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Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park

The two RV Gypsies
at Thermopolis, Wyoming and
Hot Springs State Park

September 28, 2012

history bookHOT SPRINGS STATE PARK: The terraces were known and used for years by Indians, who believed that the waters were beneficial to health and that they could have a warrior invincible in battle. Chief Washakie of the Shoshone tribe, who built a personal bath house there, and Chief Sharp Nose of the Arapaho tribe sold the hot springs to the United States in 1896 with the provision that a portion should be forever reserved for the use and benefit of the public. Today nothing is left of Washakie's bath house, although a small marker may be found at the site. At Thermopolis each year in early August, the presentation of the springs to the white man is re-enacted in the "Gift of the Waters Pageant."

When the United States released a one-square mile tract of land to the state in 1897 to establish Big Horn Hot Springs State Reserve, the Reserve became the first of Wyoming state parks. Big Horn Hot Springs still flows over the Rainbow Terraces, but significant additions have been made to the park, including the Wyoming Pioneer Home and the Gottsche Rehabilitation Center where the infirm-both young and old-have the advantage of healing waters. The Plaza Hotel-constructed in 1914, and the Holiday Inn-built more recently, accommodate park visitors, and each establishment owns its own hot mineral water swimming pools that are also open to the public. A winding, concrete walkway atop the terraces of sulphurous pools provides a view of algae and mineral formations on the bluffs overlooking the Big Horn River.

sign: Joe Sneider Point
view from Joe Sneider Point

Hot Springs State Park is a small preserve, occupying just one square mile, and besides the springs, it contains a section of grassy hills above the river, home to a herd of around 25 bison which may be viewed close up via a short scenic drive (none of which were anywhere in sight while the two RV Gypsies were here).

Despite these varied natural attractions, however, the whole park is urbanized and developed; all water from the springs is channeled and regulated, some directed to two bathing pools which provide the main attraction for most visitors, and are part of a varied assortment of buildings that also includes a wellness institution (Gottsche Rehabilitation Center), an assisted living house (Wyoming Pioneer Home), a cafe and two hotels. But the park is a pleasant location, free to enter, and the combination of the river, the terrace and the rolling reddish hills is quite photogenic.

The two RV Gypsies were not sure what the staircase shown below is all about.

a staircase

Spirit Hole: The sign said: "You are walking on ancient travertine terraces formed by mineral springs that once flowed into the Bighorn River." Extinct springs, such as the Spirit Hole and Devil's Punch Bowl, provide a glimpse into what a once-active spring looked like below the water surface.

sign about  Ancient Terraces
Lee Duquette at Spirit Hole

DEVIL'S PUNCH BOWL; The picture below of a postcard from the early 1900s shows water flowing out of the spring in Devil's Punch Bowl. Plus here are 3 photos of Devil's Punch Bowl as seen today

a postcard from the early 1900s
DEVIL'S PUNCH BOWL
DEVIL'S PUNCH BOWL
DEVIL'S PUNCH BOWL

White Sulphur Spring

sign about White Sulphur Spring

View of the Big Horn River as seen from the parking lot at White Sulphur Spring at Hot Springs State Park.

View of the Big Horn River
View of the Big Horn River

Men working with the Depression Era Work Projects Administration built the stone landing and steps in the 1830s. the steps led to where White Sulphur Spring trickles out of the travertine and into the Big Horn River.

stone landing and steps

Here, White Sulphur Spring trickled out of the travertine and into the Big Horn River.

White Sulphur Spring trickles out of the travertine and into the Big Horn River.
White Sulphur Spring trickles out of the travertine and into the Big Horn River.

Below: the beauty of the white sulphur water as it flows out of the travertine and into the Big Horn River - and Lee  Duquette very bravely, but slowly, felt the water to see how hot it was. "Too hot" yelled Lee.

the beauty of the white sulphur water
the beauty of the white sulphur water

Below: another view of the water flowing into the river.

the water flowing into the river
the water flowing into the river

The two RV Gypsies climbed back up the stairs to the parking lot where Karen Duquette was amazed by the natural designs in the cliffs by White Sulphur Spring.

the natural designs in the cliffs by White Sulphur Spring.
the natural designs in the cliffs by White Sulphur Spring.
the natural designs in the cliffs by White Sulphur Spring.
the natural designs in the cliffs by White Sulphur Spring.
the natural designs in the cliffs by White Sulphur Spring.

Black Sulphur Springs at Hot Springs State Park

sign about Hot Springs State Park
Black Sulphur Springs at Hot Springs State Park
view
sign about the Geology of Hot Springs

Lee Duquette on the 1916 Swinging Bridge - This suspension foot bridge across the Bighorn River is commonly called "The Swinging Bridge." The bridge offers a unique vantage point from which to view the Bighorn River and mineral terrace.

Lee Duquette on the boardwalk to the swinging bridge

Below: A view from each side of the boardwalk that leads to the suspension bridge. The water runs through several ponds and towards the river, where run-off from other smaller springs combines to form Rainbow Terrace, a smooth, patterned travertine formation extending for 1,000 feet. Paths circle the edges and a boardwalk crosses the center, allowing for close-up views, but the best perspective is from the far side of the river, which may be crossed on Swinging Bridge - a historic iron suspension bridge that does indeed wobble when in use.

water flowing beside the boardwalk
water flowing beside the boardwal
sign about the suspension bridge
the suspension bridge
Lee Duquette on the suspension bridge

Below: View of Big Horn River from the suspension bridge plus the view of the river after crossing the bridge

view of Big Horn River from the suspension bridge
View of the river after crossing the bridge

Below: Karen Duquette beside the suspension bridge and Rainbow Terrace, a smooth, patterned travertine formation extending for 1,000 feet.

Karen Duquette beside the suspension bridge and Rainbow Terrace
Karen Duquette beside the suspension bridge and Rainbow Terrace

Big Born River and the edge of Rainbow Terrace - Discharging over 3 million gallons of 135 degrees F water each day. The mineralized hot springs at Thermopolis are the largest in the world, and form the main feature in the oldest state park in Wyoming, created in 1897. The springs have created a beautiful terrace of white, yellow and brown travertine, on the banks of the Big Horn River.

Big Born River and the edge of Rainbow Terrace
Big Born River and the edge of Rainbow Terrace

Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park

Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park
Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park
Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park
Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park
Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park
the suspension bridge at Hot Springs State Park
overview of Travertine formation at Rainbow Terrace in Hot Springs State Park

Below: A view of the above area from an overlook

view of the above area from an overlook

This Tepee Fountain was built in 1909 to vent steam from hot mineral water that was piped throughout the park. As water flows over the structure, it cools and deposits layer upon layer of travertine. This process is similar to the formation of terraces seen throughout the park.

sign about the Tepee fountain

Below: The earliest photo of the Tepee Fountain shows water flowing out of a vertical vent pipe over a pyramid of rocks.

The earliest photo of the Tepee Fountain

Below: Other historical photos show the buildup of mineral deposits over time - 1920, 1930, and 1950

buildup of mineral depostis over time
WOW
close-up of the Tepee Fountain
Karen Duquette by the Tepee Fountain

Below: A pile of very old cars in a junk yard area - how strange that this is in a state park!

A pile of very old cars in a junk yard area
A pile of very old cars in a junk yard area
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the next adventrure of the two rV gypssiesPlease go back to the Wyoming menu to Grand Tetons National Park more adventures in Jackson Hole, or travel forward to Yellowstone National Park and more.