A Warm Water Haven
Long before Mount Rushmore became the Rushmore Region's iconic tourist attraction in 1927, the Southern Hills city of Hot Springs was drawing visitors from throughout the Midwest. They came to soak in the warm, mineral-rich spring waters that flowed into Fall River. The water was reputed to have healing powers.
In the 1890s, River Street was lined with spas, hotels and bathouses, most made from the distinctive red sandstone quarried nearby. In 1890, Evans Plunge -- a large indoor pool fed by a warm spring water – was built. More than 120 years later, Evans Plunge remains a centerpiece of Hot Springs' tourism industry. It's much different than 1890. The Plunge now sports water slides, hot tubs, kids pools, outside swimming and gymnastics rings.
A more recent attraction was the result of an accidental discovery: In 1974 a contractor excavating on the south edge of town uncovered a large bone that turned out to be a mammoth bone. More bones turned up, and today the Hot Springs Mammoth Site is a major paleontology dig and a major tourist attraction.
With a roof overhead, the site has revealed skeletal remains of more than 60 mammoths and other creatures. Visitors can tour the in-situ museum, and literally peer over the shoulders of the scientists. More than 26,000 years ago, the site was a natural warm-water sinkhole. Uncounted beasts wandered in for water and perished when they could not climb out of the hole.
Hot Springs, in the scenic Fall River Valley, has a population of 3,600. It's also close to Angostura Reservoir, Wind Cave National Park, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and the award-winning Southern Hills Golf Course. The South Dakota State Veterans Home and the Department of Veterans Affairs Hot Springs Campus are both located here.