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Soak up at Hot Springs National Park

Buckstaff Spa, on Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, AR since 1912
Buckstaff Spa, on Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, AR since 1912
Photos by Dolev Schreiber

It is hard to believe that there is a town in Arkansas with such a creative and imaginative name as Hot Springs. You guessed correctly, there are hot springs flowing underneath the town, and they have been used for centuries to draw people to the region who believe in their curative effects. It is even harder to believe that the historic center of this town, although built up over the decades, is part of an American National Park and draws over a million visitors per year to partake in its therapeutic properties.

It all started in 1832 when residents saw how popular the area was getting and sought ways to preserve it by sending a proposal to Congress. In a surprising act, the government responded by designating some of the land as the first reservation created to protect a natural resource. In 1921, it became the nation’s 18th national park. In the years that followed, dozens of bathhouses opened one next to the other and the town grew exponentially. However, due to breakthroughs in the field of medicine, the 1950’s saw a decline in the use of water therapy and less visitors arrived to the area. Most bathhouses shutdown, although a handful prevailed.

One such prevailing bathhouse is the Buckstaff, which has been in constant operation since 1912. For only $30 today, visitors can receive a therapeutic experience dating back to the Buckstaff’s opening day. Options include soaking in a personal whirlpool bathtub, hot and cold pack treatments, sitting in a steam cabinet, and enjoying an enveloping shower. For an additional charge, visitors may also add a relaxing full-body massage.

Although the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas is a fair distance away from just about anywhere, it is worth the trip to soak up in the waters believed to be therapeutic for generations. For more information on visiting Hot Springs National Park, visit the park website at Some of the closed bathhouses on Bathhouse Row have fallen into disrepair and are in need of remodeling. They are currently available for lease from the National Park Service under the Historic Property Leasing Program.