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WYDOT webcams sometimes capture more than road conditions

A raven perches in front of an Interstate 80 webcam near Laramie. DeEtte BabyJean Nichols shared a screenshot of the image on Facebook. (Wyoming Department of Transportation)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Department of Transportation’s web cameras offer more than a peek at road conditions. Some 232 cameras provide a real-time tapestry of life across the state — from sunrises to wildlife to tragic accidents.  

People all over the world use the webcams, said Vince Garcia with the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Summertime tourists revisit a now wintry Teton Pass and military personnel use the cameras when they’re deployed. “They’re just checking back to see what conditions look like back at home,” Garcia said.

Vince Garcia with WyDOT caught this sunrise. (Wyoming Department of Transportation)

The first camera went up in the late ‘90s, and the number has grown in the decades since. “The cameras were originally placed to aid our maintenance people,” Garcia said. “But we elected to make them available to the public and they’re extremely popular.”

WyDOT’s website had about 2.2 billion hits in 2022 and much of that traffic was to the webcams, Garcia said. “It’s almost like a form of entertainment.” 

They’re also a tool to assess conditions, though Jordan Achs with WyDOT said travelers should use them with caution. “There’s often miles between each web camera,” Achs said. “So even though it looks nice … sometimes it can still be pretty nasty out there.”

The cameras transmit lovely Wyoming moments too, like a sunrise over Interstate 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne that Garcia captured or the raven close-up posted on FaceBook by DeEtte BabyJean Nichols. Garcia reviewed the video from that day and confirmed the photo is indeed real. 

The wind-ruffled corvid inspired WyoFile to attempt an Edgar Allan Poe-esque poem about winter travel.

(It’s not in trochaic octameter. Please forgive us.)

Once upon a roadtrip wintry, while I drove, tense and weary
Over a slick and slippery volume of treacherous floor—
While I plodded, nearly snapping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some plow truck dropping, dropping salt to be sure.
“‘Tis some WyDOT help,” I muttered, “salting to be sure—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, I remember, with certainty it was deep January:
And each icy patch of highway threatened to gore.
Eagerly I wished to survive;—vainly I had sought to arrive
Mile markers hope in disguise—hoping to reach my front door.
Telling myself “If I make it to the warmth inside my front door—
In winter I’ll drive nevermore.”

And the glowing lighted crown of each distant tiny town
Thrilled me—filled me with certain optimism like never before;
So that now, to chill the beating of my pulse, I drove repeating
“Tis some WyDOT dropping, dropping salt to be sure—
Some late plow driver spraying salt to be sure;—
That it is and nothing more.”

I pulled over to allow the plow ahead, but confusion hit instead,
Fear set in, the tapping was not salt but a dark creature,
Absence of a plow to follow, no flashing lights, was hard to swallow,
The darkness made me wallow, was it the cold making me weaker?
I questioned the presence, asking myself, “Am I a believer?”
Blowing flakes, endless ether …

Deep into that snow I peered, unclear of where I’d steered,
Safely on the shoulder, on my phone, with many a click and scroll,
There on the webcam for sure, perched the ruffled Raven of I-80 lore.
Rainbow plumage to soar, a traveling mercy, omen of my goal.
Wind ruffled feathers, a sign to continue from this avian soul
A blessing to extol!

And that Raven, never failing, still is watching, still is watching
On the perch of the WyDOT webcam, so much to adore
And her eyes have the seeing, of a spirit that is all-knowing
And the lamp-light beaming, her shadow on the drivers tired and tore;
And my car, from out that sluggish snow starts to soar
Shall be drifted in—nevermore!

Sometimes web cameras catch more than just images of road conditions. Viewers occasionally share screenshots with WyDOT like this one, which captured two birds in flight. (Wyoming Department of Transportation)