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Wild Horse Hot Springs resort reopens with new plunges and plans

A man relaxes next to the hot springs plunges at Wild Horse Hot Springs. The resort is reopening after a five-year closure. (David Reese/Missoula Current)

Red-winged blackbirds sing from the cattails and a pair of tepees can be seen in the distance, across the rolling farmland.

Here at Wild Horse Hot Springs, the resort is coming back to life after a five-year hiatus and will reopen this weekend with new plunges, RV hookups and camping.

Construction workers are refinishing the dilapidated and peeling concrete on several 8-by-6-foot hot-water plunges that once were in rooms at the resort just outside of Hot Springs.

The plunges are supplied by three large wells that will eventually feed many more thermal attractions, according to John Porterfield, a Missoula businessman and partner in Wild Horse Hot Springs.

The resort sits on about 10 acres on a low bluff overlooking farmland green from spring’s excesses. It’s an idyllic country setting.

Porterfield and property owner Denny Larson see a thriving business opportunity here, with plenty of artesian hot water to provide many more springs and plunges than were available at Wild Horse’s earlier rendition.

Along the bluff will be individual cabins and tepees. A large soaking plunge is planned for a ravine in the center of the property.

The springs never really closed after earlier management let the place go. Locals would — and still do — drive out Camp Aqua Road and help themselves to a soak.

Last Sunday, about 20 people showed up to soak — free of charge. That, of course, will change once the resort reopens its doors.

The old motel has been stripped of its roof and walls, leaving a steel skeleton that workers will add walls to eventually. A general store will be built from an existing homestead-looking structure.

Porterfield is excited about adding another hot springs and resort to the two that already exist in the area — Quinn’s Hot Springs and the Symes Hotel and Hot Springs.

The market seems ripe for another player; Porterfield said there is pent-up demand for additional soaking options in the Hot Springs valley.

Porterfield is owner of Ignimbrite Minerals, a company that harvests a mineral created by volcanic activity in Montana.

The company manufactures the mineral into MontanaGrow organic soil nutrients and animal feed supplements. With his background in soils and marketing, Porterfield sees geothermal energy as a driving force in creating a series of gardens that use the heat and water from the hot springs to run greenhouses all year.

With a 1,200-gallon-per-minute flow at about 128 degrees on each well, there’s water to expand the Wild Horse springs.

After many years of neglect, the property is undergoing an “intensive cleanup, corner to corner,” Porterfield said. “It’s coming together nicely.”

He said the springs were discovered in 1912 when a farmer drilled a well. The resulting gusher scoured a long ravine out of the bluff, which will be used for the group soaking area.

The managers are looking at a Saturday, May 26 opening with full RV hookups, camping and soaking. The springs are at 175 Camp Aqua Road in Hot Springs. For more information, call 406-741-3777.