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Park History: Hot Springs National Park


First came the reservation, then the national park. Photo by Lance and Erin via flickr.

If you just focus on its "national park" status, then today is the 87th birthday of Hot Springs National Park.

However, if you want to mark the anniversary of the creation of Hot Springs Reservation, well, that date doesn't come around until April 20 ... when the spot originally known as Hot Springs Reservation turns 176.

Whichever birthday you prefer, this small slice (roughly 5,400 acres) of Arkansas is ready for your visit. Located within the town of Hot Springs that itself is found in the Zig Zag Mountains, this park is fueled by 143-degree water that contains trace amounts of silica, calcium, bicarbonate and other dissolved minerals. And, for trivia fans, they say the water that comes to the surface in the park's hot springs is more than 4,000 years old.

For centuries the park's waters have been thought to have had healing qualities. Not only did Native Americans partake in an occasional dip, but legend has it that Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto took a soak back in 1541. Even President Jefferson was interested in the hot springs, having dispatched the Dunbar-Hunter Expedition to the region in 1804.

Here's some baseball trivia involving the park: Hot Springs, Arkansas, was the premier baseball spring training site from the 1880s-1940s. The Chicago White Stockings, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox and others came to soothe their aching muscles at the many bathhouses using Hot Springs National Park water.

Today you too can soak in one of the tubs at the Buckstaff Bath House, which has been in continuous operation since 1912, and follow it up with a massage.

But there's more to the park than healing waters. There is a pine-oak-hickory forest that hikers can disappear into, a wide variety of birds (including hawks, vultures, turkeys, falcons, woodpeckers, and even a road runner) for birding, and a campground for overnight stays.


Thanks for sharing such interestings statistics about our home town National Park! When my husband and I visited here six years ago, we were so impressed that we moved here two months later!

Recently geographer Warren Bland named Hot Springs, Ark. the No. 1 place in America to retire.

I gotta admit, Hot Springs is a pretty cool place to live, even for those of us who aren't yet retired.

To get a sneak preview, check out Spa Vlogger.

Rebecca McCormick,
Travel Journalist, Hot Springs Village Voice

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