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Best Wyoming State Parks to Visit in the Spring

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Best Wyoming State Parks to Visit in the Spring

Hot Springs State Park - photo courtesy of Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites

The Top Three Choices Include Mineral Hot Springs, the Home of a Former Wyoming Governor, and a Historic Fort.

Hot Springs State Park

(Thermopolis, WY)
Wyoming's first state park, Hot Springs was used for years by Indians, who believed that the waters were beneficial to health and that they could have a warrior invincible in battle. Chief Washakie of the Shoshone tribe and Chief Sharp Nose of the Arapaho tribe sold the hot springs to the United States in 1896 with the provision that a portion should be reserved forever for the use and benefit of the public. At Thermopolis each year in early August the presentation of the springs to the white man is re-enacted in the "Gift of the Waters Pageant." The US Government released a one-square mile tract of land to the state in 1897 to establish Big Horn Hot Springs State Reserve, later to become a state park.

Over colorful terraces along the Big Horn River at Thermopolis, more than 18,000 gallons of water flow from mineral hot springs every 24 hours at a constant temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Since its original establishment, significant additions have been made to the park, including the Wyoming Pioneer Home and the Gottsche Rehabilitation Center, where the infirm -- both young and old -- have the advantage of healing waters. The Plaza Hotel (constructed in 1914) and the Holiday Inn (built more recently) accommodate park visitors, and each establishment owns its own hot mineral water swimming pools that are also open to the public. A winding, concrete walkway atop the terraces of sulfurous pools provides a view of algae and mineral formations on the bluffs overlooking the Big Horn River.

The park includes a free bath house where the water is maintained at 104 degrees for therapeutic bathing. It maintains 6.2 miles of ADA-accessible trail and hiking trail. The full service park also includes a Volksmarch trail, fishing and boat docks, and a group picnic shelter that can be reserved. For further information, call 307-864-2176.

Trail End State Historic Site

(Sheridan, WY)
Finished in 1913, Trail End State Historic Site was the home of the John B. Kendrick family. He was a cowboy who came up the Texas Trail in 1879, made his money in ranching and real estate, and later served as Wyoming's Governor and U.S. Senator. Trail End's Flemish Revival design and technologically-advanced interior are unique to the Rocky Mountain west. Today's visitors can enjoy 3.8 acres of groomed grounds (containing hundreds of indigenous and exotic trees), a fully-restored history house museum (mostly original furniture), as well as regular productions at the Carriage House Theater. For further information, call 307-674-4589.

Fort Bridger State Historic Site

(Fort Bridger, WY; 30 miles east of Evanston)
Originally established by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez in 1843 as an emigrant supply stop along the Oregon Trail, Fort Bridger was one of the main hubs of westward expansion. Its colorful history includes Mormon pioneers, the U.S. Army, the Pony Express, the Overland Stage and the Union Pacific Railroad. Following a long period of neglect during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the property was restored and dedicated as a Wyoming Historical Landmark and Museum in 1933.

Today, Fort Bridger State Historic Site includes several restored historical buildings from the military time period, a reconstruction of the trading post operated by Jim Bridger, and an interpretive archeological site containing the base of the cobble rock wall built by the Mormons during their occupation of the Fort. In addition, a museum containing artifacts from the various different historical time periods is housed in the 1888 stone barracks building.

At 6,675 feet above sea level, the nights at Fort Bridger are always cool and daytime temperatures are rarely uncomfortably hot. There is no camping available inside the park, but there are three RV campgrounds located nearby. For further information, call 307-782-3842.

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