If it weren’t for the “wiwila kata,” this valley tucked in the southwestern corner of South Dakota would have just been another dusty clearing at the gateway to the Black Hills. Instead, what the Lakota referred to as the “warm waters” gave rise to a mecca of health and hospitality unrivaled in the Midwest.
The sacred healing waters of the Native Americans were discovered by settlers in the late 1800s, and the 87-degree waters flowing from a series of springs quickly became a sought after cure-all. In 1890, Fred Evans built his namesake Plunge over a collection of springs, turning Hot Springs into a destination for western travelers, and the largest resort before California. Today, Evans Plunge is still a mecca for rejuvenation and recreation featuring a collection of pools (refreshed with 5,000 gallons of fresh spring water every minute), a steam room, weight room and a number of water slides. You’ll feel the different springs hit you as you swim from one end of the main pool to the other.
The Lakota weren’t the first to take note of the springs, however. Tens of thousands of years earlier, woolly mammoths took advantage of the fresh ponds in the area, enough that more than 61 beasts were eventually trapped and buried, unearthed as fossils in 1974. Visitors can check out the Mammoth Site to see the sinkhole still riddled with mammoth bones, as well as a museum with a full-sized mammoth documenting life in Hot Springs before humans.
Top 6 Things to Do in Hot Springs
1. Mammoth Site
Unearth the prehistoric mysteries at The Mammoth Site
2. Evans Plunge
Plunge into warm mineral water at the Black Hills’ oldest attraction, Evans Plunge
3. Wind Cave National Park
Be amazed by wildlife and rare formations above- and underground at Wind Cave National Park
4. Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
Feel the rumble of wild mustangs at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
5. Fall River Freedom Trail
Make a patriotic pilgrimage on the 1-mile long Fall River Freedom Trail and dip your toes at the base of the waterfall.
6. Angostura Recreation Area
Enjoy world-class camping, fishing and boating at this water-lover’s haven.
For More Information:
Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce
801 South 6th Street, Hot Springs, SD 57747