You’ll find Thermopolis, tucked among the foothills of the Owl Creek Mountains beside the Big Horn River. It’s one of those small, picturesque towns where the elevation is higher than the population. The town is renowned—and named—for being home to the World’s Largest Mineral Hot Spring.
Originally part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes sold this land to the United States in 1896 so that the healing waters of Big Horn Hot Springs would be available to the public. The pageant, held annually during the first weekend in August, is a celebration that recreates the signing of this treaty.
Things to See and Do in Thermopolis
For visitors looking for a bite to eat, locals recommend Bangkok Thai, a Thai restaurant with a surprisingly good curry and pineapple fried rice or One Eyed Buffalo Brewery, a microbrewery with a variety of flatbreads and brews. Thermopolis may only have a population of 3,000 but if there is one thing locals recommend, it is time.
“It’s to spend more time than you think you would because there is a lot Thermopolis has to offer,” says Andrew Rossi, a certified heritage interpreter at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. “Most people come just for the hot springs, the museum or both, and don’t stay long enough to see what Thermopolis can offer in terms of the restaurants and atmosphere.”
Wyoming Dinosaur Center
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is part of CNN’s list of best dinosaur museums in the world. Museum employees have found more than 10,000 bones from the excavation sites, finding up to 200 more every year with no sign of slowing down. In fact, excavation sites opened 20 years ago are still in use. Participate in a “Dig for a Day” program. (www.wyodino.org)
Related Article: Wyoming Dinosaur Center – Unearth Your Inner Paleontologist
Hot Springs State Park
In need of serious relaxing after digging for dinosaur bones? Head to the Hot Springs State Park to unwind in the parks free bathhouse, where the 104-degree natural healing water soothes aches and pains.
Scalding water flows out of the turquoise Big Spring in Hot Springs State Park and into cooling ponds. The mineral-laden spring issues 3.6 million gallons of water per day, and the terraced formations over which the water flows are comparable to those of Yellowstone. The hot mineral water flows into water parks, where you will find indoor and outdoor swimming pools, water slides, Jacuzzi tubs, saunas, steam rooms and more.
Meanwhile, you don’t have to travel to Yellowstone to see bison. Take a drive through the park’s two bison pastures to view herds grazing. Stay in your car as bison are wild and unpredictable animals.
For the adventurous, journey over to Swinging Bridge, a suspension bridge over the Bighorn River for beautiful views of the river and lake. Lastly, stroll along the walkway by the Rainbow Terraces, created from minerals of the springs, which look like colorful waterfalls flowing into Bighorn River.
Old West History
“The idea of the old West is very much alive in Thermopolis,” says Rossi. “Most of the people work on ranches or in the oil fields. When you think of the West, Thermopolis is sort of the epitome of that.”
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Vincent Guieb contributed to this article. He is a writer for National Park Trips Media who studied Journalism at University of Colorado Boulder. You can find him shooting photography, standing in museums, and rambling on about design. Follow him on Instagram @vinceafterdark.