Rodeo, New Mexico
August 5, 2004
Hot Springs State Park is on the north end of Thermopolis ("Hot City" in Greek), and it’s a gem. We were amazed at the extensive travertine Rainbow Terraces of lime and gypsum formed by the flowing mineral waters, and easily accessed by wooden boardwalks. We wandered about marveling at the play of light on the colorful terraces, changing constantly with the alternating clouds and sun. Twenty-five different species of algae thrive here, adding dramatic greens, yellows, orange and reds, and the water itself contains 27 minerals. Up the walkway you come eventually to a new swinging bridge spanning the Bighorn. It’s been built to replicate an old suspension bridge that led from a hospital to the Terraces back in 1916. Kids love how it sways when you walk on it, and the views of the river and terraces are spectacular.
After our walk, we were ready for a soak, but at first didn’t know which of the several facilities was the free one. At the "Star Plunge", an employee explained that for only $8 per adult, we could stay and swim, soak, relax in a vapor cave, or slide down one of three exciting-looking slides all day if we wished. Although it seemed a perfect place for families with children, we went to the state bathhouse, just down the road. There, we were given locker keys to store our things while we were allowed 20 minutes in the outdoor mineral pool. Alternative choices are soaking in an indoor pool or taking individual tub baths. The 102-104 degree temperature felt comfortable even on a warm day, and there were only a couple of other bathers, a big contrast to the hubbub and activity at the "Star", and much more relaxing. After 20 minutes, we were ready to get out.
Staff at the bathhouse were very informative, explaining that Big Horn Spring, the source of the hot mineral waters, were purchased from the Shoshone in 1896 for cattle and food supplies. The Shoshone required that a portion of the waters always remain free for the people; the state bathhouse has stayed free since it was built. One square mile area surrounding Big Spring (Bah-gue-wana or "smoking waters") was actually given by the Shoshone to the people of Wyoming. One wonders how much coercion led to this gifting, as the healthfulness of the waters was becoming well-known among the settlers. Big Spring produces 2.5 million gallons of 127 degree water daily, and 1,736 sulfury-smelling gallons per minute!
From journal Wide Open Wind River Country, Wyoming