Steam rises from thermal pools at Hot Springs State Park on a recent morning, backlit by the glare of early winter sun. The Bighorn River flows below. 

More than 8,000 gallons of mineral water flow over the travertine terraces daily at a temperature of 128 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Wyoming State Parks. The terraces are created by mineral deposits as the water flows. 

Established in 1897, Hot Springs is the state’s oldest state park. The springs were historically used by Indigenous people, including Chief Washakie of the Shoshone tribe, who built a personal bath house there. Chief Sharp Nose of the Arapaho tribe sold the hot springs to the U.S. in 1896 with the provision that a portion should be reserved in perpetuity for public benefit. 

Access to much of the roughy 1,000-acre park — including soaking pools — is free.

Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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