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“Thermopolis is a unique and remarkable corner of the world,” says the Thermopolis Chamber of Commerce. “We want to share it with visitors who are looking to experience a powerful sense of place created by nature.”

With scenic vistas, abundant outdoor recreational opportunities and more, all nestled in a valley swathed with agriculture production, the county provides what they call a “gateway to Yellowstone.”

“There’s only one world’s largest mineral hot springs, and it’s right here in Thermopolis,” the Chamber of Commerce adds.

Tourism provides a vital addition to the economy in Hot Springs County, supplementing the agriculture and energy industries that are also top in the area.

WyoHistory.org says, “Tourism and energy remain as foundations of the Hot Springs County economy.”

Hot springs

A main attraction to Thermopolis is the mineral hot springs and Hot Springs State Park.

Since the early 19th century, the hot springs have been a central focus for the county.

“The healing waters of the area’s mineral springs attracted dinosaurs, prehistoric migratory people, Native American tribes, western settlers and now travelers visiting and crossing Wyoming,” says Hot Springs Travel and Tourism. “In the early 19th century, a sizable medical community formed in Thermopolis, centered around the hot springs and treating those visiting in hopes the water would restore their health.”

  Thermopolis Visitor’s Guide notes that Hot Springs State Park includes more than 8,000 gallons of water at 135 degrees flows over the colorful rainbow terraces in the park everyday.

The Big Spring, the largest mineral pool and center of activity, is a turquoise and green spring that releases 3.6 million gallons of water annually at 127 degrees, feeding all attractions within the park.

“Visitors can view the park from the Swinging Bridge or by immersing themselves in the free bath house, where the water is a soothing 104 degrees,” says the Visitor’s Guide. “It’s a relaxing way to end a day.”

The Swinging Bridge represents a piece of history in Thermopolis. Built in 1916, the bridge connected Big Spring to the smaller Fremont Spring and a sanatorium. While the bridge was condemned in the 1980s, it was restored in the 1990s and provides a unique vantage point to view the Big Horn River and Rainbow Terraces, says Hot Springs Travel and Tourism.

In addition, several locals have developed businesses around the hot springs, including Star Plunge and Hellie’s Tepee Pools.

River

The Big Horn River is also the central focus of many activities, including fish and rafting.

“Trout, the supreme game fish of America, teem in the blue ribbon Big Horn River,” says Hot Springs Travel and Tourism, also adding that guided fishing, float and whitewater trips are available in Thermopolis.

The Wind River Canyon draws those with an adventurous spirit, offering class four and five-rapids in various areas.

Numerous public fishing opportunities are available through public fishing access, and Snake River cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish and stone catfish are popular catches.

Museum, cultural activities

For colder days when visitors are looking to stay out of the elements, Thermopolis and Hot Springs County also offer a number of options, including the Hot Springs Cultural Center and Wyoming Dinosaur Center.

The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is a 16,000 square foot complex that includes a “world-class museum, working dig sites and a complete modern preparation laboratory.”

“Interpretive dig site tours allow visitors to walk the same ground as ancient dinosaurs and watch as scientists remove fossils from burial sites,” comments Hot Springs Travel and Tourism.

They continue, “For 160 million years, dinosaurs ruled the earth. Over the last century, we have discovered just how important they were and what they were probably like. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center and dig sites provide a unique opportunity to discover the prehistoric world, from tiny Trilobites inhabiting the seas to giant Pterosaurs who ruled the skies.”

  Moving forward through time, Hot Springs County also boasts petroglyphs dating back 10,000 years.

The Legend Rock Petroglyph Site is 23 miles west of Thermopolis and includes 92 sandstone panels with at least 283 different petroglyphs.

“Archeological tests have discovered that some of the ancient rock art dates back 10,000 years,” says Hot Springs Travel and Tourism. “Once visitors are among the thunderbirds, elk and strange figures wearing horned headdresses, it truly feels like they have been transported back 10,000 years. The remote location of the Legend Rock Petroglyphs adds to the overall experience.”

