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Hot Springs Info & History

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a great place for life.

Nestled in a valley of the scenic Ouachita Mountains and surrounded by beautiful lakes and forests, Hot Springs' natural beauty provides a perfect backdrop for the vibrant city. Hot Springs is the nation's only city located within a national park, and features historic Bathhouse Row and the famous natural hot water springs from which the city gained its name.

The downtown area features several hotels and spas in the downtown area offer luxurious baths, as well as many fine restaurants, art galleries, antique stores, and gift shops.

Recognized for its many cultural offerings, Hot Springs has been designated as a "City of the Arts" and annually boasts outstanding art and music festivals, as well as a monthly "gallery walk" in the historic district.

Hot Springs is nestled among and surrounded by mountains, waterways and forests, and the beautiful scenery can be enjoyed while participating in some of the area's great outdoor activities or by kicking back and enjoying the view from your own window.

Four lakes – Lake Hamilton, Lake Catherine, Lake Ouacita and DeGray Lake – are in the immediate area. Lakes Hamilton and Catherine border the city with some 300 miles of shoreline. Lake Ouachita sits just 30 minutes from downtown Hot Springs and has 40,000 acres of crystal-clear water and nearly 700 miles of unspoiled shoreline, while DeGray Lake is less than 25 miles south of Hot Springs. All four lakes offer boating, waterskiing, fishing, and other water activities. The many parks adjacent to the lakes also present camping and hiking opportunities.

Living in Hot Springs is also affordable, with the average price of a new home well below the national average. Good schools and big city amenities are other great reasons why so many who can choose where they live, choose Hot Springs.

More About Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs is the smallest and oldest of the parks in the National Park System, dating back to 1832, when Congress established the first federally protected reservation in the nation's history. Hot Springs Reservation was renamed Hot Springs National Park in 1921, and was originally created by Congress to protect the 47 naturally flowing thermal springs on the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain. Some 800,000 gallons of 143-degree Fahrenheit thermal water gushes uninterrupted from the earth every day.

An extensive 26-mile network of hiking trails, which range from the easily negotiated Grand Promenade to some challenging, rugged-mountain treks, crisscrosses the park.

Hot Springs History Notes

The unique hot springs provide the unifying element of the area's history. Centuries ago, before the arrival of European explorers, various Native American tribes availed themselves of the mineral-rich, heated waters. In 1541, Hernando De Soto and his men first marched through the area and stayed for several weeks to enjoy the special waters. Jean Prudhomme, the first settler of the area, was also drawn to the thermal springs, as were others, including Ludovicus Belding, an entrepreneur who was renting rooms in 1832 to visitors who also were attracted to the "healing waters."

To preserve the springs, Hot Springs was named a the nation's first National Reservation in 1832, and was later named a National Park in 1921.

During the early 1900s hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the area to experience the waters, which were credited with curative powers. Elaborate bathhouses were built to accommodate the great number of visitors who traveled to enjoy the springs and spa treatments. Historic Bathhouse Row, as it exists today, is a collection of eight architecturally significant bathhouses, most of which were built between 1912 and 1923. Only one of the structures, the Buckstaff, currently operates as a bathhouse. The Fordyce, the most elaborate of the bathhouses, serves as the National Park Service's Visitors' Center. The remaining bathhouses are in a development program.

The thermal springs are just one of the many natural resources that have aided in the development of Hot Springs. Initial attempts to attract manufacturers were successful. Most manufacturers were small and produced products related to the natural resources of the area - wood, novaculite (whetstones) and alumina (aluminum). Some of the manufacturing plants located to Hot Springs for the simple fact of the quality of life. Today, the local economy is primarily made up of four economic generators - tourism, retirement, manufacturing, and medical services. Abundant timber, clean water and mineral resources have provided the basis for many thriving industries, including the continued attraction of tourists.

HotSprings has come along way since Desoto first drank the hot waters or since the springs were credited with healing powers. However, the influences of the past are still evident and give a special charm to the modern day city.

One need only to visit the historic district, with the impressive architecture of the bathhouses and other historic buildings, or to feel the hot water bubbling from the springs to be reminded of the rich history that this valley in the Ouachita Mountains contains.

Hot Springs Trivia Tidbits

Hot Springs is the boyhood hometown of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Hot Springs was a favorite vacation spot and respite for political, sports and other celebrities, as well as notorious gangsters such as Al Capone and Bugs Moran.

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