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The Powell Community

Town Incorporated: 1909
City Incorporated: 1964
Population 2010: 6314
Elevation: 4365


Contact Information


The history of the Powell area begins before the arrival of the white man in a time when the area was home to the Crow, Blackfeet and Shoshone Indians, noted by the many Indian names of landmarks, rivers, streets, and towns. Frontiersman John Colter made the first recorded entry into the valley in the early 1800’s returning to a trading post on the Yellowstone from Indian winter camps. In the late 1870’s the first reported herd of cattle was moved into the Powell Valley from Oregon. In 1888, the U.S. Senate had the USGS study the feasibility of irrigating arid lands by using dams, canals, and hydraulic works. The area around Powell became part of this development with the authorization of the Shoshone Project and Buffalo Bill Dam on the Shoshone River in 1904 - one of the first three projects authorized in the U.S. by the Bureau of Reclamation. Work began on the dam and canal projects, with Camp Colter being set up near the present townsite to serve as headquarters and tent camp for the several hundred men working on the Shoshone and Garland Canal projects. Excavation work began on Buffalo Bill Dam in September of 1907, and water from the Garland Canal became available for settlers in June of 1908. With the coming of settlers, determination was a large part of the makeup of these homesteaders who settled the Powell Valley, homesteading began and agriculture became the driving economic force with the availability of water for the land. They transformed a portion of the valley that was mostly sagebrush flats into irrigated farm ground. With the completion of the project, the camp became the logical site for a town. However, because the name Colter had already been used for a railroad siding, a search began to name the new town. The name Powell came from Major John Wesley Powell, early day explorer, conservationist, and head of the Reclamation/Geodetic Service at the time of consideration of the Shoshone Project. Major Powell never explored the Powell flats given his name. The first town lots for Powell were put on the auction block in May of 1909 and the town grew. The first action to incorporate the town came in 1909 and it was incorporated into Big Horn County in 1910. In 1911, Powell became part of the newly organized Park County. Since that time, more land has been irrigated for farming, cattle ranching followed, and an oil industry boomed and declined in Elk Basin. Agricultural products from the Shoshone Irrigation Project are widely distributed, and include beans, barley, sugar beets, corn, alfalfa, and other forage and seed crops grown under irrigation in this originally dry area. Powell became a business community of approximately 6,000 serving a large agricultural area. From zero dollars valuation to millions of dollars, Powell has grown into a community of progress, with a future ahead of it, and a past rich in achievement.


Powell, Wyoming

The City of Powell is a community located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, 75 miles east of Yellowstone National Park and 98 miles south of Billings, Montana. Lying between the Big Horn Mountains on the east and the Absaroka Range on the west, clear blue skies, clean air, a temperate climate, and loads of sunshine make the Powell Valley a wonderfully refreshing place to live.


Powell is recognized as a progressive community and was designated an All America City in 1994. A small town atmosphere, quality of life, old-fashioned values, a can-do spirit, and friendly people are a way of life in the Powell community.


Powell has a diverse commercial, industrial, educational, historical museum and agricultural/ ranching based economy with dedicated, hard-working people with strong work ethics. Superior educational opportunities abound with excellent schools and an outstanding two-year college. Excellent health care facilities, recreational opportunities, retirement living, cultural events, shopping, fine dining, and modern community and public services all provide for a high quality of life for our residents.

City Government

Powell has a Mayor/Council – City Administrator form of government. The legislative body of Powell consists of a Mayor elected at large, with six council members, two elected from each of the three City wards. The Mayor appoints (with Council concurrence) the City Administrator, City Attorney, Municipal Judge, and members of boards and commissions.


City Structure

The City consists of ten departments under the direction of the City Administrator - Police, Administration & City Clerk, Finance, Engineering/Building, Electrical, Information Technology, Water/Wastewater, Parks, Sanitation/Public Health, and Streets.



Powell Valley has a high desert climate, located in a nearly snow-free valley between two mountain ranges with mild winters and warm, dry summers. Snow on the ground is a rare treat and rain is scarce. Annual precipitation (total rain and snow) averages just 5.83 inches a year. Powell winters run about 25 degrees warmer than Chicago winters. Summer temperature ranges run anywhere from the 80’s to 100’s. With the exception of irrigated farm ground, the valley is covered with sagebrush and desert like vegetation.




Message from the Mayor



The New Year has started with change in the air for the City of Powell. We are still working our way through a triple retirement month. Larry Carter, Bill Winters and Nancy Knight all decided it was time for their next adventure. Suffice it to say their years of combined service take several hands to calculate and we thank them for every one of those years. They will be missed immensely. The replacement process has started and transition should be seamless, especially if Bill and Larry answer their cell phones when we call.


February has brought more action on the Absaroka Street widening project. Planning and engineering is in full force. We had a very productive planning meeting last week and are progressing quite well. We should be ready to bid the project in October of this year.


Winter has made its way to Powell with snow and ice as regular topics of discussion. We make every effort to keep the streets and sidewalks as safe as possible. Each morning the streets crews sand streets around the schools and major intersections early, then work throughout town from there. Some crews start at 4 am with more help arriving at 7 am to sweep the downtown walks, parks and other city properties.  Last year we spread three times our average in sand, fortunately this year while we are out a lot, so far we’ve not reached previous levels. January and February have been a seesaw of freeze and thaw with some fun icebergs left behind. Only Mother Nature can really clean those up. It’s best to remember to slow down and drive with caution.


Speaking of driving, the new hands free ordinance is in effect now.  As a friendly reminder, a great way NOT to have a conversation with Powell’s police is to not use your phone with your hands while driving. Bluetooth is fine for conversations, but texting and driving is not. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation with this change and firmly believe it will make our roads even safer.


Spring is just around the corner, and yes it is an election year, so take some time to think about running for public office. You can make a difference in your community.




John Wetzel


City of Powell

John Wetzel

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