Have you ever heard of Thermopolis, Wyoming? I hadn’t either until a recent trip there made me fall in love with this small town.
Thermopolis is located in east/central Wyoming. We took a scenic drive from Salt Lake through Evanston and then north to Star Valley, Jackson and the Tetons, before turning northeast to our destination.
Thermopolis is a small town with a population of about 3,000. There are great locally owned restaurants and plenty of places to stay, including some hotels with pools filled from the springs. While we were there, there was a Friday night art stroll, with sculptures down one of the main roads. There are several churches in town and every radio station we could find seemed to have a religious theme.
But the big draw is the hot springs. Driving east through town you can’t help but notice a mountain with big white letters letting you know Thermopolis is the home of the, “World’s Largest Mineral Hot Springs,” complete with arrows pointing to the base of the mountain and the hot springs below.
The springs are thought to come from below the Owl Creek Mountains. Rain that falls on the mountains enters porous rock layers and as it moves slowly downward, it is forced through crevices in the rocks. The heart and chemicals in the water come from the rock the water passes through and from gases that rise from buried volcanic rocks. The beautiful colors come from plants and algae that grow in the warm water. The water has at least 27 different minerals.
There are places to swim in the 104 degree waters, including the State Bath House, where you can enjoy the springs for free. According to the Wyoming Department of State Parks brochure, the Shoshone and Arapaho gave the state public use of the hot springs in 1896. Part of the stipulation was that a place be provided where people could enjoy the springs without cost.
The town has many hiking trails and a dinosaur museum. There is also a scary suspension foot bridge from the springs across the Bighorn River. It starts swinging as you cross and we had a hard time getting our dogs to follow us. But the vistas, sights and smells were beautiful from the bridge and surrounding trails.
If you are looking for a new destination and a drive with views of everything from mountains and plains to rivers and lakes, set your sights on Thermopolis.