Hot Springs National Park - Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park
Historic Bathhouse Row is one of the
key features of Hot Springs National
Park. The beautiful structures stand
as reminders of a bygone era.
Hot Springs in Winter
A hot water cascade emits clouds of
steam as it flows down the mountain
from one of the springs. The water
has drawn visitors for thousands of
Hot Springs from Above
A ride up the elevator of Hot Springs
Tower provides a spectacular view
of the city. Frank and Jesse James
frequented these valleys.
|Hot Springs National Park
Steam rises from a natural hot water cascade at Hot
Springs National Park. The park surrounds
downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Hot Springs of the Ouachita
One of America's most intriguing natural
wonders has played a huge role in the
formation of the charming city of Hot Springs,
The famed "Hot Springs of the Ouachita"
were acquired by the United States as part of
the Louisiana Purchase, but were already
well known by that time.
Native Americans had frequented the waters
for thousands of years before the arrival of
the first Europeans and there is slight
evidence - in the form a partial manuscript -
that the survivors of the Hernando de Soto
expedition visited the springs during the
1540s. They were also frequented by early
French explorers and traders.
The recorded history of Hot Springs National
Park began in 1804, however, when
President Thomas Jefferson sent two
scientists west to explore the Ouachita
Mountains and report on the springs. They
found an empty cabin and some huts used
by hunters at what is now Hot Springs.
Word of the steaming water quickly spread
and by 1820 streams of visitors were making
their way to Hot Springs to soak in crude
bathing pools dug near the springs. They
believed, as some people still do today, that
the naturally heated water could cure a
number of ailments.
In 1832 the U.S. Government set aside a
large reservation of land to protect the
springs, making Hot Springs National Park
the oldest federal nature reserve in the
country. The distinction gives local residents
justification for their claim that Hot Springs is
America's "First Resort."
The steaming water flowing from the
mountainsides attracted the attention of
Union soldiers who marched through on
their way to fight in the Red River Campaign
during the Civil War. They noted the area was
largely abandoned at that point, the residents
having fled due to the severity of the times.
In the years after the war, however, Hot
Springs boomed. The rustic gave way to the
extravagant and by the late 1800s
magnificent hotels and stylized bathhouses
began to dot the landscape of the beautiful
valley at Hot Springs.
Jesse and Frank James were among those
who frequented the resort, which became
known for gambling and vice as well as its
spas. The James Gang was also credited
with nearby robberies and it is said that the
outlaws hid out in the Ouachita Mountains to
avoid capture. Some believe that their caches
of gold and silver coins can still be found
By the time of the Roaring Twenties and the
Prohibition Era (1920-1933), Hot Springs
was a resort for outlaws of a different sort.
Al Capone, Frank Nash and Lucky Luciano
all visited or had "business operations" in the
resort. Capone often stayed at the historic
Arlington Hotel, but local legend holds that he
never crossed the street to the grounds of the
national park because the rangers there
were federal law enforcement officers. He
believed that they would arrest him if he set
foot in the park
The outlaw days in Hot Springs ended long
ago. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller sent in
the Arkansas State Police to close down the
illegal casinos more than fifty years ago.
In some ways, fire was actually the most
dangerous villain in the history of Hot
Springs. Flames spread through the city
several times in the 19th and early 20th
centuries, but Bathhouse Row was rebuilt
Eight of the magnificent bathhouses survive
and are listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. They allow visitors to step
back through time to learn about the history
of the park and the grandeur of a time long
Buckstaff Bathhouse still functions as a spa.
Guests can enjoy soaking in the natural hot
waters, Swedish massages and other
luxurious amenities. For more information,
they are online at www.buckstaffbaths.com.
Massive restoration efforts have revitalized
Hot Springs National Park and assured that it
will remain an American treasure for years to
The park is open year-round and the visitor
center at Fordyce Bathhouse is open daily
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park is free to visit.
Hot Springs National Park is located at 369
Central Avenue, Hot Springs, Arkansas. In
addition to Bathhouse Row, the park features
hiking trails, overlooks, picnicking, camping,
and thousands of acres of scenic mountains.
Please click here to visit the official website
for more information.
Hot Springs National Park
Steam rises from the mountainside
above the lawn at Hot Springs
National Park. The water is heated
by pressure as it rises from deep in
|Copyright 2011 & 2015 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: April 20, 2015
HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK
Hot Springs, Arkansas