Hot Springs, Arkansas, gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters found here. Flowing out of the ground at an average temperature of 143 °F, the hot springs produce almost one million gallons of water each day.
People have been visiting this area for a very long time. Native Americans called this area “the Valley of the Vapors,” and it was said to have been a neutral territory where all tribes could enjoy its healing waters in peace. Spanish and French settlers claimed the area in the mid-1500s.
The hot springs were such a coveted natural wonder that in 1832, President Andrew Jackson designed Hot Springs as the first federal reservation. Hot Springs Reservation was essentially America’s first national park, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years.
In just a decade, the area changed from a rough frontier town to an elegant spa city centered on a row of attractive Victorian-style bathhouses, the last ones completed in 1888. When Congress established the National Park Service, Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park in 1921.
Today, you can still soak in the thermal waters on historic Bathhouse Row. The hot springs are also pumped into several downtown hotels and spas. The water is even available at public fountains. The restored Fordyce Bathhouse now serves as a visitor center.
The History of Bathhouse Row
The first bathhouses were crude structures of canvas and lumber, little more than tents perched over individual springs or reservoirs carved out of the rock. Later, businessmen built wooden structures, but they frequently burned, collapsed because of shoddy construction, or rotted due to continued exposure to high temperatures and humidity. As the bathhouses continued to grow in popularity, the park’s superintendent deemed that more resilient and fireproof structures were needed. Starting in 1896, many of the wooden bathhouses were replaced with the bathhouses that we see today made of masonry and steel.
I like the crude bathhouses of the early the 1800s,take your shoes & socks off and sit a spell.
Victorian bathhouses built between 1880 and 1888 were larger and more luxurious than could have been dreamed of ten years earlier. The poorly placed wooden troughs carrying the thermal water down the mountainside were replaced with underground pipes. Roads and paths were improved for the convenience of visitors who wished to enjoy the scenery.
By 1901 all of the springs had been walled up and covered to protect them. Between 1912 and 1923 the wooden Victorian bathhouses built in the 1880s were gradually replaced with fire-resistant brick and stucco bathhouses, several of which featured marble walls, billiard rooms, gymnasiums, and stained glass windows. The final transformation of Bathhouse Row was completed when the Lamar Bathhouse opened its doors for business in 1923. The bathhouses, all of which are still standing today, ushered in a new age of spa luxury.
Bathhouse Row and its surroundings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 13, 1974. The desire to revitalize Bathhouse Row also led citizens to campaign for adaptive uses of the vacant buildings. The strongest concern was to save the most elegant bathhouse, the Fordyce, which was consequently adapted for use as the Hot Springs National Park visitor center and museum. At this point in time most of the bathhouses have been renovated and adapted for modern use.
We took The Hot Springs Trolley before checking out Bathhouse Row. We went thru the mountains for views of the National Park and the Quachita Valley. He pointed out many of the historical sites and took us through old neighborhoods with fancy homes built in the 1800s and 1900s.
Hot Springs AR. has lots of hot springs but they also have many cold springs where you can get fresh spring water. The driver stopped and we filled up our jugs. It was a great tour.
A look down Bathhouse Row
The Lamar Bathhouse was a unique bathhouse back in the day because it offered tubs with a variety of lengths so people of different heights could enjoy the tubs.
The Buckstaff is the only bathhouse that offers a traditional bathing experience and has been in continuous operation since opening its doors in 1912.
Today, the Ozark houses the Hot Springs National Park Cultural Center. The Center features gallery spaces for displaying artwork from the park’s Artist-in-Residence Program and other temporary exhibitions..
The Quapaw Bathhouse is one of two locations where visitors can soak in the thermal springs. Quapaw offers private baths, public pools, and modern day spa services
The Fordyce opened March 1, 1915. The building eventually cost over $212,000 to build, equip, and furnish. Totaling approximately 28,000 square feet, the Fordyce is the largest bathhouse on the Row. It has three main floors, two courtyards, and a basement under most of the building. The Fordyce became the first bathhouse on the Row to go out of business when it suspended operations on June 30, 1962, but it was extensively restored by 1989 and is now enjoying a renaissance as a historically furnished museum.
It was really a fun and educational experience seeing what the bathhouses looked like and how they operated. Here is what was inside a bath house in the early 1900s.
This bathhouse was really something to see. It was huge with its marble and stained glass to the marble portions of the bath halls and the stained glass ceiling in the Men’s Bath Hall and statue. Lots of rooms with a lot going on.
The Maurice in it’s day was compared to The Fordyce because it was just as stunning and as big. Today it remains vacant in hopes that it will re-open someday.
The Hotel Hale has been revived as a luxury hotel and the interior has been remodeled to include a mix of modern and mid-century modern styles. Guests can stay overnight in historic rooms and experience the thermal springs. If I ever come back to Hot Springs this is where I’m staying.
The Superior Bathhouse is now home to the only brewery in a United States National Park, and the only brewery in the world to utilize thermal spring water to make their beer. And we didn’t stop here? Like I said if I’m ever here again it’s the Hale Bathhouse and The Superior Bathhouse for me!
The historic Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa is the largest hotel in Arkansas with almost 500 rooms and suites. They have their own Thermal Bathhouse, where you can bathe in the famous mineral waters of the ‘hot springs’. The Arlington has hosted hundreds of grand balls and social events since 1875. Politicians, dignitaries, actors, gangsters and entertainment and sports legends, like Babe Ruth bathed in their bath house.
We wondered to the back of The Bathhouses where the hot springs are located. As you can see they don’t call them “Hot Springs” for nothing.
The Grand Promenade is a National Recreation Trail that runs parallel to bathhouse row, behind the bathhouses. It’s about a half mile long and made entirely out of brick.
It was a really nice walk up the hill and behind the bathhouses. At different areas you can see the hot springs.
Yes, this small spring along side the trail was HOT!
So now the Hot springs are covered up and are painted green and you can no longer soak your feet in front of everyone and relax.
Hot Springs, AR has many cold springs too! They have many faucets and fountains and encourage you to fill up your containers for free. Actually you see people all day going to different places and filling up with DELICIOUS Hot Springs Cold Water.