Saturday, September 5, 2015

Thermopolis, Wyoming

August 31 - September 1, 2015:

It was about a 100 mile ride from Cody to Thermopolis, (the name is a bit of a tongue twister) Wyoming on route 120 east.  It was an easy drive through open ranch country passing through only one small town. Lots of big wide open country !  We arrive at the Eagle RV Park in Thermopolis around noon with lots of open campsites, but the sites are on the tight side and in the afternoon it really fills up.  A guy pulling into his site caught the edge of our rear bumper and did some damage to his camper, luckily our bumper only suffers a scratch.  

The claim to fame here is the thermal springs, claimed to be the largest in the world !  The area where the springs are located was originally part of the Shoshone and Arapaho Indian Reservations.  The indians used these hot springs for thousands of years and consider them sacred.  In 1896 a treaty was signed with the indians whereby they sold the springs with the provision that a portion of them would always be free for use.
The town of Thermopolis actually started in the 1880’s, a short distance away, but after the treaty signing the town relocated to the hot springs area.  The hot springs eventually became a state park and it is free, no daily fee and you can soak in the hot springs for 20 minutes free of charge.  This seems to be one of the few indian agreements still honored ?  A special “Gift of the Waters” event is celebrated every year in Thermopolis with the indian tribes to commemorate this treaty.

Gift of the Waters Statue

The famous chief who seems to be everywhere in this area

Beautiful hay field with red rocks in background, it is quite a sight 
as you crest the hill going out of town

A good lunch stop

Impressive 1930's era courthouse

Another big attraction in town

Statue's title is "From this soil comes the riches of the World"

Interesting architectural details

The hot springs flow from the ground forming several pools and then cascade down over rocks into the adjacent Big Horn River. There is a boardwalk through the cascades area and a suspension bridge over the river, called the Swinging Bridge with a viewing area on the opposite side.  Also there are many hiking trails along the river and a large buffalo herd that roams out in the surrounding fenced-in range land. 

The big spring

This hot mineral creek flows from the spring

The mineral water eventually cascades down into the Big Horn River
The Swinging Bridge really does

View from the boardwalk along the cascades

Another cascades view

The Tepee Fountain in the State Park

We take a ride through the Wind River Canyon south of Thermopolis, it’s a most scenic road that follows the Wind River through the canyon.  Actually you start in Thermopolis on the “Big Horn River” which changes it’s name to the “Wind River” a few miles out of town at a place they call the “Wedding of the waters”.  It's the same river all the way, I don't get it ?  The rock walls of the canyon tower up to 2,500 feet above in places. It has also been a very successful area for the reintroduction of bighorn sheep.  You eventually travel through three short tunnels and then come out into the open at the Boysen Dam and the immense Boysen Reservoir.

The Wind River in the Canyon

The Boysen Reservoir

We then traveled another 10 miles to the town of Shoshone.  It was once a vibrant town back when it was a major rail shipping terminal and homesteaders were flocking to the area.  These days it’s pretty dead, but a few picturesque old buildings remain and probably some ghosts too ?  It hard to imagine how vibrant, alive and exciting these places were in their prime time.  The homesteaders thought it would be a land of opportunity, as promoted, but instead they found it mostly a harsh, brutal landscape.  As a result, most didn’t survive, and these towns are now mostly deserted and impoverished.  This place called the “House of Wonder” looks plenty strange ?

The Silver Sage Saloon could tell some stories !

The "House of Wonder" may be making new stories ?

Old Drug store window

A very cool Oldmobille

Back in Thermopolis, we go back to the State Park and do a 20 minute soak in the free indoor pool.  There is an outdoors pool, but unfortunitely it is currently closed for maintenance. We are smelling like sulphur for the rest of the day, that’s something you need to get used to around here.

Another attraction near Thermopolis is the “Legend Rock Petroglyph Site” which is administered by Hot Springs State Park.  They claim to have 283 pictures on 92 rock panels in this area.  You are not able to see the majority of them, but are able to see some really good petroglyphs along a 1/3 mile trail.  There is one panel with petroglyphs that have been dated at an amazing 11,000 years old.  This area is surrounded by range land and bordered by the Hamilton Dome oil field.  It’s weird to be looking at 11,000 year old Petroglyths, then turn 180 degrees and be looking at an oil field.

A Thunderbird

Martian invaders ?

Does it mean something or just old graffiti ?

Nice Pronghorn were plentiful along the road to Legend Rocks

Also beautiful range land and horses

In the afternoon I visit the Hot Spring County Historical Museum, another of these small museums with an incredible quantity of artifacts.  My favorite was the the bar from the Hole-in-the-Wall Bar, one of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s hangouts.  They have old photos and information on some of the famous and infamous characters of the day. 

Original 1920's school house 

Those are words to live by !

A Sheep Herder's Wagon, early work campers 

I got my tractor fix again

Great hot springs mural and signs

Chief Washakie settled the dispute without
bringing a war upon his tribe

Wyoming's bucking bronco license plate has 
been around for many years

The "Hole in the Wall Bar"

Old cabinet owned by Ellen Watson who was lynched for 
suspected cattle rustling in 1889

Next stop is Casper, Wyoming,
Twinkles and Slick

1 comment:

  1. I was hoping for a photo of you two soaking in the hot springs!