Monday, October 27, 2014

Hot Springs, Arkansas: Bathhouse Row

This is arguably the oldest national park in the United States. It's also unique.

In 1832, interest grew over a place in Arkansas where the water that seeped out of the ground was always warm and clean. The town became known as Hot Springs. The government decided to take control of the water, which came out of one particular mountain. It was called a reservation, designed to protect a natural resource. Does that make it older than Yellowstone and Yosemite? Guess it depends on who is telling the story.

By 1877, the government opted to add a little order to the area. Licenses were issued for bath houses, which were build along the bottom of the hill. The waters quickly became known for their medical powers, and soon doctors were telling people to go to Hot Springs and soak in the warm water. This became quite a luxury item, and so Hot Springs became a destination for the rich and famous.Bathing peaked just after World War II, but a couple of the bathhouses are still in business.One of them is the Buckstaff, shown in this picture.It's $30 per bath there, with other services available.

By the way, scientists have discovered that the water on top of the mountain slowly - and I mean slowly - works its way deep into the group. Eventually it hits hot earth, and comes to the surface at almost 150 degrees. It takes more than 4,000 years for the water to complete its journey. People brings gallon jugs to the area and fill them up with this special water; there is no charge.

The Park Visitor Center is located in the Fordyce, which was closed in 1962. The building also serves as a museum, since you can see what the facilities were like in their glory days. There are other springs along Central Ave.

Hot Springs is a little out of the way, but it's still only an hour from Little Rock.

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