The Hot Springs County Museum has an extensive collection of oilfield equipment and other artifacts related to the petroleum industry in central Wyoming
The presence of oil in the region was known throughout the 19th century. The ·Great Tar Spring·, ten miles southeast of Lander, was used by Native Americans to provide liniment for their horses. Mountain men and pioneers traveling across the country used it as axle grease for their wagons.
The first oil well in the area, along the Little Popo Agie River, was drilled in 1884. However, it was not until the early 20th century that oil production became profitable in central Wyoming. Between 1910 and 1915 numerous oil fields began production in Hot Springs County, including Warm Springs, Grass Creek, Gebo Dome, Golden Eagle and Hamilton Dome. By 1916, Hot Springs County produced over one and a half million barrels of oil annually.
With the recent declines in the oil industry, many of the towns, which grew up around the oil fields, have become shadows of their former selves. Thermopolis lost many jobs with the closure of the oil refinery in 1968.
The exhibits in and around the Petroleum Building take the visitor through every step of the process, from exploration to drilling, production, transportation, refining and marketing. One of the exhibit highlights is a complete power unit consisting of a 35 horsepower engine, 12 inch wide connecting belt, belt tightener, band wheel, eccentric wheels, rod lines and pumping unit used in area oilfields through the second half of the twentieth century.
Warm Springs Creek Dome near Thermopolis, 1917.
Oilfield equipment in the Hot Springs Museum Complex