift shop, and then found out that the adjoining museum was free to enter. Wow! What an interesting place and totally worth more than a half an hour of time. The ropes used to hang... More 

Was this review helpful? Yes 1
Level Contributor
26 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 5, 2015

We were impressed with the guided tour thru the prison. Our tour guide Trevor was very informative and friendly. The prisons history really opens your eyes to how much the correctional system has changed. The oldest cell block was the worst... it could get to -40 degrees in the winter, some inmates froze to death. Before improvements were made, the... More 

Was this review helpful? Yes 2
Kelowna, Canada
Level Contributor
130 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed July 3, 2015

The prison has some interesting history as presented by the tour guide. We would prefer to have more opportunity to wander about the site at our own pace and take photos. Good to see they haven't 'restored' the site too much and have left it much as it might have been during operation, to give the visitor the authentic experience.

Was this review helpful? Yes

Travelers who viewed Wyoming Frontier Prison also viewed

 

Been to Wyoming Frontier Prison? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Additional Information about Wyoming Frontier Prison

Address: 500 W. Walnut St, Rawlins, WY 82301
Phone Number: +1 307-324-4422
Location: United States  >  Wyoming (WY)  >  Rawlins
Open Hours:
Sunday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Monday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tuesday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wednesday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thursday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Friday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Register now for free — and start getting automatic notification of new reviews, responding to traveler feedback, adding new photos to your listing and much more.

Manage your listing

Questions & Answers

Here's what previous visitors have asked, with answers from representatives of Wyoming Frontier Prison and other visitors
1 question
Ask a question

See all questions (1)

Questions? Get answers from Wyoming Frontier Prison staff and past visitors.
Posting guidelines
Typical questions asked:
  • Do I have to buy a ticket for my infant?
  • How do I get there using public transportation?
  • Is there a restaurant or café onsite?