Geothermal Uses

Geothermal use in Wyoming — The earliest use for geothermal waters was by native people who bathed in the warm springs for medicinal and spiritual benefits. White settlers bathed in the thermal springs also during the great westward expansion of the 1800s. Although Wyoming’s geothermal resources are still used primarily for recreation and tourism, a number of direct use and electrical generation applications have been developed in recent years. The Jackson National Fish Hatchery uses geothermal water in its brood stock hatchery outside of Jackson Hole. Natural springs at the hatchery feed the brood stock ponds with geothermal waters. The water used at the hatchery is about 80˚F (26˚C) and flows at 100 gallons per minute (gpm). According to the Geo-heat Center, annual geothermal energy produced by the springs there is about 4.9 gigawatt hours per year (GWh/yr). Another application can be found near Lander where thermal well water heats a greenhouse. The well produces 98˚F (37˚C) water at 50 gpm, generating 0.6 GWh per year. A residence near Thermopolis is heated by a warm-water geothermal system. The water used to heat the residence is 124˚F (51˚C) and flows at 100 gpm. The annual geothermal energy output of the system is 0.2 GWh/yr. The U.S. Department of Energy operated a geothermal testing facility at the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center near Teapot Dome in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. The agency sold the property (Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3) to a private operator in 2015.

Geothermal tourism — Recreation and tourism are the main uses of geothermal resources in Wyoming. Of course, the geysers, cauldrons, and hot springs at Yellowstone National Park are the most well-known and spectacular geothermal features, however, there are a number of other publicly accessible hot springs throughout the state. For hundreds of year, these hot springs have been used for recreation and relaxation. A few of the more notable public hot springs in Wyoming are detailed below.

Terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs
Terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. [Credit: WSGS, 2010]


Jim Stafford,