Hot Springs, Arkansas on the map. National Park Hot Springs, Arkansas on the map of USA

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Hot Springs, Arkansas on the map. National Park Hot Springs, Arkansas on the map of USA

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Established: 1921   Acreage: 5824

Hot Springs, 'the Valley of the Vapors,' was a revered and sacred place to the Indians, who believed it was the home of the Great Spirit. This was neutral ground. Here a warrior, regardless of his tribe or tongue, could lay aside his arms and bathe in peace. It is believed that the hot springs were used by explorer Hernando de Soto during his travels in 1540. By the early 1800s, bathers came to Hot Springs seeking cures for their ailments. Popular sentiment called for reserving the land for public use, and in 1832 the federal government took the unprecedented step of setting aside four sections of land as a reservation—the first in the nation's history. In the early years of the twentieth century monumental bathhouses were built to cater to the crowds of health seekers.

According to Cutter's Official Guide to Hot Springs, Arkansas, first published in 1873, the 'topography of Hot Springs is very similar to that of Carlsbad, Germany, while the pine-clad foothills of the Ozarks afford both healthful exercise and inspiring scenery.' Further, there are '46 hot springs with an average temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest being 157 degrees. They discharge about 800,000 gallons per day.'

The most important thing about Hot Springs' thermal water is that it is naturally sterile. Analysis of the waters has proved that chemical and radioactive properties are similar for all the springs. Today, the bathhouses are owned and operated by private concessioners and are all guaranteed an adequate supply of water from the same source. The distribution system operates from two large underground reservoirs on Hot Springs Mountain, both of which feed by gravity to the bathhouses, where operators blend the waters to regulate the bath temperature. A full range of options is available: tub and pool baths, shower, steam cabinet, hot and cold packs, whirlpool and massage or alcohol rub. Visitors to the park can also hike amid the flowering trees of the Zig Zag Mountains.

Right: As long as 10,000 years ago, people came to the hot springs to relax. Then all the springs looked something like this one; today, however, all but two springs are covered to prevent contamination of the water. The two uncovered springs are for display.

Below: Hot Springs is nestled in the Zig Zag Mountains, which are covered with dense forests of oak, hickory and short-leaf pines.

Hot Springs, Arkansas on the map. National Park Hot Springs, Arkansas on the map of USA