Anyone who wants a pocket-sized Yellowstone experience can find it at Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis. And just like Yellowstone, there are “local secrets” most tourists don’t visit but are just as enjoyable as the main attractions.
One of the “local secrets” of Hot Springs State Park is the White Sulphur Spring. Tucked away along the edge of the Bighorn River, it’s easily the most overlooked of the active thermal features in the park.
Unlike the nearby Star Plunge and TePee Pools and Spa, there are no amenities at White Sulphur Spring: no diving boards, water slides, or hot tubs. And usually, there are no tourists.
The only development in the area is a small parking lot and a trail of narrow stone steps leading down the bank to the spring itself, which trickles out of a small hole in the wall of travertine and flows into the Bighorn River.
Almost The Same For A Century
Part of the allure might be that it’s largely untouched by the development in the rest of the park. The current appearance of the spring isn’t too different from postcards from the late 1800s (except that the spring’s water flow has noticeably decreased since then.)
There was more grandeur surrounding the spring in the past. A bathhouse and dance pavilion were built in the vicinity in the 1890s, but the structures were destroyed in an 1899 fire.
The stone steps leading to the spring were completed in the 1930s. Otherwise, the last century has passed by the White Sulphur Spring with few changes.
“It’s personally one of my favorite areas of the park that often goes underutilized,” said Brooks Jordan, District Manager at Wyoming State Parks. Jordan says that while most tourists might not notice the White Sulphur Spring, locals have always enjoyed the area.
“It’s a popular area of the park because the spring accesses the river, and a great day-use area for people that like to recreate along the river,” Jordan said.
And, unlike the thermal features in Yellowstone National Park, anyone who would like to soak in the water around the White Sulphur Spring can do so (if they do it safely since the thermal water can be dangerously hot.)
New Plan for Small Improvements
Wyoming State Parks staff is working on several improvements in Hot Springs State Park as part of the 20-year master plan completed in 2016. Naturally, the White Sulphur Spring is included in the plan.
The park’s large thermal pools have been drastically overhauled several times and could be overhauled again soon. But nothing too drastic is planned for the White Sulphur Spring.
Jordan said Wyoming State Parks knows the area could use more attention, and there are plans for small but significant changes.
“It’s in need of some revitalization in terms of stonework, access, ADA accessibility, and parking rearrangements. We’re working with the current management to address the needs of the White Sulphur Spring.”
There is currently no timeline for these improvements.
A Master Plan In Action
Meanwhile, other projects included in the 20-year master plan are already finished or actively underway. Jordan says these additions to Hot Springs State Park are so new even locals aren’t fully aware of them. He hopes more locals and tourists will seek out and enjoy the improvements.
For instance, a new trail system has been constructed on T-Hill in the last few years.
“It’s a collection of several miles of multi-use, non-motorized trails accessible right off the highway, with a parking lot and a great trail head. It’s great for a day hike or a couple-mile mountain bike ride and provides great views of the park and the Thermopolis area,” Jordan said.
New trails on the iconic Round Top were constructed earlier this year, which connect to the T-Hill trail system and add several more miles of vistas and outdoor recreation opportunities.
“It’s a wonderful addition to Hot Springs State Park,” Jordan said.
Other significant projects are in the works, which will undoubtedly enhance the experience of Hot Springs State Park for everyone who visits.
But sometimes less is more. That’s why there will always be something special about the quiet simplicity of the White Sulphur Spring.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at: Arossi@CowboyStateDaily.com