COVID-19: While it is impossible to know what the COVID-19 scenario will look like in June, we will plan to follow all recommended CDC guidelines during the weekend of the event. Many events will take place outdoors, and participants are welcome to join for only those activities that are outdoors and refrain from carpooling if they wish.
Camping and Hotels: Members Kim Bartlett and John Fenton have generously offered their property in Thermopolis for tent or RV camping. Their property is about 1 mile west of Thermopolis city limits at 172 W Highway 120. There is space for 5 RVs (without hookups) and 30 tent campers. The road into their property is firm but not graveled so can be a little messy when wet. RVs will be on a leveled area, but tent camping will be in unmaintained grassy areas without tree cover. Like many areas in the Bighorn Basin, the camping area does have cheatgrass, and we recommend campers be hyper-aware of not spreading seeds to hike locations, perhaps by bringing an extra pair of shoes separate from your hiking boots to wear while on their property. There will be two porta potties onsite, but campers should bring their own drinking water. Please indicate at registration whether you are planning to camp with us at Kim and John’s and for which nights. If you have questions, please contact Kim Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org. A huge thanks to Kim and John for hosting us!
There are a number of hotels in Thermopolis, which tend to book up very quickly. We highly recommend booking early if you plan to stay in a hotel. The Thermopolis Brewfest is happening on Saturday, so things may be busier than usual in a town that sees a lot of tourism on a normal weekend.
Food: All meals are on your own except Saturday evening dinner. The Saturday dinner will be takeout from local Thermopolis favorite Bangkok Thai. A variety of dishes will be available including a vegetarian/gluten free curry. Cost is $25 per dinner, due at registration. Participants are welcome to attend all Saturday evening events, even if not partaking in the Thai food dinner option.
Other Information: Many of the weekend’s events are plant walks outdoors in sometimes remote locations. We recommend sturdy shoes, sun protection, bug spray, and plenty of food and water. No pets are allowed at any of our events, except for service animals. Please make sure to arrive at hikes with shoes clean of mud and weed seeds so we don’t accidentally spread noxious weeds into these unique botanical locations. Carpooling is recommended to lighten our impact on trailheads and the atmosphere.
Hot Springs: Take some time while you are in Thermopolis to enjoy a soak at the Hot Springs. There are a few different options available for soaking, all right next to each other in Hot Springs State Park. The State Bath House is free and open to the public from 8 am-4 pm daily, with soak time limited to 20 minutes. There are also two privately-operated hot springs called Star Plunge and Hellie’s TeePee and Spa. These are open daily from 9 am-9 pm daily, have entrance fees of approximately $15.50, and you can soak as long as you want.
Questions? Please contact us via email at WYNPS@WYNPS.org.
Schedule at a Glance:
Friday 2-5 pm: Check-in at Thermopolis Community Hall
Friday 3-5 pm: Plant Families Workshop at Thermopolis Community Hall
Friday 6:30 pm – dusk: Hot Springs State Park Sunset Hikes
Saturday 8-4 pm: Full Day Hikes and Workshops Leave from Thermopolis Community Hall
Saturday 5-7 pm: Social Hour and Dinner at Thermopolis Community Hall
Saturday 7 pm: Keynote Speaker Presentation at Thermopolis Community Hall
Sunday 7-8 am: Members meeting at Thermopolis Community Hall
Sunday 8:30 am: Full- and Half Day Hikes Leave from Thermopolis Community Hall
Sunday 10:00 am: Participants from Cody meet Heart Mountain caravan from Thermopolis at Bomgaar’s/McDonalds in Cody
Friday, June 3
2:00-5:00 pm: Check-in at the Thermopolis Community Hall
3:00-5:00 pm: Learning Plant Families Workshop at Thermopolis Community Hall
In a workshop, Restoration Scientist Maggie Eshleman will lead us through identification and key characteristics of the most common plant families in the Wyoming flora. The ability to recognize plant families is critical to successful field identification, and many native plants fall into one of several common families. Participants will learn the key family characteristics and use dissection and microscopy to identify these features on live plant specimens.
5:00-6:30: Dinner on your own
6:30 pm – dusk : Hot Springs State Park Sunset Plant Walks
Hot Springs State Park is a natural history wonder, claiming the world’s largest mineral hot spring. Thermal features bubble from the ground and run into the Bighorn River, in a setting surrounded by rocky ridges and rugged topography. Join us as we spend the evening exploring the desert and riparian flora of the park. Park Superintendent Kevin Skates will give us a brief history of the area, and then we’ll split into groups for evening strolls on the park’s trails led by hike leaders Ernie Nelson and John Mionczynski.
The meeting place is the parking lot of the Hot Springs Springs Hotel and Spa (formerly Days Inn) which is located inside of Hot Springs State Park at 115 E Park St, Thermopolis, WY 82443. To find the meeting location, drive east through the main entrance to Hot Springs State Park on Park Street. Continue under the welcome sign, and cross the Bighorn River. The Hot Springs Hotel and Spa is the first building on your right, just a few hundred feet east of the river. Meet in the large parking lot on the east side of the building.
Saturday, June 4
7:30 am – 8 am: Check-in at the Thermopolis Community Hall – for participants who did not check in on Friday
8 am: Meet at Thermopolis Community Hall for Saturday hikes. Saturday hikes are all-day events, and will aim to wrap up by about 4 pm.
Option 1: Copper Mountain Wilderness Study Area
Join botanist Emma Freeland and geologist Kurt Imhoff as we explore the desert flora from the floor of the Wind River Basin to the jagged limestone peaks of the Copper Mountain Wilderness Study Area. As we admire botanical treasures, we will consider the influence that the geology has on the flora. We are likely to find Cryptantha subcapitata (Owl Creek miner’s candle), an endemic plant restricted to a small area in the Wind River Basin. Other charismatic plants we can expect are a variety of Penstemon, Petrophyton caespitosum (rockmat), vivid Castilleja angustifolia (paintbrush) in all shades, and if we’re lucky, ferns tucked into rock crevices on the northern exposures. We will cover 3-4 miles in very steep and rocky terrain.
