Fall River meanders through the City of Hot Springs. During the cold winter months, it's apparent this is no ordinary river.
Thick clouds of vapor can be see rising from the surface water. The river banks are oddly snow free and the surrounding reeds and grasses are often covered in thick frost.
All of this is the result of geothermal springs pumping water out of the ground to the surface. These 'hot springs' are not only the namesake of the city, they also are the anchor of Hot Springs' industry. They have served as a magnet, attracting people for generations to the area for a variety of reasons.
Even prior to human use of the area, animals were attracted to the warm water. The Mammoth Site has evidence that the water in the sink-hole which captured the mammoths and other animals was about around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers think this because a number of small animals, like certain snails, have been found in the site which can only survive in warm waters.
The word 'minnekata' can be seen all around town. It's an anglicization of a Lakota word meaning "warm water". The Hot Springs area was used for years by the Lakota and Cheyenne because of its naturally warm water.
As the United States government promoted exploration and settlement of the Black Hills, Hot Springs became a point of interest. Other areas in the hills were explored for mining and logging, but warm mineral water was the attractant for this area.
By the early 1880s industrious settlers, like Fred Evans, formed the Dakota Hot Springs Company and began laying out a town that would be a destination.
Many believed the mineral water had curative properties for ailments such as: gastrointestinal disease, liver disease, arthritis and gout. The water was even reported as a weight loss aide. In 1892, Sioux Falls attorney, A.L. Hudson noted losing 24 pounds after bathing for 22 days in Hot Springs.
Evan's opened the Minnekahta Hotel in 1886 and later opened the first Evan's Plunge in 1891.
Many others followed suit, including the Phernetton's Bath House and the Stewart Bath House. The Stewart Bath House was opened in 1892 complete with 25 bathrooms and a large octagonal plunge.
After a fire burned down Evan's original Minnekahta Hotel in 1891, Fred Evans built the Evan's Hotel in 1892. His new construction housed 70 bathrooms.
In 1893, the Hygeia Springs House was built. Named after the Greek goddess of health, hygiene and cleanliness, the spot served as a place for the public to gain refreshment from the mineral water. It is now known as Kidney Springs and still attracts locals and tourist alike.
Hot Springs' reputation as a place of healing was not limited to the resort and spa industry. In 1889 the town was designated as the site of the Dakota's Soldiers' home. Now known as the Michael J Fitzmaurice Veterans Home, it serves South Dakota's veterans and their families.
The Battle Mountain Sanitarium was opened in 1907. Today it is operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and still provides services to the surrounding area's large veteran population.
The water of Hot Springs continues to attract people. Evan's Plunge has changed since its opening, but still offers the public a chance to experience the springs. Several spas and resorts operate in town. Kidney Springs offers a chance to drink water straight out of the ground. The river walk along Fall River showcases the mineral water as it flows through town. Hot Springs is home to several medical facilities, including the State Veterans Home and the VA.