Exploring Hot Springs National Park: A Visitor's Guide
Located in the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs National Park occupies almost 6,000 acres. Long before the Spanish arrived, the American Indians thought the thermal hot springs had beneficial qualities.
The early Europeans also recognized the springs as having healing properties. A number of bathhouses were erected and the area became a popular area with the wealthy as well as those interested in health. A number of bathhouses still stand and have been declared a National Historic Landmark. Visitors may tour the Fordyce Bathhouse, the most elegant on Bathhouse Row, now housing the park visitor center. It has 24 historically refurbished rooms, modern exhibits, and two video presentations.
Hot Springs Reservation was established in 1832, making it the oldest park in the national park system. It became Hot Springs National Park in 1921.
Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center
The Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center is housed in the 1915 Fordyce Bathhouse, with marble and mosaic tile floors and stained-glass windows and ceilings. The Fordyce Bathhouse has 24 rooms that are furnished as they were when the building opened for baths in 1915. It was considered an elegant bathhouse in its day and today it is protected along with seven other bathhouses. On display is historical information on the area.
Hot Springs Mountain Observation Tower
The Hot Springs Mountain Observation Tower stands 216 feet, offering impressive views of the park and surrounding area. In 1877, a 75-foot wooden fire tower was constructed but burned to the ground. In the mid-twentieth century a 175-foot steel structure was built which later proved unstable and was torn down. The current Hot Springs Mountain Observation Tower was built in 1983.
Mountain Valley Water Spring Visitor Center
The Mountain Valley Water Spring Visitor Center offers self-guided tours and information on this mineral water company. The building that houses the Visitor Center is a fine example of the Classical Revival style. It was constructed in 1910 and was originally home to the DeSoto Mineral Springs.
The Town of Hot Springs
Hot Springs, 55 miles southwest of Little Rock, is one of the most popular spa resorts in the United States. The heyday of this little town of rather European aspect was in the 1920s and 1930s, but it still attracts large numbers of visitors to Hot Springs National Park. The old Fordyce Bathhouse still gives some impression of spa life in earlier times.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hot Springs