The Hot Springs County Museum and Cultural Center also houses additional artifacts, geological displays and more, located conveniently in town.

“Visitors come to enjoy an assortment of attractions to include: the mineral hot springs, a tour of Wyoming Whiskey, thrilling whitewater rafting trips down the Wind River Canyon, a tour of The Wyoming Dinosaur Center, enjoying the Blue-Ribbon Fishing opportunities on the Big Horn River and admiring the Legend Rock Petroglyphs, just to name a few,” says the Thermopolis Chamber.

They add, “People would be remiss if they didn’t stop – at least for a night or two.”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from numerous online sources, including wyohistory.com, thermopolis.com and thermopolischamber.org. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cheyenne – Buffalo Ridge Elementary math and science teacher John Broda is leading the charge with a new form of learning. By bringing students outside to learn, Broda calls his new type of education “dirty learning.”

“It’s a new dynamic of taking kids outside,” states Broda. “We get the best of their creativity and the best of their inquiry all around when we are outside.”

Dirty learning

“The kids get stuck in a classroom, and science needs to be hands-on,” states Broda. “When kids are outside, there isn’t the classroom discipline, and they are engaged.”

One of the bigger projects Broda has done with his students is a yearlong water quality study, where the students collected water samples from water drainages above Cheyenne, on school district and agricultural lands, past the water treatment center in Cheyenne and before and after the HollyFrontier oil refinery. 

The students also worked with HollyFrontier’s scientists to learn about their water treatment processes. 

“We thought the water sample after the refinery were going to be terrible, but that was one of the cleanest spots we found,” says Broda. “It was even better than the water way above town.”

“We don’t do these sorts of things enough with kids, and the students get cabin fever,” adds Broda. “We coop them up in a building, and we try to teach them as fast as we can and as much as we can. We don’t let the kids enjoy learning.”

Outdoor projects

Another hands-on project Broda has done with his students involves range management, where they look at noxious weeds and observe trees that are susceptible to pine beetles. At the same time, they also learn about how to use GPS coordinates and geographic information systems (GIS). 

“We’ve also tied wildland fires into the learning and had a volunteer fire department come and talk to us,” comments Broda. 

In efforts to tie it all together, students learned about the effects pine beetles have on wildland fires and their effect on water and water runoff. 

The students also caught grasshoppers while outside and learned some entomology.  

“We work a lot with our Conservation District in the county,” says Broada. “At the beginning of the year, we spend a day up in the district lands, or we are outside putting our hands in the dirt.”

Year-end trips

At the end of the school year, Broda and his students take a trip. 

When Broda taught sixth graders, the trip was to Yellowstone for a week. In Yellowstone, students worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to learn about wolves. They then went into Yellowstone Park and talked about geothermal activity. 

This year, Broda is teaching fourth graders and is in the process of finalizing plans to take a three-day trip to the northeast part of Wyoming. 

“Our focus is going to be more on Wyoming resources and the history of Wyoming,” says Broda. 

Activities planned include a visit to a bison ranch to observe grazing practices and learn more about range management. The students will also learn about lumber production and the reproduction of lumber at a lumber mill while on the trip and tour Devil’s Tower. 

“We are also going to tour a coal mine because that is such a huge part of Wyoming and our whole economy,” describes Broda. 

“When we come back, we are going to go in a different direction and go through Lusk, where we will have a presenter from the ranching community,” says Broda. “She is going to talk to us about some of the history in the Lusk area.” 

“Now that the science curriculum we are required to teach is coming to a close, we are really going to focus on all the pre-teaching stuff for this trip,” states Broda.  “We’ll have a bunch of folks coming in and talking to the kids.” 

Funding

Funding for the class trips comes from grant writing and fundraising events, like the carnival the school puts on. 

“Every year at this school we have phenomenal parents who step up and are willing to meet once a week to try and get thing going for these trips,” explains Broda. “The community also always steps up and rewards us every single time.” 

