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History of Thermal Springs Highlighted at Hot Springs National Park

With 47 naturally heated springs and eight historic bathhouses, Hot Springs, Arkansas is the spot for relaxing in thermal baths and reflecting on the rich history of the area.

As far back as the late 1700s American Indians recognized the importance of the springs and since that time people have come to enjoy bathing in and drinking the waters that contain a number of trace minerals purported to be beneficial to ones health.

The United States acquired the area during purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France and President Thomas Jefferson sent an expedition to the site which at that time was called Washita.

In 1832 the federal government set aside a portion of the land and created the first U.S. reservation to protect a natural resource. From that point a variety of bathhouses sprang up, some very shoddy, so in 1877 the federal government took control of lands not privately owned and drew up plans for simple and luxurious bathhouses and soon the community became known as "The American Spa" with ads proclaiming "Uncle Sam Bathes The World" and "The Nation's Health Sanitarium".

By 1921 Hot Springs Reservation was a popular tourist, travel and healthcare destination and it was soon proclaimed the 18th national park.

Shortly after WWII the Army/Navy Hospital located there became the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center and was very popular but by the 1950s interest in water therapies began to dwindle and businesses declined.

But today, due to restorations and promotions, the bathhouses and spas are attracting tourists, travelers and those having a new interest in bathing with a variety of options including tub baths, showers, steam cabinets, hot and cold packs, whirlpools and massages.

During the 1920s during the "Golden Age of Bathing" over one million visitors a year came to avail themselves of the waters of Hot Springs created by water settling underground and compressed creating the geothermal process.

Now visitors to the park will find a visitor center - the restored Fordyce Bathouse situated in the middle of Bathhouse Row offering exhibits and films explaining the park. There are tours through the Bathhouse Row Historic District.

There are plenty of hotels, motels,k bed-and-breakfasts, boarding/rooming houses along with furnished cottages in and around the city.

In addition to the baths, visitors will also find thoroughbred horse racing, art galleries, music and film festivals, water sports, fishing, camping and the popular 216-foot observation tower.

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