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Hot Springs National Park

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Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is an unusual geographical mix'a highly developed park in a small city surrounded by low-lying mountains with abundant flowers and animals.

Hot Springs Reservation was set aside on April 20, 1832, by the Federal Government to protect the 47 hot springs flowing from the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain, at a temperature of 143' F, for future generations. The name was changed to Hot Springs National Park on March 4, 1921. The Hot Springs National Park is the oldest area in the national park system. It is also the smallest of the national parks. The park contains 5,839.24 acres.

Waters gushing from hot springs are more than 4,000 years old. The pores and fractures in the rock conduct the water deep into the Earth. As the water percolates downward, the increasingly warmer rock heats it, and filters out the impurities. In the process the water dissolves minerals in the rocks. Eventually the water meets the faults and joints in the Hot Springs Sandstone leading up to the lower west side of Hot Springs Mountain where it flows to the surface. The waters gush at an average rate of 850,000 gallons a day.

For Indians, the Hot Springs was a neutral ground where different tribes came to hunt, trade and bathe in peace. Tradition has it that the first Europeans to see the springs were the Spanish explorer Hernando deSoto and his troops in 1541. French trappers, hunters, and traders became familiar with the area in the late-l7th century. In 1803 the United States acquired the area when it purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, and the very next year President Thomas Jefferson dispatched an expedition led by William Dunbar and George Hunter to explore the newly acquired springs. Their report to the President was widely publicized and stirred up interest in the "Hot Springs of the Washita."

In the years that followed, more and more people came here to soak in the waters. Soon the idea of "reserving" the springs for the Nation took root, and a proposal was submitted to the Congress. Then, in 1832, the Federal Government took the unprecedented step of setting aside four sections of land here, the first U. S. reservation made simply to protect a natural resource. Little effort was made to mark the boundaries adequately, and by the mid-1800's, claims and counterclaims were filed on the springs and the land surrounding them.

In the 1870s, the government continued to control the springs and to reserve certain areas as federal property. Private bathhouses, under the supervision of the Federal Government, were allowed to be built. These establishments ranged from the simple to the luxurious. The government even operated a U.S. Free Bathhouse and a Public Health facility. Gradually Hot Springs came to be called "The National Spa," and such slogans as "Uncle Sam Bathes the World"' and "The Nation's Health Sanitarium" were used to promote the city.

By 1921, the Hot Springs Reservation was such a popular destination for vacationers and seekers of health remedies that the new National Park Service's first director, Stephen Mather, convinced Congress to declare the reservation the 18...

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