I wish I could tally up the number of times I have driven by the Gigantic Warm Springs sign when I was on MT Hwy 81, wanting to stop but thinking I would do that some other time. Well, the “some other time” finally happened and what a delightful surprise I found.
When you turn off the highway you are on the Vanek Ranch, owners of this unique warm spring. The drive into the ranch house is pretty. I was there in August, we hadn’t had much rain, but this area was still looking good. As the road straightened out we approached the ranch house and saw a sign that said to stop and pay there.
We each paid our $4 entrance fee to the warm spring and drove a
little farther where we saw a grove of trees. We were instructed to park by the blue restrooms, porta potty style, and then walk through the gate. We entered a quonset building and used the two changing rooms built in the back to climb into our swim suits. It was now time to begin exploring the springs.
Temps that day were around 80 degrees and a swim sounded good. The water bubbles out of the spring at 50,000 gallons a minute with a temperature of 68 degrees. That water temperature sounded good although I will admit, it took a couple minutes to go from just putting a toe in to soaking all the way to my chin!
There were four other groups at Warm Springs the day I was there. One was an extended family and the kids were having an absolute blast. One family was having a swim and a picnic. A group of probably 20-somethings had the greatest squirt gun fight I had ever witnessed and a group of guys came in just to swim.
The setting was beautiful. The Judith Mountains are the background for views if you are looking east. A rim of trees borders the west edge of the springs and decks extended about half way around the swimming area.
Some history about Gigantic Warm Springs – in the late 1930s the
springs supplied a power plant and water plant for the former Kendall Gold Mine. In this Depression era, times were tough and the senior Vanek started letting people swim for a small fee. In 1958-59 a contractor was hired to use a backhoe to dredge out the overgrowth of cattails, and gravel was hauled in.
Many improvements have been made over the years. Picnic tables are placed on a wide grassy area around the springs, volleyball nets were added and decks have been built. There is a shallow area roped off for a kiddie pool on the east end. You can bring your own swim floats.
Gigantic Warm Springs is open to the public daily during the
summer. It is located 12 miles north of Lewistown on the Denton highway (MT 81). It would be difficult to miss the large sign as you are driving this stretch of highway.
The Vaneks have a Facebook page for Gigantic Warm Springs where you can check out opening dates. I messaged them with questions an hour before we left from Great Falls and promptly heard back in about 20 minutes.
Enjoy a slice of Americana almost gone – swimming on a ranch in a beautiful setting. Take your family and capture the memories!