Broda adds, “We’ve been doing this for a number of years, and people know this is a big thing for this school. We want to continue to do these sorts of things.”

PIAEE

Broda has been teaching for 14 years. 

In 2012, when Broda was teaching sixth graders, he was nominated to be a recipient of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). 

PIAEE represents teachers across the nation and their leadership in the field of environment education in formal school settings. Broda was one of the 18 teachers who received the prestigious award. 

“Science is in everything, and it doesn’t have to be just in teaching about light or sound waves,” explains Broda. “We just have to be creative to tie it all together. It just takes a little bit more effort, a few more phone calls and the will to teach the kids about it.”

“When kids go home after school, they don’t want to sit inside of the house and do nothing. They are outside, and they want to get their hands dirty – that’s how they play,” states Broda. “Teachers will be amazed by what being outside and utilizing outdoor education will do.” 

Madeline Robinson is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Worland – Bryant Honey began in 1916 with a box of bees and some dairy cows that arrived in Worland from Colorado with Bob Bryant’s great grandfather in a boxcar. has. Its expanded to over 6,000 colonies in seven counties throughout the Big Horn Basin and southeast Wyoming. 
Now in their fourth generation of beekeeping in the Basin, the Bryant family continues to expand their honey production and pollination services.
“When my grandpa, Robert Sr., took over he built it up to 600 colonies, and when he passed my dad took it over, building it to 1,200 colonies,” says Bryant. “In 1984 my brother Don and I took it over, and we’re running about 6,000 colonies now.”
For over 50 years Bryant Honey has marketed their product through the Sioux Honey Association, based in Sioux City, Iowa. Robert Sr. was an original member of the co-op. Although most of their honey is shipped east to Iowa in 55-gallon drums, the family does market some locally with the Bryant Honey label.
The barrels of honey produced each year vary, but Bryant says the Wyoming state average is 71 pounds per colony per year. “This last year was a very low year for us, because it was too wet and cold. The farmers couldn’t get their hay baled, leaving it in the fields or down for longer periods. It was a hard season.”
“If you run out and see the alfalfa fields bright purple, and they smell purple, that’s what we want,” he says of ideal bee conditions. “That’s when you look across a field and there’s a cloud of bees.”
Although the average cutting stage for alfalfa is 10 to 15 percent of flower, Bryant says it depends on the farmer and whether their goal is tonnage or quality.     “If they’re going for tonnage, they’ll let it grow longer, but if they’re going for dairy quality a lot of them will cut before it even gets to the bud stage,” he says. “The longer the bloom, the better it is for us.”
Winter work
Bryant Honey employs 12 people in the summer, while only a few work through the winter in Wyoming on various tasks, including building hives. Other family members follow the bees to California, where they’re trucked to generate income as pollinators for the almond trees.
“Since we began migrating to California we get a lot more dry rot,” says Bryant. “It’s good because we get paid for the pollination, but our equipment takes a toll. While a hive might last 50 years in Wyoming, sometimes it’s five in California.”
“We like to send ours south in the first part of November, when it’s cool,” says Bryant, adding that makes it easier for the truckers because the bees don’t overheat and come out of their hives.
“The bees keep each hive at about 90 or 92 degrees year round, and if you stack them all on a truck they’re producing heat and there’s no airflow or water to cool them,” he says, adding, “Some truckers will lay a soaker hose down the top of the truck immediately when they stop if it is warm. The bees suck up that water and start fanning their wings, and it’s a swamp cooler.”
Bryant says some truckers do arrive mid-day. “It’s a nightmare,” he says. “You take that net off the hives and a cloud of millions of bees goes into the air. They don’t know where to go, and there’s a lot of mortality. We try to teach the truckers why we do what we do.”
The bees produce no honey while they’re in California. “They live from day to day and bring in a little nectar to get the queens to lay their eggs,” explains Bryant. “We feed a lot of corn syrup.”
He explains they fill one-gallon cans with corn syrup, setting them upside down on the hives and letting them drip slowly down.
