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There Won’t be Any “Hot Springs National Park Massage Parlor” on Ken Salazar’s Watch


Hot Springs, Arkansas. NPS photo.

The National Park Service has long complained that the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas advertises its existence and amenities in ways that do not clearly distinguish the city of Hot Springs from Hot Springs National Park. To eliminate any potential source of confusion, the Park Service wants the city to stop advertising itself as Hot Springs National Park. The city disagrees that its advertising tactics are confusing, and insists that the Park Service is being too touchy on this issue.

Things heated up earlier this year. In May, the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission lost its appeal of a court order and grudgingly took down a "Hot Springs National Park" city flag that had been flying at Hot Springs Mountain Tower. The Park Service also demanded that maps distributed at the Mountain Tower include a disclaimer that the businesses named on the map are not endorsed by the National Park Service or Hot Springs National Park.

The Park Service complaint has ended up in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is currently reviewing whether the city’s use of “Hot Springs National Park” in its logo is a trademark violation. City officials are nervous, fearing that an adverse ruling might seriously damage the city’s tourism industry and cause a loss of jobs and tax revenues at a particularly critical time. Like other cities throughout America, Hot Springs has suffered in the current economic recession.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited Hot Springs on Thursday to discuss the issue with shareholders and consider what might be done to find a solution that everyone can live with. Speaking to local residents and reporters, Salazar said he’s confident that a reasonable compromise can be reached, provided that the National Park brand is protected. He pointed out by way of example that nobody would want to see a “Hot Springs National Park massage parlor.”

Salazar stressed the importance of working out a solution that respects the city’s long-standing relationship with the national park and minimizes negative impacts on its tourism industry.


Is it still possible to get a massage at the Buck(t)horn Baths, the stately bathhouse run by the park service along bathhouse row? After a long day or two crystal mining, soaking in those deep tubs and having an attendant scrub off all that red clay was wonderful.

Yup. The Buckstaff Bath House (note spelling), which is the only operational bath house within the park, still offers a full body Swedish style massage. Check it out at


Massage gives a bad immage?
Was this written in the 1800s?
I work in an athletic club where massage
is used to draw health oriented people.
Please come to the 2000s.

(massage therapist)

Jeez, anon, it was Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who implied that massage parlors are sleazy. I just reported what he said. Some western frontier saloons are said to have sported a sign that read "Please Don't Shoot the Piano Player." Here at the Traveler, we have one that says "Please Don't Shoot the Messenger." If you still think I'm a massage parlor-hating dingbat, check the comment immediately preceding yours.

As someone who grew up in the shadows of Naval Training Center and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and is now married to a licensed, certified, massage therapist (life is good!), I thought that the operative term was "parlor". Therapeutic massage at spas, day spas, salons, resorts, athletic clubs, medical centers, etc., is a wonderful treatment, especially welcome after a couple days of fieldwork. At least in California, Virginia, and Colorado, even massage therapists consider massage parlors to be sleazy, and don't call their places of business massage parlors. Even the massage chains don't call themselves parlors. Robert, is that different where you live & work?

Well, Anonymous Robert, other than some sly word-play here and there, I don't see anything 'written' here by Bob Janiskee that besmirches Massage. Unless you are talking about his quote of our Secretary of the Interior from Colorado. Who knows? Maybe in Colorado 'Massage Parlor' remains a euphemism, or has at least a double meaning? Nothing against Colorado, of course, just guys who never take off their hat.

And Bob Janiskee, since you are the King of Naming & Classification for National Parks, this very early national park at Hot Springs is one of the best examples of the limits of rigorous logic or jesuitical precision to the language of national parklands.

The town and the park have always been rolled together. The somewhat bizarre effort of the current superintendent to create a distinction is surely inconsistent with the history of the town and park, whatever it says in the Management Policies or CFR. When the distinguished Senator Dale Bumpers as one of his legacy efforts at the end of his career in Congress (performed about the same time he served as chief counsel for the defence of W.J. Clinton before the Senate impeachment trial) was to try to put the park up to a higher level, after years of neglect and want. Does any one in the NPS doubt that the main reason that happened is Bumper's concern for the town? You'd think a smart superintendent would wrap her park's future around the town.

The rank-and-file-Yosemite-mafia-type-Ranger of course has always been uncomfortable with Hot Springs, because it is really so different from the purple-mountain's-majesty-type national park, or the Basin and Range ideal. But because it is a throwback to an earlier era, and is one of the very earliest national parks in the United States, most of these guys don't know whether to attack it or support it. It is a perfect topic for Bob Janiskee's List of Anomalies. Truth is, it is the American take on the Victorian or 19th Century European 'pleasuring ground,' in the original concept of 'recreation.'

I mean, where would 'The Last Year at Marienbad' be without the spa? Or all the other famous European or English resorts? You didn't just go for the scenery and the hiking.

Although we have people today who see any resort in a national park - even the one at Yellowstone - as an intrusion, there was a time when the relationship between the place and the resort was inextricable. Like, at Hot Springs.

Even a cowboy from Colorado in a cowboy hat will have a hard time extracating this one. I suggest, we need fewer lawyers involved, and a few more people with a sense of the cultural history of recreation. And a superintendent with a sense of humor.

You can still get a massage at several resort lodges within NPS units, like Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort at Olympic National Park. Is it a massage parlor? Hardly so. However - they do list rates for massages.

Still - I been part of online discussions of what should be designated a National Park today. One very strong theme was that Hot Springs National Park wouldn't likely to receive a "National Park" designation if it were to be considered today. The gist seems to be that it was declared a National Park at a time when nobody was really sure what should or shouldn't be declared a National Park.

Still - I understand the concern that the NPS has. It seems that the city is blurring the line between what is Hot Springs NP and the city. Anyone walking in West Yellowstone, MT is acutely aware that it's not NPS land. The visitor to the city of Hot Springs may not be so aware.

Hot Springs National Park actually has a second Bathhouse in operation. The Quapaw was recently renovated and is operated under a private lease. A third, the Fordyce Bathhouse is NPS run museum/visitors center.

The visit by Secretary Salazar was disappointing to say the least. We (the majority of Hot Springs residents) had hoped for a more productive visit. It is so unfortunate that the relationship between the city and park has become so contentious in just the past 5 years. It is our hope that Superintendent Fernandez finds herself promoted to a new park ...

This comment was edited to remove a gratuitous remark. Ed.

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