Thermopolis, Wyoming is named for the mineral hot springs that bubble up out of the earth’s crust and into the pools at the edge of town. The hill overlooking the springs proudly proclaims the location of the “World’s Largest Mineral Hot Spring,” with bright white arrows pointing to it.
I spent my childhood in Worland, a half hour drive from Thermopolis, so Hot Springs State Park was the site of many a day trip in the summer. My mom would take my sister and I on picnics at the park next to the springs and for walks on the boardwalk around the mineral terraces, while my dad would take us swimming at the Star Plunge or Tepee Pool. Both of these warm water public pools are fed by the springs, which are believed to have rejuvenating powers.
I spent last weekend with some friends at the Star Plunge Pool, which features both outdoor and indoor pools fed by the springs, outdoor and indoor water slides, and a Vapor Cave, which is a natural sauna cut into the side of the mountain and heated by steam from the springs. While the water in the pools averages between 90-98 degrees Fahrenheit, there is also a “Lobster Pot,” a hot tub with water that reaches around 104 degrees. Visitors soon grow accustomed to the sulfuric smell of the mineral water and begin to relax in the soothing springs, which many swear eases their aches and pains. Personally, after swimming in the warm pools my whole life, I can barely stand to dip a toe into the cold water of a concrete public pool. The pools at the Star Plunge are cut right into the stone of the springs and are a veritable oasis in the vast desert of Wyoming.
Another attraction of the park is the suspension bridge, commonly known as the Swinging Bridge, that was built in 1916 to connect the Big Spring to the smaller Fremont Spring. It’s a footbridge that crosses the Big Horn River and wobbles with the wind blowing through the canyon. When I was a kid, crossing the bridge was a thrilling dare as the railing was low and some of the boards were missing. It has since been fully restored and poses little danger, but beautiful views. After swimming in the pools, we grabbed a quick lunch and ate at the park before walking along the paths and across the bridge.
If you live in Wyoming, make a trip to Hot Springs State Park this summer. If you’ve never been to the World’s Largest Mineral Hot Spring, it should definitely be on your bucket list. For more information about the park, visit http://thermopolis.com/attractions/hot-springs-state-park/. You can also visit the Star Plunge Pool website at http://www.starplunge.com/.