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Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs

#1 of 7 in Nature in Hot Springs
National Park · Nature / Park
Hot Springs National Park is an American national park in central Garland County, Arkansas, adjacent to the city of Hot Springs, the county seat. Hot Springs Reservation was initially created by an act of the United States Congress on April 20, 1832 to be preserved for future recreation. Established before the concept of a national park existed, it was the first time that land had been set aside by the federal government to preserve its use as an area for recreation. The hot spring water has been popularly believed for centuries to possess medicinal properties, and was a subject of legend among several Native American tribes. Following federal protection in 1832, the city developed into a successful spa town.

Incorporated January 10, 1851, the city was known in the early 20th century as the home to Major League Baseball spring training, illegal gambling, speakeasies during the Prohibition era, and gangsters such as Al Capone, horse racing at Oaklawn Park, the Army and Navy Hospital, and 42nd President Bill Clinton. The area was established as a national park on March 4, 1921. Until the redesignation of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as Gateway Arch National Park in 2018, Hot Springs was the smallest national park by area in the United States. Since Hot Springs National Park is the oldest park maintained by the National Park Service, it was the first to receive its own US quarter in April 2010 as part of the America the Beautiful Quarters coin series.

The hot springs flow from the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain, part of the Ouachita Mountain range. In the park, the hot springs have not been preserved in their unaltered state as natural surface phenomena. They have been managed to conserve the production of uncontaminated hot water for public use. The mountains within the park are also managed within this conservation philosophy to preserve the hydrological system that feeds the springs.

Following 8,000 years of use by indigenous peoples, European Americans discovered and appropriated the springs. They have used the hot spring water in therapeutic baths for more than 200 years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. While this was a federal reservation, the area developed into a well-known resort nicknamed The American Spa; it attracted not only the wealthy but indigent health seekers from around the world.

The park includes portions of downtown Hot Springs, making it one of the most accessible national parks. There are numerous hiking trails and camping areas. Bathing in spring water is available in approved facilities at extra cost. The entire Bathhouse Row area is designated as a National Historic Landmark District; it contains the grandest collection of bathhouses of its kind in North America, including many outstanding examples of Gilded Age architecture. The row's Fordyce Bathhouse serves as the park's visitor center; the Buckstaff and Quapaw are the only facilities in 2015 still operating as bathhouses. Other buildings of the row are being restored or are used for other purposes.

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Hot Springs National Park reviews

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929 reviews
  • Had a good time and information provided by the park interpreter was really interesting. Stop by and check it out.  more »
  • This was an interesting national park, much different than others we’ve been to. The park is mainly in an urban area, with bathhouse row being the main attraction. You can walk this street to check...  more »
  • We visited Hot springs and the park Is the main attraction. Due to COVID the baths had limited capacity and were by reservation Only. We went to the top and visited the tower -great views. We...  more »
  • Hot springs is a great place to visit for the outdoor enthusiast. It's a small southern town about an hour away from the Little Rock airport. Good restaurants, great lakes, and wonderful trails including mountain and road bike trails. More golf courses in the area than I could list. Downtown hot springs is fun and vibrant and has fine dining restaurants, boutique stores and great parks (very walkable). It also has wonderful architecture including bath houses that are on national Park land. Perfect place for a weekend or three day getaway.
  • It's a nice look back in time and the natural hot water is pretty cool.I was disappointed that there was not more streams or creeks that had hot water. In my mind I thought I would see this but I'm pretty sure there was no big natural hot streams or creeks at all. Definitely something to see if you get a chance. But I hope your not expecting a high energy fun town. If so, your time and money might be better spent somewhere. Again, great place to put on your bucket list but do your homework so you don't expect to much.
  • Hot Springs is beautiful! The Park Rangers were informative and even helped us by getting several pictures with our entire group in it. If you have not crossed this park off your list, just go. The streets are lined with mature tress, allowing for shade even on the hottest days! The bath house elevator was a godsend as one of us is handicapped. The town is lovely. The shops were quaint. We did not stay in Hot Springs as we have family that lives about an hour away. It was a great day trip!
  • Awesome visit to a very unique facility within the National Park system. Spent about 45 minutes within the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum. Then another 3.5 hours hiking the trails on the north end of the park. We climbed to the top of the observation tower and even got a discount on the experience with our America the Beautiful Pass. The trails are well shaded which provided for a great hike, even during the heat of the day. The park has a great Jr Ranger program which, as with all other National Park Jr Ranger programs, kept the kids occupied while we explored history.
  • Wasn't expecting the amount of interesting and fun things to both do, and see, in Hot Springs. While there were, definitely, the same run of tourist traps there was, also, plenty of actually worthwhile sites with real history to make the trip very enjoyable. Make sure and visit the different spas, go on a tour of one of the old ones and then treat yourself to a Fat Bottom Girls Cupcake.

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