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Changes Planned For Hot Springs State Park


When the state takes over leased properties at Hot Springs State Park, it plans to plunk down $25 million to upgrade and modernize the park.

Hot Springs has long been known for having the world’s largest mineral hot springs drawing nearly 2-million visitors every year according to state statistics.

But planners believe with updated facilities and new features, tourism could explode.

Brooks Jordan is the regional director for Wyoming State Parks and he recently told the Cowboy State Daily that he feels the state made a good-faith effort to come to terms with the current owners of Star Plunge, but just couldn’t reach a deal on signing another long-term lease.  At the end of their current contract, the Star Plunge will be turned over to the state.  He said Star Plunge and facilities across the aging park have reached the end of their lives and are in need of upgrading.

“These facilities have just reached their lifespan in terms of how they’re being maintained and the condition that they’re in now,” he said. “And Thermopolis is an important part of tourism and outdoor recreation across the state and the region. We hope to not only bolster that but improve the contribution of our facilities toward tourism and outdoor recreation.”

While Europeans never seem to get enough of hot springs, these resorts fell out of favor with American tourists over the past few decades.  But state planners are hoping to tap into a recent resurgence in water-based wellness by doing what other resorts across the United States have been doing:  Getting dressed up.

Hot Springs State Park is eyeing up those tourists who would instead head to places like Japan or New Zealand for the therapeutic joy of warm water tourism.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the US has more than 1,600 hot springs sites and many of them have been flying under the radar.

The Hot Springs Association reports record-breaking visitation from 2017 to 2019 at the 70-some hot springs owners and operators that are among its members. Although the top was knocked off that during the COVID-19 pandemic, visitation numbers are now ticking back up. The association is predicting 18% annual growth for the sector through at least 2025.

The $25 million renovations at Hot Springs State Park is being spread out, according to a master plan the state put together in 2016.  All of the money would come from the state with more money being chipped in by the Wyoming LLC, which plans to take over Star Plunge.

Jordan said Wyoming LLC was chosen because it “checked all the boxes” that the state was looking for with its vision for the park.

“They also brought a tremendous amount of experience and understanding in their proposal,” Jordan said. “And they were able to represent that and address all of the things we were looking for.”

Under the master plan, a new lodging zone would be established where the park’s historic entrance would be re-established.  The plan also sets up an aquatic zone and a green zone.

No big changes for the Plaza Hotel are planned, but Hot Springs Hotel would also be taken over by Wyoming LLC when it’s management contract expires in 2026.  The property will be reoriented to face the Bighorn River with a riverfront sitting area and a larger outdoor pool.

As for Star Plunge, plans call for it to keep it’s “mid-century” historic theme, while adding a poolside diner, water slides and swimming pools.

There are plans for a drive-in theater, a brewpub, glamping facilities and management of the state’s bathhouse.

The Teepee Pools, popular with locals, would be reconstructed with an adult-oriented spa and wellness center.

Other ideas for Hot Spring State Park renovations include:

  • One new natural soaking pool
  • 44 more hotel rooms or cabins
  • 2 acres for public camping and 7,500 more square feet for seasonal employee camping
  • More picnic shelter space
  • Re-establishment of the historic garden
  • 7,500-square-foot visitor center with space for the chamber of commerce
  • 20,000-square-foot Discovery Center
  • 50,000-square-foot children’s Nature Center
  • Expanded wayfinding signage
  • Four more park entrances for a total of five
  • 13 orientation kiosks for trailheads
  • Two new bridge overlooks
  • 9 acres of naturalized landscaping along the river’s edge
  • Two more canoe/kayak access points
  • 8 pedestrian overlooks
  • 14 archery targets and a nine- to 18-hole disc golf course
  • Various road improvements
  • About 330 more parking spaces in various places
  • A pedestrian bridge over the railroad
  • Doubling the park headquarters to 7,000 square feet
  • Increasing the greenhouse to 3,000 square feet from 450 square feet

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