Taking a Hot Bath in a State Park

John M. Dabbs

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Hot springs in the mountains.Aiden B/Unsplash

We peeled our tired bodies from the car after a long day of travel. Making our way inside we were allowed a free twenty minute soak in the hot mineral springs at the state bath house at Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Rejuvenating

Arapaho Chief, Sharp Nose, sold the hot springs to the United States government in 1896, providing a portion should forever be reserved for public use and benefit. Chief Washakie of the Shoshone had built his personal bath house here. The Native Americans in the area believed the waters to be healthy, making warriors nearly invincible during battles.

State

Water flows from the hot mineral springs into the Big Horn River at Thermopolis. The state website says over 18,000 gallons flow from the springs each day. The hot mineral springs flow at 135 degrees (Fahrenheit).

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State Bath House - Hot Spring State Park - WyomingNikki Lewin-Dabbs/Photographer

The State Bath House within the park is free to the public. Water in the bath house pools is maintained at 104 degrees, for therapeutic bathing. This would be in keeping with the tenant of the original sale to the federal government. There are also a couple of commercial sites and hotels within the park who also use waters from the hot mineral springs.

The state bath house has attendants on duty to assist visitors. Hours are 8:00-5:30 Monday through Saturday, and 12:00 to 5:30 on Sunday afternoons. More information and holiday schedules can be found on the Wyoming State Parks website.

Visiting

When visiting the state's free bath house, you'll be asked to sign in (name, city, time of entry) and given instruction of where to change (bathroom, shower, and changing facilities are in the building), and asked to shower before entering the bath. There are lockers for public use within the locker room facilities. After rinsing off, you'll exit through a door and into the interior pool area. There is a door leading outside, where another pool is available for outdoor soaking. A clock on the wall at each pool helps keep visitors on track.

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Me in the outdoor bathing poolJohn Dabbs/Photographer

I thoroughly enjoyed the warm waters. They did seem to relieve the stiffness in my joints and aches in my muscles. When my 20 minutes were up, I made my way out, feeling quite refreshed-but wreaking of sulfur. It dissipated enough after washing off and changing. I only wish I had thought to bring a towel with me, instead of having to dry with my undershirt.

The park

After dragging myself back to our rental car, we explored some of the remainder of the park. We saw the cable swinging bridge and a few of the springs.

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Natural mineral hot springs - Hot Springs State Park, WYNikki Lewin-Dabbs/Photographer

After looking at the ponds were goldfish are raised and fed by visitors, we made our way to visit the State of Wyoming's central bison herd. The herd is kept within the park's pasture boundaries. They are allowed to roam most of the year. They are confined to the corral area during May and June to help the pasture recover. Although they feed mostly on the grasses and plants of the plains, they are given supplements by park staff during the late fall and winter to keep them healthy.

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Bison in the roadway - Hot Springs State Park, WYJohn Dabbs/Photographer

The park trails through the bison pasture allows visitors an opportunity to view the massive animals more closely. Should you visit the bison herd and find them, remember to stay in your vehicle for safety. You should also keep at least 30 yards between them and your vehicle. Back up if necessary, as they are not tame animals. They may appear very tame and gentle, but they can move and turn quickly, and the males weigh up to 2,000 pounds (one ton). Males grow to about six feet tall, and females grow to 4-5 feet and only weigh in around half a ton (1,000 pounds). So be careful.

Dinosaur center

Our trip to Thermopolis was quite enjoyable and we stopped by the dinosaur center before we dropped in at Hot Springs State Park. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is on Carter Ranch Road and is adjacent to the state park. It is one of the few dinosaur museums in the world where the actual excavation site is within driving distance of the museum.

Here we looked through the gift shop and toured the museum. We enjoyed the educational videos playing about T-Rex having been thought to be a scavenger, and the many fossils and skeleton reproductions of the Velociraptors, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus Rex, and others. One of the fossils from Mongolia reminds me of what they speculated was "Nessie" - The Loch Ness Monster.

The trip to Thermopolis was a great trip. Should you ever find yourself in central Wyoming, you should cowboy up and take a look yourself.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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