Although paved highways have existed in the U.S. since the 1920s, rest areas are a more recent feature of highway travel. In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson promoted a nationwide effort to beautify highways through landscaping, removal of billboards and construction of enhanced rest area facilities. This effort let to congressional passage of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.
In February 1966, the Wyoming Highway Department, contracted a Wyoming architect to design the Lusk Rest Area as Wyoming's first roadside beautification area. The original, built by a local contractor, included the historic Lathrop Monument, and featured the first flush toilets, heated restrooms, sewer system, and hot and cold water in a Wyoming rest area. With shelter arbors, picnic tables, fire grills and children’s recreational facilities including a slide, merry-go-round and swings, it quickly became a popular local picnic area.
Over the years, Wyoming rest areas set design standards using innovation and a prototype design for passive solar buildings in the 1980s. In 1998, Wyoming Department of Transportation partnered with Federal Highway Administration and a Wyoming architect to develop an updated rest area prototype design, incorporating passive solar with geothermal elements to create maximum energy efficiency.
The Lusk Rest Area was selected as Wyoming's first 21st century rest area upgrade. The original <a href="https://www.flickr.com/gp/infospigot/f5KL59" target="_blank>steel arch picnic arbor roof supports</a> were reused as landscape architectural elements and the site reopened to the public in November, 2000.