BIG HORN HOT SPRINGS
A Description of a Wonderful Spot Heretofore Undescribed
Originally published in the Leader; reprinted in the Sheridan Post, 24 August 1893
Big Horn Hot Springs, Johnson county, Wyo., Aug. 5 – Discovered – The most wonderful spot in Wyoming outside the Yellowstone park. Talk about your Dakota hot springs, Glenwood, Colo., hot springs, Saratoga, Washakie or Alcova hot springs, in the language of the country, they are not in it with the Big Horn hot springs. The medicinal properties of any of the others may be just as good, but for grandeur these springs knock the persimmon.
Grand as they are, however, we were born several centuries too late to see them at their best. The first pretty sight which attracts attention of the stranger on approaching is the camp of the visitors. Buggies, tents, wagons and dugouts are mingled together in a little clump at the foot of and between two little red hills, and just beyond is the great ten acre red and white, porcelain like, floor of solid formation formed by the hot water, and still further on is the river. The main spring boils up at the foot of a little red hill 500 feet high and about three hundred yards from the river.
The spring is about 100 feet in circumference and the water, which is never less than 133 degrees nor more than 137 Fahrenheit, comes surging and boiling up with tremendous force. Looking down into the mysterious seething mass, it appears bottomless.
The hot stream running from this spring is about four feet wide and two feet deep. It divides into two large and several small streams before reaching the river. One stream runs along the edge, farthest from the river, of the hard formation to the bath house some 300 yards. The bath house is built of rock and the bath tub consists of a hole chiseled into the floor. The floor it must be remembered is of the hard substance which is gradually forming all the time where ever the hot water comes into contact with anything. The tub on the sides is like porcelain. The floor around the edges of it is also very hard and smooth. A thousand such tubs could be cut into the peculiar formation and better bath tubs could not be manufactured. At the lower edge of this formation, on the west side, are a lot of steps, pockets or terraces leading down to the valley. On the north side the hot water pours over into the river, a fall of about thirty feet. Under these falls one can take a hot shower bath, cold shower bath or steam bath. Smooth natural seats and resting places have been formed under the falls.
The cold showers are not so large as the hot, but there are several places where the water in winding through the formation has cooled before it pours over into the river. It is considered dangerous by some to go near the lower falls which is the largest. Two years ago a man fell off there and was drowned. It was in the fall of the year when there was considerable ice and as he had on a large overcoat of course he could not get out of the river. It is not so dangerous there as it is generally supposed, either above or below the falls.
One of our party made the entire trip underneath from the lower edge of the falls to the upper and though his hands and feet were bleeding slightly from contact with sharp rocks, the trip was more than worth the making. Part of the time it was necessary to be in cold water up to the chin and sometimes in order to avoid scalding dive for a few feet until the hot stream was passed. In other places it was easy to pass behind the stream and sometimes by clinging to the rocks a man’s head could be passed between the hot stream and the walls while his body was protected by being under the cold water. Sometimes the riverbed and little pillars (that were used for hand holds) were very smooth and sometimes rough and sharp. By swimming out into the river a few feet at places the passage would probably be very easy, but the river looks so dangerous that one doesn’t like to risk it. The river, which averages from 150 feet to 100 yards wide, at this point narrows down to sixty or eighty feet, and there are numerous rocks under the water, sometimes reaching up to within a foot of the surface and sometimes projecting above it.
In making the trip under the falls, numerous curious specimens were found. There are scalding hot streams of water, from half an inch to one foot in diameter, pouring out of the solid walls and through the recently formed columns of magnesia like rock. Little caverns and miniature cells behind the hot streams form natural sweat caves. It was just above the springs where the river cuts its narrow way through the magnesia that Judge Plowman’s brother was drowned last month while trying to cross the river to get a kodac picture of the falls.
On the north side of the river is one good spring and some small ones, and some distance below the big spring, on the south side, is a sulphur spring and cave that are of considerable interest. For some distance around this spot the earth has been literally perforated with wonderful … [missing segment]
… springs some day. On the north side of the river, near the largest spring and on top of a low hill, is an extinct crater of a spring encircled by two rims of the hard formation, and it is plain that the hot water has at one time poured over on all sides. The old spring is apparently perfectly dry, as green grass grows in the bottom of the hole, which is about 100 feet in circumference. There is, however, what looks like the hole of a prairie dog there, and one can run his arm down it till the hand comes in contact with hot water. Just back of the crater is a bluff several hundred feet high and covered sparsely with stubby cedars. To [its] very top is the same formation that is constantly being manufactured by the springs. It is older, harder and dryer, but the same, nevertheless.
On the south or east side of the river, and more than a quarter of a mile from it, is a wonderful crater which was visited the other evening by a dozen or more ladies and gentlemen. Right on top of the hill is the old crater which must be 300 yards in circumference. At the bottom is a little lake of cold water which has a peculiar taste somewhat similar to that of the springs. The rocky sides of the great hole are of the same magnesia formation as all the other curiosities in the neighborhood. Bottles, horse shoes, tin horses, houses and all sorts of curiosities can be coated over a rough and glistening though, delicate and beautiful white in less than a week.
Last Updated April 2005
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