In 1922, a wildcatter, exploring for oil, encountered a tremendous flow of hot mineral water at 3200 feet and went broke trying to cap the flow. Legend has it that cowboys made use of the hot water for their Saturday night baths. A Saco rancher built a wooden tub around the water and soaked his polio-stricken son in the mineral water which is very similar to that of the Warm Spring, Georgia sanatorium made famous by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In the early ‘30s, a joint partnership between the Soil Conservation Service and the Phillips County American Legion developed the complex with the help of Roosevelt’s Work Project Administration (WPA). Several permanent buildings of rock were erected, and the “Saco Health Plunge” became a prominent recreational facility.
Following a stoppage the previous year, a new well was drilled in 1958, and over 2500 visitors attended the grand opening of the “Malta Legion Health Plunge.” By now, everyone just called this favorite swimming place “The Plunge.” The following year, the disastrous West Yellowstone earthquake broke the well casing and another well had to be drilled.
The Sleeping Buffalo Recreation Association (SBRA) was formed in 1965, with Dennis Mahoney as President. The resort’s new name was in honor of a particular rock resembling a buffalo which signifies the staff of life for several Native American tribes, including the Chippewa, Cree, Assiniboine, and Sioux. This rock, which originally was part of a group of rocks that looked like a herd of buffalo from a distance, laid upon a ridge above Cree Crossing just a couple miles north of the resort. It was moved to the town of Malta, and later still too old U.S. Highway #2 south of the resort, where it was joined with the “Medicine Rock.” Today these ancient glacial boulders, which are listed on the National Record of Historic Places, are enshrined at the junction of Highway 2 and State Highway 243 and mark the entrance to the resort which is a short distance up the hill on the right. Nelson Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation Park on the left.
Reprinted from Sleeping Buffalo Resort brochure.