Option 2: Collecting Plant Specimens with the Rocky Mountain Herbarium
Rocky Mountain Herbarium Director Dr. David Tank, Senior Curator Ernie Nelson, and RM Digital Curator Ben Legler will engage participants in one of the important activities that herbaria conduct – collecting! The Rocky Mountain Herbarium has a long tradition of conducting botanical surveys to document the diversity and distribution of vascular plants throughout Wyoming and the Rocky Mountains. During the WYNPS annual meeting we will have access to both the private land where we will be camping, as well as the state park, so we are excited to add to our knowledge of the regional flora with collections from these areas! This event is ideal for those interested in learning proper plant collecting and preservation techniques and who are interested in identification of all plants on the landscape – not just wildflowers, but also the grasses, trees, and shrubs.
Working in small groups, we will conduct a general botanical survey to document the diversity of vascular plants in the area, and the collections that we make will be added to the Rocky Mountain Herbarium. We plan to spend the morning and early afternoon in the field collecting, and then the latter part of the day will be spent pressing our collections. During the pressing process, we will spend some time discussing field identification of important groups and identifying some of the more interesting collections that were made. The herbarium will supply presses, paper, etc. but if you have collecting tools (clippers, diggers) please bring them along to facilitate the process.
Option 3: Tensleep Preserve
Join The Nature Conservancy’s staff as we explore Tensleep Preserve located on the southwestern flank of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. While slopes range from gentle on the Cooks Vee to vertical in the canyons and elevation ranges from 5000’ to 8500’, we will spend most of our time on a moderately strenuous hike at approximately 6,700’. We’ll examine 500-plus year-old ponderosas, discuss post-burn habitats, and search for Bighorn Mountain endemics along the Tensleep Sandstone. You are welcome to cap off your visit with further walks within the 9,200-acre property.
5 pm: The Saturday evening program will begin with a social hour at the Thermopolis Community Hall. Debrief from the day’s botanical outings, try your hand at the botanical natural history quiz, and mingle. Please note that the Thermopolis Community hall is an alcohol-free space and we will respect their rule.
6 pm: Dinner from Bangkok Thai at Thermopolis Community Hall. Food will be served buffet style, with a variety of dishes available including a vegetarian/gluten-free curry. Cost is $25 per dinner, due at registration. You are welcome to join us during dinner even if you choose not to partake in the Thai food.
7 pm: Keynote Speaker Presentation
Title: Restoring Shoshone Ancestral Food Gathering
Speakers: Caroline Mills, Vernetta Panzetanga, and John Mionczynski
Sunday, June 5
7 am – 8 am: WYNPS Annual Members Meeting at Thermopolis Community Hall
This meeting is the time we discuss things like membership fees, budget of the society, and the location for the next annual meeting. Coffee and pastries from Lazy Fox Bakery in Thermopolis will be provided.
8:30 am: Meet for Sunday hikes at Thermopolis Community Hall. Sunday hikes are a mix of half-day and full-day outings, see descriptions for details.
Option 1: Rare Plants of Heart Mountain in Cody – all day hike
Join biologist Destin Harrell and geologist Lisa Marks as we explore the geologic and botanical hotspot of The Nature Conservancy’s Heart Mountain Ranch. With its unusual limestone cap, Heart Mountain is a geologic puzzle, where older limestone lies atop younger strata. Heart Mountain supports one of the greatest concentrations of rare plants on private lands in Wyoming. Of particular interest are several cushion plant communities found on cliffs near its summit. We are likely to find Shoshonea pulvinata, Eritrichium howardii, Kelseya uniflora, Antennaria aromatica, and many others. If the road is dry, we will hike to the summit from half way up; plan for a steep hike approximately 1.5 miles. If the road is wet, the hike will start at the base of the mountain in diverse sagebrush steppe, with a 4 mile hike to the summit. A high clearance, four wheel drive vehicle and carpooling are recommended. Please bring your bear spray. Caravan will leave Thermopolis at 8:30 am to meet Cody members in the parking lot of the McDonald’s and Bomgaars at 10:00 am to carpool to the trailhead.
Option 2: Round Top Mountain Relict Vegetation Community – half day hike
Join botanist Kristy Smith for a short, steep hike up Roundtop Mountain, one of the prominent features of the Thermopolis skyline, standing about 600 feet above the town. Due to the steep topography that has precluded most access by livestock, the vegetation on top of Roundtop is considered a relict rangeland plant community, with a composition similar to that of Wyoming rangelands prior to European settlement. The top of the plateau contains vigorous bunchgrasses, diverse forbs and shrubs, and unique cushion plant communities on cliff edges, with stunning views of the Bighorn Basin. The hike is short and steep, covering about 300 feet of elevation change in a trail about one-quarter mile, with some scrambling at the very top. The parking area is accessible to all vehicles.
Option 3: Birdseye Pass Wildflowers – half day hike
Throughout history and through the early 1900’s, one of the major routes between the Wind River Basin and the Bighorn Basin was not through the rugged terrain of Wind River Canyon, but rather up and over Birdseye Pass. Natalie Wehner will lead us on an exploration of the diverse mountain big sagebrush and black sagebrush grasslands near the top of the pass. We expect to find penstemons, paintbrushes, several phlox species, and spring parsley, just to name a few. We will cover up to about a mile in easy to moderate terrain. Very low clearance vehicles are not recommended; there will be opportunities to carpool.