Many people and animals have enjoyed the warm, therapeutic waters of the Minnekahta valley over the centuries. Recreational and health factors brought humans here, beginning with early nomadic peoples, through the Cheyenne and Lakota Indian cultures, and on to present day residents and visitors alike.
In the 1880s, the city of Hot Springs was founded in this valley and derived its name from the natural warm water springs found in the area. With the arrival of the railroad in 1891, thousands of persons came into the town yearly for the medicinal attributes of the “healing water.” Hot Springs’ Historic District was largely built during this boom, and includes a variety of beautiful sandstone buildings that were constructed between 1890 and 1915.
Hot Springs is still famous for the world’s largest natural warm water (87-degrees) swimming pool at Evans Plunge, and a major South Dakota State Veterans’ Hospital and Veterans’ Home are located here as well. The city is also the proud host of the annual Miss South Dakota Scholarship Pageant in June. A more recent addition to the town’s popularity is the Mammoth Site, a national natural landmark, which has the largest concentration of Colombian and woolly mammoth bones in the world. Visitors can tour this renowned paleontological site where a large number of mammoths died thousands of years ago. The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is located south of Hot Springs.
Nine miles north of Hot Springs is the entrance to Wind Cave National Park, a 28,000-acre wildlife preserve above an approximately 71-mile cave. A number of wildlife species roam outside, and guided Wind Cave tours below give a view inside the Black Hills. Ten miles southeast, the Angostura State Recreation Area is home of the largest lake in the Black Hills, where visitors can boat, swim, camp, and fish. Hot Springs offers the visitor a variety of opportunities and services.