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Thermopolis - Wyoming

Thermopolis hotspring

Travertine Terrace, Thermopolis Hot Spring - Wikipedia Commons

Hot springs gave this central Wyoming town its name, and provide a good reason to visit. Located in the Big Horn Basin, Thermopolis is situated in an active geothermal area, close to badlands under which lies a large oil field. A huge spring gushes hot water, creating startling travertine terraces. Dinosaurs have been unearthed in the area since the 1800s., and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center offers visitors a chance to have a Jurrasic advernture, including digging for dinosaurs at a real dig site.

Hot Springs State Park is where you'll find the most abundant hot spring in the world—pouring out an amazing amount of hot water and creating beautiful travertine terraces. The area is rich in Native and pioneer history, and offers a full range of recreational activities including white water rafting, hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and golfing. The Wind River Canyon, located four miles south of town, offers one of the most scenic drives in the West.

Hot Springs State Park

Hot spring pools, travertine terraces, flower gardens, and a bison herd. All these are part of this state park in Thermopolis. The highlight of the park is the great spring, which feeds bath houses (including two commercial water parks), and flows across the park creating travertine terraces before emptying into the Big Horn River. This is the largest hot spring in the world, and to get a proper overview of its scope, you should walk on the "Swinging Bridge" which crosses the river to give a full view of the terraces.

Inside the park is the State Bath House -- the legacy of an 1896 treaty between the state and the Shoshone and Arapahoe, which gave public use of the springs to the world. There is no fee to soak in the bath house, and you can rent towels and bathing suits. Two commercial operations are nearby (Star Plunge, and Hot Springs Water Park), offering pools, hot tubs, water slides and food. You'll also find a full-service Holiday Inn hotel inside the park, as well as completely rebuilt Plaza Hotel .

This unusual park is also home to the state's central herd of bison, which wanders over a pasture in the park. During May and June, the herd is confined to the corral area to protect pl;ant life on the pasture. The herd has more than 20 buffalo,and roams freely over the rolling hills. A driving tour leads around the herd's home. In late fall and winter months, the bison receive extra food which makes for close-up viewing.

The park offers several picnic areas, and walks through the extensive gardens. A boat ramp is located on the Big Horn River, at the terrace. For more information, call the park office at 307-864-2176.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center

This privately owned center offers visitors an opportunity to learn about dinosaur life, and also to take part in a dig at the Warm Springs Ranch, about 12 miles from town. In 1995, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center was opened. It includes a world-class museum with dinosaur fossils from around the world. Visitors can tour the dig sites (about 15 minutes by private van into the mountains above Thermopolis), and get a tour with the professionals digging on the site. Or you can reserve a place and dig on the hill with the professionals -- as an individual, a family or a group. In addition the center holds special kids' digs (ages 8-13) three or four times during the summer. Kids actually get to dig with the professionals on the hill during the two-day events. The kids' digs have been named one of the top three events in the state for 1998.

The center is located at 110 Carter Ranch Road in Thermopolis, not far from the hot springs, and includes a dinosaur museum, open 360 days a year, including displays of dinosaur remains unearthed at the dig sites. You'll see 12 full dinosaur skeletons on display, and in the museum shop are fossils, gems, books, and educational materials.

The museum is open year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day. Dig site tours in winter are subject to weather conditions. Summer hours are in effect from May 15 to October 15, when the museum is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dig site hours are 9 am-4 pm (7 days a week, weather permitting). Dig for a Day is operating (weather permitting. In winter the museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Dig for a Day program is closed.

For information and dig reservations, call 307-864-2997 or 800-455-3466

Boysen State Park

Located south of Thermololis, closer to the town of Shoshoni, this large park offers water recreation plus year-round camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The 19,000 acre reservoir holds the state record for walleye (17 pounds, 6 3/4 ounces, and anglers also catch good-ssized trout. A marina is located at the north end of the reservoir, providing bait, fuel, groceries, and docking.

Access points are on both sides of Highway 20, on the east side of the reservoir, and also on Highway 26, on the south side. Lying at an elevation of 4,800 feet, the landscape is basically sagebrush hill country. Most of the campgrounds and other facilities are ojn the lake, but two campgrounds are found below the dam along the Wind River. Picnic tables and viewpoints are located in the Wind River Canyon.

Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site

This amazing collection of native rock art is found 30 miles snorthwestof Thermopolis, via an access road which leads from Highway 120. Complete directions should be obtained from the state park office in Hot Springs State Park. Visitors must arrange entry to the site through the park office or the State Bath House.

At the site, Cottonwood Creek runs beside a cliff. On the cliff are a series of petroglyphs -- representing at least three styles of early Native art, including a style related to early Hopi. This is a quiet and reflectful place, bearing the mark of civilizations which were here at least 2,000 years ago, and probably in much more ancient times.

Camping

Eagle RV Park
204 Highway 20 South, 307-864-5262 or toll-free at 888-865-5707
Located near the Big Horn River, this RV park offers shaded sites, full hookups, showers, a store, laundry, and swimming pool. Open March 15 to October 1.

Fountain of Youth RV Park
250 North Hwy. 20, 2 miles north of town on U.S. 20
307-864-3265
With 64 trailer sites and four tenting sites, this campground offers full hookups, showers, laundry, dump station, store, and swimming pool. Two hot mineral pools offer fine soaking. The park also has indoor accommodations. On-site fishing is available, plus hiking, propane, RV supplies, and group tours. Open from March 1 to October 1.

Boysen State Park is located 20 miles south of Thermopolis (see above), with camping, boating, waterskiing, and fishing for trout and walleye. The park has more than 200 sites. There's more information on camping in the park here.

Where to Eat

Stone's Throw
143 Airport Road, at the golf course 307-864-9494
This restaurant has golf course views, and serves good food, and you don't have to dress up. The menu is that of a steakhouse: steaks, seafood, specialty meat meals (try the jagersnitzel platter) 3 Caesar salads, and sandwiches.

Wonderful House Restaurant
526 Broadway Street, Thermopolis, 307-864-3831
As with most Chinese restaurants you get a lot pof food for your money, and in this case, the food is very good. It doesn't look like much from the outside and the inside is "rustic oriental," but the food is good and plentiful.
The main focus here is Szechuan.

Nature's Corner
530 Broadway Street, Thermopolis, (307) 864-3218
This is a dining area in the back of a health foods store. The food is as you would expect in this milieu: healthy soups, smoothies, fresh salads, and wraps of several kinds. The store itself is handy for pickup up picnic ingredients.
This small quasi-restaurant got the top spot for restaurants in Thermopolis on Tripadvisor. The food is that good.

 

 

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