When Clinton and I lived in Arkansas we both were fortunate enough that we had many of our friends visit from the various states we’ve previously lived. One such adventure included one of my closest friends, Aisha! We were happy for her to visit and her readiness for adventuring across the entire state of Arkansas. We headed out to Hot Springs National Park one day to learn more about the bath houses, and got an excellent history lesson in the process.
This visit was part of a larger trip, so we did not go on any hikes but mainly stayed and viewed bathhouse row. Hot Spring was originally protected federally in 1832, almost 100 years before the National Park Service was officially created, as an area for recreation. As part of the Ouachita Mountain range, the hot springs flow from Hot Springs Mountain and is conserved as uncontaminated hot water for public use in the city. These mountains are managed with a conservation philosophy in order to preserve the hydrological system that feeds the springs. The hot spring water is believed to possess medicinal properties – so if you are feeling down, this is the place to go. Once known as Hot Springs Reservation, it was designated a National Park on March 4, 1921 and is the smallest national park by area in the united states, as well as the oldest maintained national park!
There are 47 hot springs at an average of 143 degrees Fahrenheit– super hot! However, you still can submerge your body and drink from the perfectly potable springs while visiting Bathhouse Row. While we did not partake in this luxury, you can at various affordable rates throughout the year. We instead spent out time walking into the bathhouses for a introduction tour on what they looked like when they were first created (spoiler alert – like torture chambers!). The history of Hot Spring (the city) and the expanding role that the city played in harboring notorious gangsters such as Al Capone and Charles Luciano is described in the Fordyce Bathhouse, which serves as the NPS’s Visitor Center. The area was a haven for organized crime, and with the Mayor Leo McLaughlin turning a blind eye, it was easy for many shifty characters to disappear in the “wild” Arkansas landscape.
Hot Springs National Park is one of the most accessible parks in the nation because it is located not only in a city, but includes the mountains where the hot springs originate, and a street of bathhouses. You can park and walk around, just do a simple drive, or expand out past the spa town resort locations. We encourage you to #TalleyYourAdventure in Arkansas as much as possible because it truly is a gorgeous state, with an intriguing history, and so many places to visit. This won’t be the last time the #TravelingTalleys talk about a great Arkansas adventure!