During the winter the Bryants who travel to California combine colonies to get the best ones in the orchards. Bryant says the colonies are rated and they’re paid according to how many bees there are.
Bryant says this year they’ll have extensive winter loss, estimating a loss of 70 percent because of last summer’s cold wet weather. To rebuild their colonies Bryant says they prefer to use their own stock, making splits from the old stands, but they also get “package bees.”
“We go to California and shake bees from the stronger colonies, putting them in crates that hold two or three pounds of bees,” says Bryant. “We bring them back to Wyoming and shake them in a hive with a queen, starting a new colony.”
This winter is the first time the Bryants have shipped some bees to potato cellars in Idaho for the first part of winter, where they’re kept dark and at a precise temperature.
“The bees stay cool and don’t use a lot of honey – we’re trying it this year to see how we like it,” says Bryant. “When you put them in that environment they don’t do a whole lot – they just exist and it saves feeding later on. The first of February they’re loaded back up and sent to California, and so far the ones that have gone to California have a lot more honey on them.”
Bee eaters
Bryant says a big predator is skunks, but he says they’re “fascinating to watch” when they hunt bees.
“They will come into the yard and scratch on the colony, which makes the guard bees come out. The skunks swish their tails back and forth and the bees get loaded in their tail, then they turn around, flip their tail up and pick the bees out and eat them,” he explains. “They’ve got just a drop of honey in them, and they just eat the honey. They can eat a lot of bees in a night.”
Bryant says they used to trap a lot, and at one point his dad, in the early 1980s, trapped over 500 skunks in a three-county area one summer. He says now it’s harder to control them because of the limited means available today.
“Now it’s a matter of waiting for one to go out of the yard before you shoot it,” he adds, noting they also encounter damage from bears, which he says are becoming more prevalent.
“They can devastate a yard, and carry 80-pound hives half a mile away,” he says. “We work with Game and Fish extensively, and they give us electric fences to put up on yards that have been hit before.”
Location and
equipment
Whatever the challenges to beekeeping may be, Bryant says his family likes it in the Big Horn Basin.
“The weather is normally very mild here, without the hail and heavy rains that come through in the Lingle/Torrington area. It seems like we’ve always produced good honey – it’s a mild, light white honey, and it’s seems like that’s what everyone wants.
Three years ago the Bryants put up a new building with automized extracting equipment, which Bryant says is much better than the hands-on approach his dad and grandfather had to take. “Now we hardly touch the combs as they come through,” he says. “It cuts down on the stickiness, because a little honey goes a long way. We’re constantly washing and trying to keep things clean.”
He adds the best investment they ever made was a pair of forklifts, which are used to move pallets of hives when hay producers spray for insects instead of lifting them all by hand.
As for the future of the family business, Bryant says his brother Don’s two sons, Brandon and Brady, each have a few colonies of their own, while he says his own son Bobby is 13 and helps in the summer.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper - Because their dad rodeoed throughout their childhood, brothers Ty, Colt and Blaze Hamaker of Centennial say their involvement in rodeo naturally took off from there.
    Competing the third week of June in Casper’s College National Finals Rodeo, the boys had high hopes on registration Saturday to win big, and with good reason.
    “Our dad rode broncs and bulls in college, and then he rode broncs professionally, so ever since I was little I wanted to be a bronc rider, because that’s what my dad did,” says Colt, whose brothers agree that was their inspiration as well. Their father, J.D. Hamaker, competed in college rodeo and rode broncs professionally for over a decade.
    In addition to rough stock, Colt also team ropes and calf ropes.
    Going into the national event, Ty ranked first in bull riding in the Central Rocky Mountain Region and was eighth in saddle bronc and fifth all-around. Blaze ranked number two in saddle bronc riding in the region, which was good enough to rank him 12th nationally. Colt sat in sixth place for saddle bronc riding and 11th in team roping, where he’s a header, which placed him seventh all-around in the region.
    The Hamakers says they chose to attend Central Wyoming College in Riverton because of the rodeo coach, Rick Smith. Smith, who’s been with the college since 1995, is a former National Intercollegiate Saddle Bronc Riding Champion and six-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier.
