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Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs

4.4
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National Park · Nature / Park
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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.

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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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
1,015 reviews
Google
4.7
TripAdvisor
  • The headquarters of the National Park is located inside the historic Fordyce Bathhouse, which is located on Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs. It is a very beautiful building, which was opened... 
    The headquarters of the National Park is located inside the historic Fordyce Bathhouse, which is located on Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs. It is a very beautiful building, which was opened...  more »
  • I loved it. Sure its quite touristy...but I'm a tourist. Plenty of interesting history from days of yore. I "took the waters" at the Buckstaff Bath House which offers the traditional soaking... 
    I loved it. Sure its quite touristy...but I'm a tourist. Plenty of interesting history from days of yore. I "took the waters" at the Buckstaff Bath House which offers the traditional soaking...  more »
Google
  • What a delightful stop! This is worth a stop on your trip or even a destination. If you have 2 hours you can walk bathhouse row and see the gorgeous architecture of Hot springs and even take a soak in a bathhouse! If you have 6 hours then make sure you tour the cultural center, check out some of the shops, and have a meal along the main street. If this is a destination, then make sure you get an appointment to have a full pampering at the spa and bath houses, enjoy an evening walk, and stay the night at any of the gorgeous art deco hotels like The Arlington. You will not be disappointed in Hot Springs.
  • This is a beautiful urban park with so much history to explore. There are hikes for every skill level and a good length scenic drive to enjoy as well which leads to a great overlook over bathhouse row. Fordyce Bathhouse is both visitor center and museum. It has four levels to explore and is rather labyrinthine so you'll have to be very careful you don't miss any doorways or turns if you don't want to miss anything. This is where you'll do most of the junior ranger activities and that helped us adults out with seeing everything. Two of the bathhouses on the row are still in operation as bathhouses but there is no way to experience the hot springs, inside or out, with children which is why I can't give this park 5 stars. One of the bathhouses is empty and unused. It feels like a missed opportunity to offer something for families to enjoy together rather than as an adults only spa like the other two operate. Outside the kids can feel the steam coming off several pools, cascades, and fountains. Hot spring water can be collected in containers to drink. There is no opportunity to get into the hot springs, however. I knew that before going and you should too.

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