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Valley of healing waters prized by Sioux and Cheyenne

HOT SPRINGS, S.D. – Visitors to Hot Springs can plunge into fun at the largest indoor, geothermal spring-fed pool in the world. Evans Plunge is built over 13 small, sparkling springs and one mammoth spring of warm mineral water, which sits on top of a natural bed of smooth river rocks.

Prized by the Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne for thousands of years, the valley of healing waters, called Wiwilakahta, was considered a cure-all. According to local legend, a fierce battle was fought on the east summit above the springs and river – now called Battle Mountain – with the Sioux emerging victorious over the Cheyenne for possession of the sacred waters.

The first Evans Plunge was built in 1890 by Fred Evans. Since that time, the crystal clear water has drawn visitors from around the world for rejuvenation, refreshment, relaxation and recreation in a family fun environment.

The large 200-foot long by 50-foot wide pool boasts three water slides – one takes swimmers from inside the building and deposits them into another pool outdoors – a curvy whale slide for kids and a straight 164-foot slide that hydroplanes you across almost the entire length of the pool. There are Tarzan Rings which take you from one side of the pool to the other, hand over hand; fun tubes, kid’s pools and a full service health club offering a cardio room, weight room, water aerobics, land aerobics, mineral water hot tubs, steam room and dry sauna.

For those looking to burn off some energy there is also water volleyball and basketball games to participate in.

If you had a more relaxing day in mind, visit the gift shop and concession stand.

General Manager Vicki Hudson said Fall River, which runs through Hot Springs, stays about 67 degrees year-round. “The geothermal spring that comes up into the pool is 87 degrees. Over the past 100 years, it has lost 10 degrees – it used to come up at 97 degrees,” she said. “Our Mammoth Spring comes up from the bottom of the pool at 5,000 gallons a minute and flows out the side of our building to form the Fall River. We have the cleanest water you will ever swim in; the spring is completely filled with new water every 90 minutes.”

The first wooden building covering the springs in 1890 has been replaced four times, with the latest being cemented block. “They discovered that steel doesn’t work unless it’s stainless steel. It’s like a big old ship – you are constantly maintaining it,” Hudson said.

At the north end of the pool inside the plunge, the Mammoth Spring is known as the “Original Indian Spring.” Prior to 1890, Indians went there to bathe and drink from the springs. Evans Plunge, according to Hudson, was the Black Hills first tourist attraction.


Photo courtesy Evans Plunge Evans Plunge, first built in 1890 by Fred Evans, has drawn visitors from around the world for rejuvenation, refreshment, relaxation and recreation in a family fun environment.

Today, members of the surrounding tribes, such as the Pine Ridge Agency, Oglala Sioux, and the Rosebud Agency Sioux, often seek employment where their ancestors used to gather at the springs.

Other attractions you won’t want to miss during a visit to Evans Plunge and the Black Hills include the world’s largest indoor mammoth research facility and indoor fossil dig site, a challenging 18-hole mini golf course, explore the underground world of Wind Cave National Park and drive through a herd of wild bison at Custer State Park.

See wild mustangs at the Hot Springs Wild Horse Sanctuary, the stuff of movies and legends. The sanctuary is home to more than 400 wild mustangs on 11,000 acres. A two-hour guided bus tour through the sanctuary takes you to a scenic overlook perfect for picture-taking, a movie set, petroglyphs, Sundance Ceremony site and pioneer history.

At the end of the day, take a relaxing walk along the trail on the edge of the Fall River and head back to the Flatiron Coffee Bar, Grill & Guest Suites for a great meal, relaxing massage and luxurious suite for some rest and relaxation.

The Black Hills is a region of gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, wildlife, scenic byways, gold mines, mountain lakes, granite crags and Ponderosa forests. With few mosquitoes and no wild bears, camping is superb. You will find trail systems for bikers, hikers and horses. There is rock climbing, fly fishing for rainbow, brown and brook trout, caving, ATVing and wildlife photography.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently named Hot Springs the 2009 USA Distinctive Destination because of its beauty, cultural resources and architecturally significant buildings.

Legendary characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane color South Dakota’s past; this is the land of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and Crazy Horse. Some of the biggest bison herds in the world still roam free in parks and on ranches. And if that isn’t enough, rodeos abound as the number one spectator sport.

Evans Plunge is open year-round; closing only Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is located at the north edge of Hot Springs, just off Highway 385. Admission for age 2 and under is free, ages 3 – 12 is $9, ages 13 and up is $11. The health club is an additional $3.50. An eight percent sales tax applies to all admissions.

For more information call (605) 745-5165 or e-mail