Welcome to Arkansas, everyone! We went through a pretty wet visit in Florida last week as we explored Big Cypress National Preserve and now we’re here, exploring the waters again… only slightly differently. This week, I’ve brought you to Hot Springs, Arkansas to visit the one and only Hot Springs National Park for a little bit of rest and relaxation, so let’s get right to it!
Hot Springs is advertised by the National Park Service as the “oldest area in the national park system,” because, although it was not officially a park until 1921, the area was set aside in 1832 by president Andrew Jackson as a special reservation. Yellowstone Park, the area widely accepted as the first national park wasn’t established for another 40 years! So what attracted so many people to this small little place in Arkansas?
I’m hoping that from the name, you already know. The natural hot springs here have been attracting the public since the 19th century, utilized as a spa destination. According to National Geographic, even baseball teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnatti Reds, and Boston Red Soxs would flock to the springs in the 1880’s to 1940’s to soothe sore muscles after long games or practices. But seriously, what’s not to love? The natural water flow at the park (about 700,000 gallons a day) pumps in water at 143 degrees into luxurious springs that are open to the public.
Indeed, unlike many of National Parks, Hot Springs is not secluded from civilization, it is practically a part of it, inseparable from its counterpart town, Hot Springs, Arkansas. Citizens of Hot Springs use the resources of the park as an almost economic staple of their town, constantly attracting visitors to appreciate the attraction of the luxurious springs. Naturally, we will not be the only ones heading off to try out the springs and all their glory!
But never fear! Hot Springs has plenty of attractions while we wait for a spot in the springs. For a little bit of history, we could check out the historic Fordyce Bathhouse, which ran from 1915-1962. This might not be quite as adventurous as some of our previous hikes but I think it does give us a glimpse of the zeitgeist of the park and how it was utilized for economic purposes while still protecting and conserving the nature. Hot Springs has been used by the public for relaxation services for a long, long time. The Fordyce Bathhouse is a prime example of this; it once contained a gymnasium, music rooms, and bath houses with natural spring water.
The Hot Springs National Park might be best appreciated, however, from the vantage point of the Mountain Tower. Situated in the Ouachita Moutains, this attraction elevates visitors high about the ground (1256 feet high, to be exact) and get a view of the park, the mountains, and the Arkansas countryside. After a nice little hike from the park, we get to see the view pictured above, the vast expansion of beautiful mountains.
And then, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a chance to feel those amazing hot springs for the first time. Feel the springs that generations of people have flocked to. Feel the natural occurrence of warm waters not from a faucet, but from the Earth. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll let the world fall away and relax a little bit.
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