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Green River
Pop. 11,808 Elev. 6,100


Established by the river of the same name, the Green River encampment area was known to the Crow Indians as "Seed-ska-dee," their name for the sage hens, or "prairie chickens," which gathered here. When trappers arrived, they called it the Spanish River, and then Rio Verde, Spanish for Green River. The river’s bright color is a result of the soapstone cliffs dissolving their mineral content into the stream. The water source, abundance of game, and shelter of nearby rock formations made it a natural gathering place. Castle Rock, an impressive sandstone cliff, overlooks the area.

The site became an Overland Stage Station in 1861, a Pony Express Station, and finally, in 1868, a railroad camp and tie float station, where over 300,000 ties were sent down the river while the railroad was under construction. In 1869, Maj. John Wesley Powell arrived on the train here to begin his expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers, eventually exploring the Grand Canyon. He returned in 1871 with a large group of scientists who helped map the region, and later directed the US Geological Survey.

Green River is now largely supported by its extensive trona mining industry. Trona is an important mineral used in making glass, detergents, paper, metal refining, and baking soda. One third of the worldwide supply of trona is derived from the 1000 square mile bed deposited north of Green River by an ancient lake. Five different mining concerns delve into the area, but FMC Corporation has the world’s largest mine, with tunnels more extensive than the streets of a large city. FMC alone extracts more than 900 tons of trona an hour. The massive size of the trona bed makes this rate of extraction sustainable for the next 600 years.

Green River is also noted for being the first town in the nation to ban door-to-door salesmen. They became a nuisance to the mine and railroad shift workers who often had to sleep during the day. The law became known as the Green River Ordinance, and was adopted by several other communities nationwide. The Fuller Brush Company fought it all the way to the US Supreme Court, and lost.

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