    The brothers are each involved with the college’s rodeo team, which won the 2008 Central Rocky Mountain Region championship for the seventh year since 2000, for their entire college career. Ty recently completed his junior year, while Blaze was a sophomore and Colt a freshman. All three are working on general studies degrees.
    The Hamakers see more rodeo in their future after college, and are already competing professionally between the 10 college rodeo weekends, which are divided between fall and spring. They say rising fuel prices have hurt.
    “Gas is making it a lot harder, but we still have to drive,” says Ty. “It hurts a lot when we have to fill up.”
    Rodeos have a new rule dictating a minimum amount of money awarded at short rounds; as a result, most rodeos have done away with them. “Now we can just go there once and make more money off one trip,” he says.
    The cowboys travel in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska for college rodeo, but pro rodeos take them as far as Canada, Mississippi and Texas.
    As of competition June 18, Colt stood 19th in saddle bronc riding, with Blaze at 32nd. Ty
ranked 29th in bull riding.
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Buffalo – The Basque culture was recently celebrated in Buffalo during the North American Basque Organizations Festival the fourth weekend in July, and its existence in Wyoming for the last 100 years can be credited to one man.
The story of John Esponda is one of lore and tradition – according to his great-granddaughter Ashton Esponda, John came to America after his brother Jean had gone to America and established a job as a sheepherder. When Jean returned to their home in France, he collected his brother John and others to return with him to America to work on sheep ranches across the West.
John and Jean worked on the Healy and Patterson Ranch in Johnson County, and many attribute the influx of the Basque population to the efforts of John to bring more Basque families from the old country to new jobs in Wyoming. Thanks to John, an estimated 39 Basque families moved to Johnson County.
The original Basque country is located in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, and the majority of the Basques who made the pilgrimage to Wyoming came from the same small area in France, within eight miles of the Esponda’s home village.
John married Dominica Etchemendy, who was also Basque, and they soon were known as the social hub of the Basque community. The Espondas hosted parties and gatherings for church holidays at their home, and people commuted from miles around to meet and socialize with others who shared their culture and heritage.
Eventually the two brothers worked their way up from sheephearder to manager to co-owner, and eventually bought the ranch. The Espondas soon became the largest landowners in Johnson County and by the ripe age of 32 John owned over 15,000 head of sheep.
John and Dominica had four children, John Jr. (Art), Jeanette, Grayce and Noeline. John worked as a wool buyer across the country and eventually took over the ranch, while Jeanette founded the local radio station and hosted a local Basque hour, where her sisters often hosted an all-Basque commentary. Grayce and Noeline were also both outstanding members of the local community, and all of the Esponda children married. Their children now carry on the traditions of their heritage.
The Esponda family is still considered a prominent figure in the Basque community, and they are still active in the Big Horn Basque Club. The grandchildren, great grandchildren and even the great great grandchildren of John Esponda are the current generation partaking in the tradition and continuing on the culture of the Basque.
The family partook in this year’s annual North American Basque Organizations (NABO) Festival, which took place in Buffalo July 21-25. The festival consisted of meetings, a parade of sheep wagons belonging to families from across the United States, public “festarra” including Basque dancers and traditional Basque music.
The festival also included a traditional Basque Catholic Mass, a tour of the Big Horn Mountains and traditional athletic competitions including Soka Tira (tug-of-war), weight carrying and sheep hooking.
Basque clubs came from all over the country, with dance troops and musical groups performing from Idaho, Washington, Nevada and Utah. Basque families also flocked from overseas to participate in the annual festivities.
The NABO Festival changes location each year, and the 2012 event will be held in Reno, Nev. For more information on the annual NABO Festivals, visit nabasque.org or bighornweb.com/nabo2011. Tressa Lawrence is the editorial intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..