Thermopolis, a small town in north central Wyoming, boasts the title of being the home of the worlds largest mineral hot springs. In this 2.5 square mile area, there are several of these geo-thermal wells.
The largest of these wells is located in the Hot Springs State Park, on the eastern edge of town. In 1896, Chief Washakie, representing the Shoshoni and Arapahoe nations, made a gift of the healing waters of the Big Spring to the white men. Every year Thermopolis celebrates that event with a “Gift of the Waters” pageant. Bathing at the State Bathhouse is free and there are other facilities that provide indoor and out-door swimming. A visitor to the area can walk along the terraces to a century old swinging bridge (kept in good repair) that spans the Big Horn River. The view from the other side is especially interesting. The runoff from the water has formed colorful mineral deposits as it cascades into the river below.
Two miles north of town on state route 20, the Sacajawea well feeds into a very large open air swimming pool. This once tall and beautiful fountain fell victim to vandals some forty years ago and is now but a shadow of its former grandeur. Happily, since then it has been under the care and watchful eye of the owners of the Fountain of Youth RV Park.
In the same immediate area is another hot mineral well known by locals as the Maytag. This well calls to mind an old fashioned washing machine with the water dashing up and down in the center. At one time, the Maytag supplied water to the nearby community of Red Lane. The water was delivered to each property via flumes and irrigation ditches. Times have changed. When I visited the area three years ago, I was shocked that the Maytag no longer shares its healing waters. Perhaps in an effort to preserve and protect it, it now lies beyond a barbed wire fence, restricted from public entry. That is a sad commentary to todays generations.