Interstate Works

In this publication Interstate Works, Sincerely Interested (Sarah Baugh and Nicole Lavelle) has considered the town in relation to its industries, landscape, histories, and people. Completed in 2015 and 2016, this series of gestures, inquiries, and small projects looks at Green River through the interstate. This document is a catalog of works that build upon and follow their collaborative Green River work from 2011–2014, notably community publications The Green River Newspaper (2012) and The Green River Magazine (2013).

Green River is a transportation town — its booms and busts have all been tied to the infrastructure of transport — the transport of humans, goods, ideas.

Native people traveled the wide, slow Green River. The Spanish Trail crossed through this place. Both of these routes ultimately brought white explorers to this site.

When a ferry was established in 1876, it was the only safe crossing of the River in the entire state. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad showed up in 1883, followed quickly by people and “progress.”

The first bridge for vehicles was built in the 1930s. US Highways 6, 50, and 191 were routed and re-routed until they all crossed at Green River. These lonely, dusty roads brought floods of uranium miners in the 1940s, and the Green River Launch Complex workers and their families in 1964.

In 1970, Interstate 70 changed the face of the town again. This is how most people experience Green River today — zooming past the exits at 80 miles per hour. Since Green River is on the longest stretch of Interstate-70 without services, most stop for gas and the bathroom. Some also stop for a motel or a meal.

The legacy of transport holds the lore of this place. Roads move more than people and vehicles — they become natural routes for mystery, myths, stories to escape and transform out in the desert.

Perhaps it was this pull to the road that called us. We came from cities, dissatisfied with falling asleep to the sound of street traffic. Neither of us had ever been to Green River, but we felt a magnetism.

We first visited in 2011 and 2014. We keep coming back — understanding a little more about the town, the landscape, and ourselves, each time. At the invitation of Epicenter, a rural design resource center located in Green River, we completed many projects within their Frontier Fellowship framework. Through this work we hope to see and to learn about the people and their lives on the land, about ourselves and our own lives, and about the ways we all connect to larger trajectories of the American West and its collective histories and futures on the land. Our work concerns facts and fictions and attempts to put them on the same plane. We assemble a multitude of views to reflect the multitude of meanings assigned to this expansive place. And like all visitors, we are always coming or going.

We look at forms of exchange that are facilitated by the highway — a functional object of connection, a relic containing the myths of travel. We consider boundaries and borders and the ways the road system transcends those and transports between them. We meditate on movement — of people, goods, information, ideas, trends, myths, dreams. We are considering commerce and economies and how they zip through town at 80 miles per hour. We consider high school students, truck drivers, tourists, mountain bikers, and country music. We consider just how this small town, often described as isolated, is frequented by and connected to infinite networks of individuals and experiences.

When considered as a network, the industrial, cultural, and ecological landscape of the American West shows Green River as a node far larger and far more important than the 26.4 square miles it occupies. And isn’t that always the case? We could say this of all rural western places. Try as we might, we can only understand so much — but as the connected nature of our transportation networks echos the back and forth exchange of an entire half-continent functioning on bio-regional colonialism, the situation begs us to try to understand. Fictions are as important as facts. We aim to honor the complexities and nuance of place by contributing to this place through a creative process of accumulation, much as the pavement of the road rises with each repaving, and the bed of the Green River silts in a little higher each year.