We stopped in Thermopolis because of the hot springs located there which are advertised as the largest mineral hot springs in the world. The name Thermopolis comes from the Greek words for hot and cities. Located at the foot of Owl Creek Mountain and beside the Big Horn River it was once part of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The town was founded in 1897 and attracted outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Today it has a population of around 3,200 and tourists who come for the healing powers of the hot springs.
Hot Springs State Park was purchased from the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes in 1876 for $60,000 as part of a treaty with the provision it remain accessible free of charge to the public. Native Americans believe the mineral water has therapeutic powers. Today the park and public bath house are free of charge and it is the most visited state park in Wyoming.
The mineral rich hot water creates colorful geological formations which has occurred over millions of years forming beautiful rainbow terraces. The hot springs are naturally colored and formed by mineral deposits. They look like waterfalls and form a 125 degree F lake. The Big Spring in the park has more than 3.6 million gallons of 127 degree F water flow over colorful terraces every day. The water contains at least 27 different minerals. Most of the water is thought to come underground from the Owl Creek Mountains through the Big Spring. Rain enters porous rock layers, moves slowly downward and is forced to the surface through crevices in the rock. The heat and chemicals in the water come from the rock through which it passes and from gases that rise from deeply buried volcanic rocks. Some geologists think the underground formation that supplies the spring is the same that provides Yellowstone National Park its famous hot waters.
From the Big Spring the water flows into cooling ponds and runs into swimming pools, jacuzzis and the Big Horn River. The State Bath House water is 104 degrees F and they have an employee check the water temperature often. You are limited to 20 minutes in the water. The pools are filled with 100% mineral water; no chemicals or municipal water is used. There is an indoor and an outdoor pool and they are both cleaned every 48 hours. I could not get past the strong sulfur smell of the water and was happy to wait while Bill enjoyed the water. It took a couple showers to get the sulphur smell out of his skin!
There is a very small bison herd of around eleven buffalo in the park. We drove around trying to see them but they were hiding.
We stayed one night in Thermopolis and drove towards Jackson Hole. We drove through the Wind River Indian Reservation through beautiful Wind River Canyon with 2,500 foot walls of rock. There are informative signs along the route describing the geologic history of over a billion years of geology.
Along the way we continued to enjoy the views of the Wind River Canyon as we followed the Wind River to where it flows into the Big Horn River. When early explorers came across the river from opposite directions they each named the river. One named it Wind River and the other named it Big Horn River. The river changes names just south of Thermopolis.
We stayed overnight in Riverton at the Wind River Casino. They allow free overnight parking in their parking lot and even have a few electric (15 AMP) hookups which we were lucky to use. We went inside the casino and both signed up for a players card which gave us each $10.00 to use at the slot machines. We had fun playing the machines and ended up winning $8.00 between us. We had dinner at one of the restaurants in the casino. We were amazed at how quiet the parking lot was and woke the next morning refreshed and ready to hit the road.
Our next overnight stop was at a national forest campground in Shoshone National Forest. On our route we saw ranches and homes built right up against the canyon walls. We had a nice campsite in the forest with electric only. For the first time in quite awhile we had absolutely no cell phone service which usually would not have been a problem but we had a family member we needed to check on. We enjoyed camping in the forest and smelling the pine trees. It has been awhile since we had camped in the forest. The next day we will finish our drive to Jackson Hole.