The South Bannock County Historical Center Museum
110 E Main | Lava Hot Springs, ID 83246 | 208-776-5254
The South Bannock County Historical Museum, in operation for nearly 30 years, offers both permanent and rotating exhibits about the history of the Lava Hot Springs area and development of the surrounding rural communities of Arimo, Inkom, Downey, McCammon, Virginia and Swan Lake.
Lava Hot Springs has been a gathering place to rest and bathe in the hot springs for centuries. Native people from many tribes used the waters as a spiritual place of healing and hunting. Visit our "Poha-Ba, Land of Healing Water", a permanent interpretive exhibit depicting the use of hot waters by Native Americans before the coming of white man, to learn more about the Native Peoples use of this area.
Traders and trappers came to this area in the early to mid 1800’s. One notorious trapper, Bob Dempsey, set up a trading post a mile from the current business district of Lava Hot Springs. He was champion of the Native Peoples and became friends with Chief Tendoy of the Lemhi tribe. They spent many a night sharing conversations at the Dempsey trading post. Bob Dempsey fell in love with the chief’s beautiful daughter Margaret, and asked Chief Tendoy for her hand in marriage. The chief was happy with this arrangement and the two were married and had many children. Originally, the settlement that is now Lava Hot Springs was called Dempsey. A creek located at their trading post is now called Dempsey Creek. Visit South Bannock County Historical Museum to learn more about Bob Dempsey and the era of Trappers and Traders!
The U. S. Government purchased the land for the State Foundation (Hot Pools) in a treaty with the Shoshone Indians in the late 1800s and granted ownership to the State of Idaho in 1902. The railroad tracks were connected, from Montpelier (50 miles to the west) at Lava Hot Springs in 1882. (Please visit the museum’s new “digital theater” to view an archival photo of this connection which took place directly above the hot springs. It also depicts the railroad camp in 1882.) The arrival of the railroad in 1905 brought the first tourists to the Lava Hot Springs area and people have sought out the famous hot springs ever since.